We’ve all been in a predicament where we don’t agree with the traditions or beliefs passed down to us from our upbringing. The unrest and heartache it causes can affect our well-being. Sometimes, we only need a small tweak in the lens we use to look at the world so that our lives to align with what we feel internally. Sometimes external beliefs that worked well for others might not be enough for you.
I once worked with a client to help her mourn a loss. This particular loss triggered past fears she thought she dealt with long ago. As she was talking one afternoon, she stopped in the middle of her story, looked at me with firm eye contact, and said, “Dr. Kaur, I am actually petrified of death. It’s the end. I don’t want to reach the end.” I did not see it coming. We were not talking about death at all in that session.
Death is one of the hardest things to talk about in session. There are so many layers to death: the harsh reality, personal fears, societal dogma, religious beliefs, anxiety, depression, etc. Where do you begin when addressing death and what interventions to use? How do you begin to help someone resolve such a conflict within?
She was a science-minded person and did not really agree with her religious beliefs of heaven and hell. So, I started with little science since she was comfortable with it. Her view of death was “Ending forever. No existence.” I asked her to consider what physics tell us about energy—energy does not die; it only changes form. And I asked her to consider the idea that life is a form of energy. Quantum mechanics tell us that we are nothing but a bundle of vibrant energy. In fact, there is nothing else in the world except energy and everything vibrates at a different frequency. A tree is one form of energy and our brain is another. Emotions and thoughts are also energy. But what happens when you burn a piece of wood? It turns into ash, which is another form of energy and has its own elements. Energy does not die, it just transforms into a different form. As soon as I shared this, she quickly jumped in and said, “Are you saying death is energy? And we really don’t die? That makes me feel better.”
Later we discovered that her religious belief of going to hell if she didn’t pick “the right” path was hindering her growth. Even though she did not agree with some of the religious beliefs passed down to her, she did not have another point of view for processing loss either. As terrifying as death is, this little explanation gave her relief that there is a different point of view to look at things. She was in the clutch of fear and anxiety for disobeying her religious beliefs even though she did not agree with them internally. She needed a new paradigm that would help her to make sense of her wounds and her fears and one that would allow her to forgive herself. She expressed, “I’ve gone to many priests looking for a different point of view at life or death but could not get one and I felt I was wrong in being not in agreement with what I was told.”
Another client expressed that most of her anxiety came from following the ‘wrong’ spiritual path. She said, “There are so many different types of religions and faiths and beliefs. What if I pick the wrong one? I am scared to know if I make a wrong choice.” She is a perfectionist and that is a topic for another blog, but today it’s about spirituality and aligning internal with external.
I helped her understand that spirituality is an individual’s personalized journey to find out what is true for him or her. You can take in a belief system and practice it to see if it is true for you. Religions are just all-different paths going to the same destination. Some are longer and some shorter. Some are simple and some complex. The beauty is in choosing what is right for you. You don’t have to conform into a prepackaged religion. You don’t have to take the well-established road; you can take the road less travelled and conquer your own inner world. Sometimes, it might be difficult to do it on your own and it is okay to ask for external help when needed. It actually accelerates the process.
I guide and encourage my clients to gently align the internal with the external, which provides them clarity and satisfaction. Part of my work with clients is to help them strip down beliefs and value systems that no longer work for them and help them to create beliefs and practices that will be beneficial to their lives. My goal is to help them realize their own spirit and how to listen to it, how to have a holistic lens to help them cope with their concerns.