Saturday, February 28, 2004

Death Bed Therapy

“Modern man lives in a state of low-grade vitality. Though generally he does not suffer deeply, he also knows little of true creative living. Instead of it, he has become an anxious automaton. His world offers him vast opportunities for enrichment and enjoyment, and yet he wanders around aimlessly, not really knowing what he wants and completely unable, therefore, to figure out how to get it. He does not approach the adventure of living with either excitement or zest. He seems to feel that the time for fun, for pleasure, for growing and learning, is childhood and youth, and he abdicates life itself when he reaches “maturity.” He goes through a lot of motions, but the expression on his face indicates his lack of any real interest in what he is doing. He is usually either poker-faced, bored, aloof, or irritated. He seems to have lost all spontaneity…He spends endless time trying either to recapture the past or to mold the future. His present activities are merely bothersome chores he has to get out of the way.” ~Fritz Perls from "The Gestalt Approach & Eye Witness to Therapy"

Kelsi read this quote to me from a book she’s studying as part of her Masters degree in Holistic Psychology. It struck me because it scares the hell out of me in the way that only true (and truly disturbing) ideas can. Who would want to live this way? And yet who could protest the truth in the statement?

How to avoid the humdrum, the mundane, the mediocre, the settling for what we can convince ourselves is good enough?

I told Kelsi that if I had significant interest, I would invent a new kind of therapy called “Deathbed Therapy,” whose principle tenet is so basic that one need not even include an actual therapist. It’s helped me confront fears and do things that seemed somehow beyond my capacity.

It goes like this: When you think of something you want in life (long-term or immediate) but that seems scary, you just think, ‘If I’m lucky enough to take a graceful, deathbed exit from this life, and I’m lying there reflecting, is this gonna be one of those things that I think about NOT having done and go, “Stupid! Why didn’t I just do that?! And now there’s no going back and what was I so afraid of anyway?…In a few hours I’ll be dead and who cares?!’”

In the past, this exercise has enriched my life in little ways, from allowing me to have a damned good time while making a fool of myself on a dance floor, to bigger ways, like encouraging me to pour my heart out in a secret admirer-like love letter or taking a trip abroad by myself. And I don’t regret those things at all. In fact, I’ve never regretted the things I HAVE done.

Kelsi told me they already invented that kind of therapy: it’s called Existential Psychotherapy. Fair enough. I don’t mind sharing proprietary rights with the likes of Irvin Yalom.

Really, though…isn’t it that simple? Can’t it be? I know we’ve all heard this a hundred times, but that doesn’t make it less true; it simply makes us less open to hearing it because the message has become trite: Life is Short.

As proof, I offer that my 10-year high school reunion is next year already.

My friends are all getting married and having kids.

I refuse to call this a quarterlife crisis.

It’s a recommitment to the idea of living my life
and joyfully.

I want to say the silly thing and make the crazy decision and see the world and not think that because someone or something is different, that someone or something should be avoided, made fun of. Think of the opportunities for fun and growth in opening up one’s mind to new experiences and different people.

Think how much time we’ve already wasted!

I offer this NON-rhetorical question to myself and anyone interested: What is the thing I (you) want out of this life, right now?

What stands in the way of my (your) doing that thing, having that thing, making that thing happen, right now?

That’s not a good excuse.

100 years, max. Why wouldn’t I make the most of it?

I remember something an older man once told Kelsi while they shared a seat during a trip on a Greyhound bus:

“Might as well make a good go of it [life], otherwise you’re just turnin’ good food into shit.”

1 comment:

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