Have you ever wondered what happens when you die? At some point, most of us have. But depending on an individual's views and beliefs, knowing the truth can be a source of great anxiety and depression.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Is the Concept of Eternal Oblivion?
- Why Do People Believe in Eternal Oblivion?
- What Are the Reasons People Don’t Believe in Eternal Oblivion?
- Why Are People Scared of Eternal Oblivion?
- Tips for Dealing With a Fear of Eternal Oblivion
Many books about life after death explore the possibility of an afterlife where everything is beautiful, peaceful, and serene. A place to go home to where our deceased loved ones are waiting to greet us. But what happens if that's not what happens when we die?
What if our life alive is all there is to it?
What Is the Concept of Eternal Oblivion?
The phrase eternal oblivion sounds menacing enough to induce nightmares in those hoping for something more beyond this life. However, the concept of eternal oblivion is based on philosophy or religious teachings. It's the belief that the mind's consciousness forever ceases to function or exist at death. Individuals who exhibit skepticism towards religion or who are atheists or secular humanists may find this concept of unconsciousness at death more palatable than the existence of life after death.
Eternal oblivion eradicates the competing notions of life after death and reincarnation. There’s also no possibility of lingering spirit energy or our souls passing into another dimension with eternal oblivion. Eternal oblivion means there’s nothing more to life after we die. Our bodies simply die and cease to exist.
Why Do People Believe in Eternal Oblivion?
People who believe in eternal oblivion aren't usually influenced by religious or even secular ways of explaining what happens to us when we die. Some people think that this is all there is to life and that we forever cease to exist, think, feel, or know after death. The belief in the cessation of consciousness is another way of explaining the concept of nothingness following death.
Jehovah's Witnesses are an exception to religion influencing the belief in the concept of eternal oblivion. This religious group teaches its followers that when a person dies, that's the end for them. They don't believe in a surviving consciousness after death or that there's an eternal reward or punishment for nonbelievers.
People believe in eternal oblivion for reasons usually found in their philosophies, religious backgrounds, or personal constitutions. Some examples of why someone might believe in the concept of eternal oblivion are:
- It seems more believable than a fanciful Heavenly world
- They have a strong belief in scientific evidence
- They’re not grounded by religious philosophy
What Are the Reasons People Don’t Believe in Eternal Oblivion?
Whether philosophical viewpoints or spiritual, people with deep-rooted belief systems in an afterlife are least likely to believe in the concept of eternal oblivion. People who have a strong basis and foundation on spirituality, life after death, and the existence of consciousness beyond death tend to struggle less with the idea of nothingness after this lifetime.
Across all cultures, most people want to have hope that there's more to this existence. That's one reason why some individuals don't believe that this is all there is to life. Eternal means forever, which is an eternity, and that seems like a long time not to exist. The idea that we permanently cease to exist in this world goes against many cultures' viewpoints, including:
- The belief in eternal life
- Accountings of near-death experiences
- Accountings or reincarnation
Why Are People Scared of Eternal Oblivion?
Eternal oblivion is a cause of great fear and anxiety in many people who are scared of the idea that this is all there is to life. They're afraid of the unknown or the uncertainty of what comes next and may disavow the concept of eternal oblivion as a matter of conscious choice. But those who believe and accept the idea of the cessation of all consciousness after physical death, the reasons they may be afraid are many. Here are some common ways people fear eternal oblivion:
- They’re afraid of the eternal/forever part of unconsciousness
- They fear never again experiencing anything
- The state of eternal oblivion never ends
- Non-existing for eternity
- They’re scared of suffering
Tips for Dealing With a Fear of Eternal Oblivion
Whether you're an atheist or have a strong religious background, the thoughts of eternal oblivion might surface from time to time, causing you great fear and anxiety. The uncertainty of science and medicine and even religion raise doubts in people who are otherwise confident in their beliefs. The fear of not knowing what comes next after this lifetime contributes to this fear. The following tips might help you work through debilitating anxiety.
Practice calming your mind
Most often, the things we dread are a consequence of our thoughts. When our mind is racing, and we dream up the dread of an eternity of nothingness, the more we're likely to fall into despair. One of the first things to try is to face your fears. This is true for anything you fear in life.
The more you allow your thoughts to race or dream up scenarios and what-ifs, the more likely you are to overstimulate your imagination, affecting your emotions and overall state of mind. Meditation is key to controlling the thoughts that invade your mind, causing you to live in fear.
Identify who you are
In large part, individuals fear losing their identity, whether they do so on a conscious or subconscious level. And death ultimately induces the loss of who we are. When you live a genuine life built around who you are or who you want to become, your sense of self and purpose grows stronger. Knowing who you are allows you to live a more authentic and fulfilling life.
When you're satisfied with the life you've built for yourself, and you live it to its fullest, you can curb your fear of death. Your worries may become less problematic, and you'll be able to move forward in life in a productive and resilient way that honors your present existence.
Explore other schools of thought
If you have your mindset on eternal oblivion as your philosophy or religious stance on human consciousness after death, consider learning about how others view life after death. Opening your mind to the possibility of other outcomes might work in your favor. One of which is that now you have options as to what might happen after death. Another is that you get to explore beyond what you've already accepted as true.
Learning about other people's philosophies and religions might help you move past your belief-based fears.
Make a list of possible outcomes
Whenever you find yourself experiencing a profound fear or anxiety about something unknown, make a list of what's triggering you to feel that way. Once you've listed everything that contributes to your feelings, attach a list of possible outcomes to those fears.
Writing things down is a way of taking charge of your mindset and thought processes; controlling your thoughts. At the same time, journaling is a great way of finding solutions for what's causing your anxiety. This type of therapeutic grief work helps you regain control over your thoughts and emotions so that you can think through your fears more clearly and rationally.
Give your thoughts a break and enjoy a movie
Movies about life after death can be a good way to relax your mind while also reflecting on the afterlife. In Pixar's 2017 film Coco, the movie's main protagonist finds himself living in the land of the dead, where he enlists the help of his dead relatives to return him to the land of the living.
This film explores themes of death, life after death, family drama, responsibility, and loss. Overall, this film is a celebration of life that explores death in different cultures. Other movies like Coco emphasize legacies and the reality of something beyond our physical presence; however, some remind us that this may be all there is to life.
Join others in discussion
Getting together with others to share your philosophical and religious viewpoints helps you calm your fears by taking your mind off of any constant or racing thoughts that you might be experiencing. When we isolate ourselves from others, we expose ourselves to only one particular viewpoint: our own. But when we gather in groups to discuss different interest topics, we begin to open our minds up to other possibilities.
You may not agree with other people's viewpoints or the concepts that they believe in. However, this type of discussion can be very therapeutic and healing.
Live a full and fulfilling life
Many of us wait for the perfect opportunity to take a trip, plan a vacation or begin to live our lives. We hold off on doing things that bring us pleasure in exchange for heavy workloads, making money, and buying lots of material things. But in the end, those things are not so important, especially when we can't take any of it with us.
As we near the end of our lives or face debilitating illness or life-threatening injury, we begin to see things differently. All of a sudden, death becomes very real. When we wait so long to live our lives, and then we're faced with the possibility of dying sooner rather than later, we start accounting for everything we didn't get to do while alive and healthy. And this is one of those times when we fear that this is all there is to it.
Why We Fear an Eternal End
Eternal oblivion sounds both hopeful and threatening at the same time. Many of us don't know what to make of it when we live in a world full of fear and unknowns. The promises of eternal life and love that some religions espouse on their followers sound lovely, warm, and inviting.
Things begin to get scary when you add the term oblivion, which sounds like another word for annihilation, condemnation, or obsoletion. Although we may think or feel prepared for whatever comes next, our mind seems to breed fear when we start thinking about just how long eternity is.