We’re looking at death all wrong. Here’s why. | BJ Miller, MD


Health care, medicine in our country is a
giant, colossal thing. And it’s got a ton of momentum. And medicine has become– the domain of death
is more or less ruled these days by health care. In times past, it’s been the church, or the
family was the sort of center of all this. These days, it’s mostly medicine. But what’s really important in all this is
that we people, we humans, we patients, loved ones, we need to kind of take back the subject
on some level– that dying is not just a medical event. It’s way bigger than that. It is all-encompassing. It’s where everything comes to account– our
psychology, our philosophy, our spirituality, our social world, our intrapersonal lives–
all of it. The medical piece is a little itty bitty piece. It just gets too much attention. So I’ll just think about the emotions for
a second. For one thing, to remind ourselves– for me,
the difference between emotion and a thought is you can control your thoughts. You can’t really control your emotions. Emotions are much more slippery. They’re going to have their way with you. So you ignore them at your own peril. That’s one thing to get across. But I also say that to let us off the hook. The way you’re feeling, on some level, isn’t
your fault. And one of the things I see that happens a
lot around this subject– again, we’ve talked about how one can be made to feel ashamed
to be sick, ashamed to be dying, like we’re failing, somehow. I want to make sure that we all understand,
there are certain things that are way beyond our control. And that means– that may be hard to swallow,
but it also means we’re off the hook. It’s not my fault, the way I feel. I shouldn’t have to hate myself or be embarrassed
about it. So let’s set some ground rules. And there’s this other layer that is particularly
vexing, which is how others start treating you. And it’s very common, under the banner of
sanctity or wanting to protect someone, to– I watch people, they stop telling jokes. Maybe they think it’s sort of sacrilegious
to try to be funny around someone who’s sick. Or maybe they don’t talk about their own joys
that they happen to have in their day while their colleague is meanwhile miserable with
a fever or something. They don’t feel like they should talk about
their own joys. Or I don’t know, whatever it is– pick anything. But one of the things that ends up happening
is we end up accidentally making life even harder for each other by keeping the truth
of the situation at bay. All right? So these are the ways we die before we have
to die. We die before we have to die because no one
tells jokes to us anymore because they don’t think we’re going to want to laugh, or that
sounds perverse. Or maybe our partner stops the intimacy. Physical intimacy might dry up, or sexuality. The idea that a disabled person can be sexual,
that’s still a novel concept. Just look at most exam rooms in a doctor’s
office or in a hospital. Most of them are not even wheelchair-accessible. My mother uses a wheelchair. They used to just assume she wasn’t having
sex, so they wouldn’t offer her a pap smear. And so one of the things you want to avoid
if you plan for your death is you want to– ideally, we come to our death without piles
and piles of regret. So when I’m working with patients, especially
upstream of their death, I’m always encouraging them to feel things, enjoy the body they have
while they have it, appreciate their body while they have it, because it’s someday going
to go, and you’re going to miss it. So touch is just profound. It’s elemental. It is, even if you think about, I think, the
scourge of dementia, for example– and a lot of us are terrified of this eventuality. We’re going to lose our minds. Yeah. And it’s hard. And that is a very difficult prospect. And I’m also pretty convinced that there’s
a life on the far side of our intellect. And for me, that life is in the senses. As long as I can feel something, I’m interested
in being alive. I’m even more interested in that than a thought.

57 Comments

  1. I wish more people had the depth to think in this way unfortunately the world is predominantly filled with shallow minds

  2. Eleanor Roosevelt said “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission”. I’ve always disliked this quote. We feel things we don’t want to feel all the time, against our desire. Our emotional state is not completely autonomous.

  3. this life is just a trailer after we die our soul lives in other dimension which is endless and their is no rage and rush

  4. That didn't cheer me up or make me more positive about dying. I fear dying more than before this video. 😞😞😞😞😞

  5. I've filmed several people who had near death experiences, giving some interviews on camera. This is not death itself but the closest thing that we have come to death, I would assume. One guy told me – the camera was not rolling anymore – that the experience he had was " more real than reality itself. " The man was about 65 years old, the experience was many years back and he had tears in his eyes. Proves nothing, I know, but unless we can wrap our heads around these things (how can an experience be more real than reality itself??!) it will be very hard to understand what death might be.

  6. It may not be you’re fault for how you feel ,
    But if you’re feelings inform your beliefs then
    those actions taken based on beliefs are gonna have consequences.🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪

  7. i dont believe i8n an aferlife, but if our consciousness ever manifested itselg again in the future, it wouldnt matter how long it took for this biology to reorganize in the right way to bring this about, all living creatures that die would be oblivious to the time it took, even if it took an event to happen to the contents or structure of our universe that might take trillions and trillion of years to make this possible, to u it would be like losing that consciousness in a current life and reawaken instantly to the next. No current evidence of this potential phenomena but its just an idea.

  8. Actually, we can choose to control our emotions. It's not easy, but definitely worth practicing through meditation. Buddhism and Stoicism provide helpful pathways.

  9. This is very important to contemplate before the death. However, for me there is a difference between these feelings that slowly build up and those that explode without any control. In either instance for me there has to be a thought prior to any feeling happening, whether it is from the conscious state or the other sub levels of consciousness that you are unaware of the causes when they happen, such as the emotional outburst from perhaps prior experiences in life suppressed or not. Each one these creating a feeling from different areas of thought mean the individual could take some practice measures to decrease the explosive nature while increasing the other loving natures. This would be a good step with helping yourself toward a thought out and peaceful loving passing of life as the important measure, but like any thing in living with goals of the positive, it needs to be worked with continually, even though I did not mention how it would be done.

  10. 1:00 My dad always told me the same-thing ! He said “Son, you can control dem thots but you can’t control your emotions. I was like … word…

  11. Sure you are responsible. It is called Lifestyle. Eat a horribly bad diet for most of your life, and see what happens.

  12. At least at this time I believe I am, or would be, at peace with my body dying. But I’m unsure that I’m strong enough to withstand and remain at peace while all these well intentioned ( stupid ) loved ones get all frantic around me. I may tell them that I’m at peace with dying and while I don’t want to die alone – if they can’t chill the ‘F’ out then they are going to have to leave. What the hell do they think, That no one is going to die !? I don’t have the patience for people disturbing my peace while I’m dying.

  13. Psilocybin removes the fear, depression and anxiety a terminal patient might experience… When a dying loved one is at peace and actually happy it makes it a whole lot easier on their loved ones… The research is finally developing a head of steam… Psilocybin…

  14. I have an incurable, degenerative disease, that gives me maybe a year or so to go. I remember the first time I met my future son-in-law, and my daughter said, 'Mom, can you run into the kitchen… oh, wait – no, you can't', and everyone but her fiance laughed. He thought she was being really mean to me. We had to explain to him the we'd all far rather laugh and make jokes about my situation, than sit around feeling sad and miserable. He caught on, bless his heart.

  15. As a kid I used to get par6about death, it freaked me out then I had a near death experience after miraculously surving a car crash that should've ended my life and I felt during my last moments or so i thought it was a subtle bit of peace knowing that it was all over. Then my mom passes and i started to lose my fear of death all together and then it came back even worse…now I'm not afraid of death I just don't really care because I know it going to happen. I just hope I don't go out horribly where I suffer before I transcend. However, I'm confident that my brain will cease to exist but that I will fade into a different form of consciousness. You will die sooner than later so knowing that it is up to you to make meaning of why you were sent to this dimension.

  16. I am a quad. I've lived a life without intimacy and it is a painful enough reality that I do not fear my death. I fear the duration of my longevity. That is one thing I can control. When my day comes it will be easy to slip away. Because I have no intimate ties to lose.

  17. When I’m dead, I won’t know that I’m dead. No conscious, no emotion, no feeling. The same as before I was born.

    Nothingness. Forever. I’m not afraid of it.

  18. FYI: I am someone that has "died", and returned to tell the tale.

    I was passing gall stones and one had refluxed up into my pancreas. I had called for an ambulance; they did not take my case seriously. I was left near naked in a cold room.
    The pain was so extreme, I had to let go. And I found myself in the darkness.
    I just stood there, in shock of how terribly and stupidly I had been treated. Not knowing what to do next, I just waited to see what would happen.
    It was completely black. I could see nothing. I could hear nothing. And it felt as if I was deep in the ocean as pressure pushed equivocally against me.
    I looked upon myself and I appeared to be made of fire. Colours of yellow and orange.
    I waited and nothing changed. I did not dissipate into nothingness; I just remained as I stood.
    Eventually, I heard a loud bang. It was like the police banging on the front door with just one sharp bang.
    I was alarmed and wandered what it was. Then it happened again, exactly the same. Then a third time and so I decided to walk towards it to investigate. I had only taken two steps forward to suddenly find myself attempting to raise myself from laying down.
    The pain hit me like a ten tonne weight and I saw a doctor standing over me with the paddles in his hands.
    I said, "what the hell are you doing?"
    He said, "you were dead!"
    I replied, "No, I wasn't!"

    This was just the beginning of my horrendous journey. As they had other plans for me.
    I returned back to that dark place numerous times during the course of the torture that followed. And had the opportunity to venture beyond.

    As spirit you can take few memories with you. Integrity is key; and be wary of what you love. In the spirit realm you are energy and the physics of electromagnetism are Lord.
    You can travel great distances very quickly; many light years.
    Returning is difficult; you must remember.

    This is not the only place to be.

  19. I so strongly agree. My mother is 99 and recently had to move to a nursing home. It's a decent place, but I am constantly concerned that her death will be made into a medical event rather than a human one.

  20. We should allow the universal right to die for everyone who wants it. The natural dying process is brutal and life is needless.

  21. I hear what hes saying which is take in every last drop. Mine has been when the drink goes flat smash the glass.

  22. When I die I want to be blown up with T.N.T. so I can rain down as a soothing red mist on my loved ones so they can taste me.

  23. "You can control your thoughts."

    Try right this moment not to think of a polar bear.
    You can't do it because in order to be sure you're not thinking of a polar bear, you have to remember the thing you're not supposed to remember.
    Any notion of being able to control the mind with the mind is like trying to bite your own teeth.

    A thought is a self-conscious unit of spontaneous activity; something that the mind has reflected on in order to package it into something it can use to make sense of the world.
    In other words, a thought is a noun.

    Emotion is unconscious and spontaneous. You can't make it happen nor suppress it. A though is like an emotion that has been reflected back on itself so that the mind can know it's own contents. So what we call thoughts are really second thoughts; hesitations.

    The mind is free of thoughts not when it is empty but when it doesn't grasp itself and is unselfconscious.

  24. People are afraid of death because they are taught to be afraid so that they can be made to behave under social conventions.
    The spontaneous fear of death an animal exhibits is nothing like the kind of fear we have wherein death is made into an idol who's face is too hideous to be looked at.
    Because an animal doesn't make plans around it's death, it never has to. When it dies, it has a good scream and drops dead. As easily as breaking wind.

    Even before we are at our deathbeds and people stop telling jokes to us, we are walking corpses because survival is deemed more important than doing anything worthwhile. People act like they intend to live forever and thus never live at all.

    Life is a transformation. It is continuously dying from one state so it can be born into another. The reason you are an adult now is you stopped being a child. Something that goes on forever isn't really alive because it never changes. Death is the obverse side of life just as in order to walk with your right foot you must also walk with your left foot.
    So to live in any case, death must be accepted from the outset.

    Any notion of getting one up on death, either through non-senescence or a Pyrrhic existential victory, is expressive of having failed to comprehend the situation of life at all.

    It only takes an ounce of thought to realize that fearing death is stupid because it's both inevitable and, when it happens, there won't be anyone there to die. What people really fear is the loss of psychological continuity: the death of their ego, not their body. All one's possessions, pleasures, friends, experiences, accomplishments — all that has to be wiped away just as the reaper's scythe makes all the stumps of wheat equal in height.

    But even that doesn't make any sense.
    Who was your ego before you were born?

    So you see you really have nothing to worry about.

  25. Alright… I guess I'll have to be the one to say this since no one else will

    sighs heavily

    He is handsome and I'd like more videos from him. Not just because of his obvious attractiveness, but because of how well spoken and thoughtful he is. He gave me a lot to think about that I otherwise might not have. Great video!

  26. I will disagree with you by saying the we are responsible for our emotions, we can't control our feelings but our emotions are all on us.

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