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Death, Fear, and Afterlife

I don't believe in Hell, but death still terrifies me.

(this is raw unedited text, computer transcribed directly from the audio, without voice inflection, pauses etc. Sometimes this results in the text implying the opposite of the intended meaning.)

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The Selfish Path to Romance - download chapter one for free at Dr or at

I get all sorts of questions and recently I got one on death. And it's not an exciting topic in the sense of romance or pursuing hobbies. It is an important topic to come to terms within your own mind. And many people believe in the in an afterlife and many people do not. So what how do you handle death?

Well, I got a question from Joe. Dear Dr. Kenner: How do you deal with the concept of of death? If you no longer buy into the idea of an afterlife? What would it be in Iraq? What would be a rational approach to death? Is it nothingness? The darkness of death is terrifying to me and I need a different way of thinking about it. Thanks, Joe.

Joe, you definitely want to reframe your view of death. And I'll tell you what I do. I don't look at it at my own death as having an afterlife and I'm floating up in the ether somewhere. Or as some dark nothingness some dark hole. But it's something that I don't need to traumatize myself over. Decades ago, I heard something from a pre Socratic philosopher, I tried to look it up, I couldn't find who it was. But so I will paraphrase what I remember. I will only know my own life, I will never know my own death. Therefore, I need not worry about death just about living my life. When I heard those words, I thought Well, that makes sense to me. I mean, I will know my dying, you know if I'm gasping for breath, and I don't look forward to that moment. But I don't look forward to falling off a bike. If I fall off a bike or any other I break a bone and I don't look forward to pain. But I will never know my death because there's no me I don't worry about before I was born, I wasn't there. And I don't need to worry about after I die because I'm not here. This is a rational way to think about it. I'm not floating in the heavens or underground. I'm not here. So if I thought that when I die, I will be aware of you know, be some ghostly, disembodied, something mind floating in nothingness, that would freak me out. You know. And I would wonder there were a lot of disembodied minds out there looking down at me. So I don't hold that idea. The idea of death doesn't terrify me, I know, I'm going to die at some point and how hopefully, after having lived a very fulfilling life and my life is fulfilling, when I die. That doesn't mean my loved ones won't be very sad, they're going to have memories of me, I will be gone, I won't know it, I won't be here, my mind my consciousness, my awareness isn't going to exist, I cease to exist. The memories of me exist in my loved ones mine. So it's sad for them, they'll be aware of, they'll still be alive, they'll be aware of the loss of my company. So what can you do about that? Well, the way that I use the fact that my life is limited is that I try to make the most of it. I use my time better than I would otherwise if I thought I had unlimited time. So because of that I can use it to ask myself a question that sometimes people have sometimes therapists will ask you, if you only had six months to live or six years to live, what would you do? How would you spend your time? And are you doing that? Now Steve Jobs actually talked about that in a graduation speech he gave. So you don't want to use this as a threat? Oh my god, I've only got a few years to live or a few months. You want to say am I enjoying ask yourself? Am I enjoying my life as much as I can enjoy it? And I want to give you an example that some of you may have heard me say before . . .

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Hey, I got to interrupt this because we've got to pay some bills. 30 seconds. That's it. A very quick and then Ellen will be back.

Romance. Oh, I wish guys knew more about what we want from a relationship. Boy, I wish I knew more about what I want. Where's that ad I saw? Here it is - the selfish path to romance. A serious romance guidebook. Download chapter one for free at selfish and buy it at Hmm, the selfish path to romance. That is interesting.

And I want to give you an example that some of you may have heard me say before, but when my grandfather was on his deathbed two days before he died, he was 98 years old. That's a full life. And I'm this is one of the this is the closest death I ever had at that time. You know, losing my grandpa. And I remember going to his bedside after having read a book on anticipatory grief and how to you know, I'm a psychologist I read up on man, I need some help with managing my first you know, close death. And I see that you give a person choices. So even even when he's very ill, you know, hooked up to all the tubes in intensive care. I go in with my uncle and I say, Would you like me to swab your mouth? Or would you like the clock over here or here, you still give people options and choices because they want to feel efficacious. We all do. You know, if I'm in bed, I don't want everybody doing everything for me. I want to get them to give me some choices. So I give my essay to my grandpa. His name was Arthur, we called him Poppy Arthur. I asked: What would you like right now? Would you like your clock here? Would you like something here? And he looked at me and he goes, I would like to see you and Uncle Warren do a tango. I think we both could have fallen over at that point. That that is living your life. Two days before he dies? What does he want? A tango. So you can use the fact that you're going to die, to enhance to enhance your life, but I don't even focus on it. I'm going to live my all I'll know is my own life. So does that mean you never make a will? No, because I value knowing that I have planned well for my kids while I'm alive. So you can plant make a Will you can enjoy spending time with your kids. And while you're alive while I'm in life alive, my focus is not about death. It's about enjoying my life, learning, having good friendships, enjoying spending time with my family, all of that good stuff. Life is about living. And that way I don't have to terrorize myself with thoughts of darkness of a black hole or whatever. It doesn't exist. It's a non existent for me. So that's a probably a very different way of thinking about that for many people, including maybe yourself, Jeff.

And here's a little more from Dr. Kenner.

Are you Dr. Niles Crane?

I am.

Here. Notice petition for divorce. I don't know what to say. Oh. All right. No, to be applauded for the way you're handling this a lesser man would panic.

Oh, I'll get her back. Please give me my phone back though. Please stop. Please stop. I know you're upset now. But let's remember why you left Mathis in the first place. You were tired of groveling. Yes. But I'm rested now.

And that's from Frasier. And you know, we can laugh about that scene. But if you are considering divorce, or if you're going through a divorce, and doubting yourself, how do you deal better with that? How do you? How can you be your own best friend through a divorce process? Well, you want to have a plan, it's actually a divorce plan, you want to first identify the reasons you're considering a divorce, understand what's holding you back. So you want to stay on both sides of it. If you're in an unsatisfactory relationship, what is making it unsatisfactory? Some of the barriers that hold people back, they're afraid of breaking their vows, they're afraid of hurting their partner, they're afraid of change or of being alone? Or maybe it's the financial considerations? Or maybe they fear that their family and friends will get upset with them. Or maybe they remember the better times and think, Oh, am I making a mistake or they worry about harming their kids? So there are all these reasons that make divorce a very difficult decision. And you definitely want a plan and one of the things my co author and I wrote a book the self that Dr. Ed Locke wrote a book The Selfish path to romance, how to love with passion and reason and we focus on self valuing you value yourself your partner values him or herself, and you both value each other you cherish each other. So it's not a me versus you it's we both win. And if you if it's not working out in a relationship, and you are heading towards divorce at the end of our book in the appendix, we do set out an outline of how to part ways in start over if you cease being soulmates.


For more Dr. Kenner podcasts, go to Dr. And please listen to this ad . . .

Here's an excerpt from the selfish path to romance the serious romance guide book by clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Kenner and co author Dr. Edwin Locke, who is world famous for his theories on goal setting:

it's important to understand what and why something makes your partner angry. But not all anger is justified. A partner may characteristically blame others for everything that goes wrong. Never accept unearned guilt for someone else's unjustified anger. Suppose that your partner berate you, among other things for bringing home the wrong groceries even though your partner never made clear what was needed. The problem belongs to your partner not to you. Be aware that major habit and personality changes in adults are rare, especially without dedicated effort, Nor should the intensity of anger be out of proportion to the car are in cause your partner should not go ballistic if you forget to bring home the milk.

You can download chapter one for free by going to, and you can buy The Selfish Path to Romance at