‘Nonconformity requires unusual courage because there is always guilt, fear and a sense of aloneness, inherent in breaking with tradition. In addition, prejudice and acts of retaliation are directed toward people with views that oppose the general consensus or status quo. The uniqueness and free expression of the nonconformist threaten the conventional person because they raise his or her existential anxiety’   Robert W. Firestone PhD

     Anniversaries, in general, and birthdays, in particular, can be moments when our existential anxieties and our innate human struggles with our mortality can come to the foreground. We are all, at some level of awareness, always in touch with our own and our loved ones’ non infinite physical existence and the fact that we will all die, later than sooner, if we are proactive, supported and lucky. We humans know that eventually, we will all come full circle, but this knowing is painful and so we try to defend against it through psychological defenses and various ways of coping and being. My inspiration to write about this today stems first from the obvious, I think, fact that I too am human, and therefore, I am not exempt of this type of existential angst, even if it often lies in the periphery of my awareness. I am also aware that I may defend against it through denial and repression, avoidance; busyness and distractedness. However, sometimes our death anxiety can manifest in more complex and destructive attitudes and behaviours. Another reason for my engaging with this topic is that my birthday is sort of approaching and so reflecting on my life cycle inevitably brings up cakes and cards, recent detours and ignoring my gut feelings, but mostly themes of births and endings and what goes on in between. I have also been doing things like cleaning out spice drawers and my inbox, and deciding what is irrelevant and of no value, and also, going through photo albums. Photos reveal the passing of time. I see the changes and growth, the passing away of certain people and pets, but also, a lot of love and living. Childhood photos, in general, connect me to developmental stages and I am reminded that I have always had clear memories of the period when as a child I became aware of my parents’ mortality and how I navigated it. The realization of death in childhood can occur through experiences like surgeries, accidents, trauma, bullying, death of loved ones or pets, and also, narratives and story-telling; however, we mostly don’t think of these experiences as significant. They are too distant. Robert Firestone writes ‘young children, some as early as two years old, become aware of the fact of death—for example, when a pet dies or when they learn of the passing of a relative or close family friend. Between three and six years of age, children become conscious of the fact that their mother and father are vulnerable to death (Kastenbaum, 2000)…..and that ‘regardless of when this discovery occurs, it effectively destroys the child’s illusion of self-sufficiency. Even though defenses are instituted to block the awareness of death from consciousness, children’s fears are preserved in their entirety in the unconscious. Thereafter, the suppressed fear of death continues to exert a significant influence on the personal life of the developing child and, later, the adult’.Read more………………..

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