General Life Insurance Topics

The Desire to Live

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While I was listening to Rush Limbaugh the other day, he confirmed something I encountered practically every day of my 42 year career in selling life insurance. People don’t spend much time thinking about dying and more specifically thinking it might be them. He quoted an unknown source he had read which said scientists have discovered a place in the human mind which believes adamantly everyone is going to die except him/herself. 

Upon my own research I found some interesting material which explained in detail this phenomenon ( Writing for an article due to be printed in the journal NeuroImage for November, co-author and graduate student from Bar Ilan University in Israel Yair Dor-Ziderman states, “The brain does not accept that death is related to us. We have this primal mechanism that means when the brain gets information that links self to death, something tells us it is not reliable, so we shouldn’t believe it. This usually comes online early in life, or as soon as we come to realize that one day we’re going to die and there’s nothing that can be realistically done about it. Since thoughts about the inevitability of our own demise go against the grain of our whole biology, which is helping us to stay alive the brain does all in its power to put them out of the picture.” 

The suggestion is made by the researchers that apart from the brain’s general aversion to thoughts of death, which may constitute an obstruction to daily life, such denial may also be the product of how modern societies shunt sick people to hospitals and the elderly to care homes, thereby allowing us very little time to come to terms with actual death and dying.

Avi Goldstein, senior author on the above article, points out that the aversion to death is strictly towards one’s own, not that of others. However, humans are much more averse to dealing with the death of those around them than was the case even just a generation ago. We put sick people in hospitals, old people in nursing homes and dying people in hospices. Our remains and our funerals are dealt with by professionals rather than by families at home. Death comes quickly on TV and in the movies–the only dead we see for extended periods are zombies.

The author concludes with this observation, “while most of us avoid the subject, those having near-death experiences seem to revel in talking about them. Perhaps they really do know something we don’t. Perhaps the NDE deactivates the brain’s aversion cells. Having observed that most of us would agree with George Carlin who said, “I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.”


People can even talk about their eventual demise, but they still have this phenomenon bearing sway in their conversations. They don’t even change their daily routine when they are introduced to a specific age of 32 or even 82 when they will definitely pass away. It seems when they are perfectly healthy the thought of death is more of an afterthought than a driving force in their daily routine. Even when they become terminally ill, it takes some time before they start to process their vulnerability and start to make plans for it.  What a great blessing it is to each of us to have this gift of being able to recognize our vulnerability but to experience the illusionment of invulnerability. If we didn’t have this ability we would wake up every morning with a pit in our stomach worrying if this is the day. Everything we hoped and planned for would become distressing since we could plan for them, knowing we would never achieve them. We would get to the point where there would be no reason for us to rise from our bed to greet a new day. 

The New International Version of the Bible views this paradigm and exclaims, “Meaningless! Meaningless, says The Teacher, Utterly meaningless, everything is meaningless.” (Eccl 1:2)  while the more familiar King James version recording in Ecclesiastes 12:8 laments, “Vanity, vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”

The phenomenon I saw during my insurance selling career was exactly what Rush Limbaugh and these modern social scientists discovered. I often pointed out to my clients what I referred to as the illusionment of invulnerability–it can happen to someone else but I am not going to grow old or die. 

Since this is a reality of mankind imposed by our brain, it is critical to our family’s financial future that a way be found to acknowledge it but do something to solve it. The following observations help to bridge this chasm.

Three powerful emotions that help us break through this psychological barrier are love, greed, and fear. They have the power to motivate a person to act.

With some encouragement and giving of information, many clients recognize this truth and choose to confront it by purchasing the miracle of life insurance. They see in it a way to recognizing it may not happen for a long time but if it did, they could still accomplish their financial goals.

Probably the strongest emotion which drives us to realize our vulnerability is love. “I want to make sure my obligations are attended to and that no one else will suffer. I want to make sure my family has a home to live in, make sure my children are well educated, make sure my wife upon my death does not have to take the first suitor’s hand because she needs a meal ticket to live on, and make sure the dreams we had together will still come true.”

 There is a certain amount of planning for the future driven by the what’s-in-it-for-me factor: greed. “If I submit to this monthly payment, will it pay me interest; if I don’t die, can I get my money back; Since the policy is going to have a cash value reserve, can I use it; if I go bankrupt, can my creditors attach my policy?” These are just a few of the greed driven concerns addressed by the purchase of a life insurance policy. 

Fear drives many to action. “What if I don’t live long enough to pay off the mortgage, what if I become disabled and can’t work, how am I going to pay for education or my daughter’s wedding, who will make sure my monthly obligations are attended to so my family can stay in our home, who will make sure my business continues to operate for my valued employees, and who will pay for my retirement when I want to just enjoy the fruits of my labors?”

Stories of people fighting to live are legion with each one having its own motivation. Life is precious and the love of life makes us happy to see a new dawn, but our association with others and the impact we have on them drives us to recognize the financial commitment is something we can act upon so even in our unconscious denial of vulnerability we leave others comforted.