“So many people die though they live, and it is not as if they don’t have life; they only refuse to keep breathing!” ―Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
On February 7, 1997, confronted each other in a professional bout in Las Vegas, Nevada. The contenders were prepared to take center stage fighting it out for the WBC heavyweight title. The pugilists entered the ring full of energy and determination. In the first and second round, each exchanged blows attempting to find their opposition’s weakness. At the conclusion of the third round, something happened to McCall. After each round, boxers usually return to their corners to discuss the strategy for the next round. McCall refused to consult with his corner, and instead, he paced around the ring. In the fourth round, McCall appeared to be indecisive regarding his willingness to continue the fight. He was barely protecting himself from punches, often leaving himself exposed. When the bell indicated the end of the fourth round, McCall declined to return to his corner and consult his coach. After a few minutes of pleading with the fighter, McCall finally returned to his corner in tears. The fight was terminated quickly in the fifth round by the referee who noticed McCall’s emotional state and unwillingness to defend himself in the ring. As he exited the ring, spectators began to boo and hurl water at him from the stands. Although two years before this fight, McCall defeated Lewis in the second round.
Thousands of people witnessed a professional athlete isolate himself from the people who trained and mentored him over the years. In the middle of facing an aggressive opponent, he abandoned his will to protect himself.
Subsequently, I asked myself several questions about this boxing match: What would make a person surrender their passion for life or winning? How could you stand face to face with your adversary and not fight? Why would anyone disengage themselves from consulting their family and friends? Ultimately, it was my final question that caused me to reflect on my own life: Have we become so callous of human behavior/patterns of people close to us, that we consider them insignificant? Bear in mind that we are talking about the same individuals who are privy to personal information and intimate matters of our lives.
Here, I would like to introduce the term “Living Death”. Merriam-Webster defines this as “life emptied of joys and satisfaction”. In my opinion, living death is a state of mind in which a person has experienced an intolerable amount of misfortune. For this reason, a person who has accepted the mindset of the living death may respond to life’s challenges in the same manner as the aforementioned professional boxer. At times, they may indicate the desire to move forward, but in reality, they are waiting for the knockout punch to end their pain.
With this in mind, let’s look at some techniques that can be used to help bring those we care about back from the living death.
Listen Before Speaking
There is a scene in the film Rocky Balboa where he speaks to his son about life. He makes this comment: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life”. This thought holds true for the emotional and mental challenges a person may encounter in their life. We often attempt to evaluate others’ tolerance for stress based on our personal experience. For example, when you try to convince someone that you have encountered harsher circumstances and rose to the occasion. While your intention of encouraging the person may be genuine, they may interpret your words as an attempt to discredit their haplessness and the intensity of their situation.
When you allow someone to express their emotional pain, you’re helping them lift some of the stress, possibly conforming to a more positive mindset. In other words, it’s not imperative for you to have all the answers to life’s problems or portray yourself as a conquering hero. The object is to listen to the person who is in crisis and impress upon them that they are heroes.
Stay Conscious of Behavior Changes
Each of us should make a conscious effort to keep account of the behavior of friends and family close to us. Learning to recognize the warning signals, which can be as subtle as a change of behavior, could save their life. For instance, if a person does not exhibit or has entirely lost enthusiasm; if they feel they have no meaningful purpose or direction; if they feel trapped or in unbearable pain; if they withdraw or feel isolated from family or friends; if they Increasingly indulge in alcohol or drugs; and if they exhibit extreme mood swings. Additionally, look for changes in the choice of movies and music genres, such as someone who had previously enjoyed inspiring movies, music, or videos, now focuses solely on spectacles centered around death. I mean, just because a person watches the movie 300, you cannot assume they are thinking of death, but if someone is all of a sudden fascinated with death as well as making arbitrary comments about being frustrated or tired of life may be asking for help.
The warning signs for a person in distress may be visible for the world to notice. On the other hand, it could be something as subtle a few teardrops. If you surmise someone is displaying any of these warning signs, show them you care by reaching out to them – for lunch, for a walk, or even a phone call. The most insignificant deeds can sometimes yield the greatest impact on a person’s life.
Don’t Get Frustrated
Actively engaging with one who is psychologically drained and with a negative mindset might cause you to become agitated. In most cases, an individual develops a pessimistic thinking process over several years. Consequently, you can’t expect a ten- or sixty-minute conversation to reverse their perception of reality. Regardless of how positive you appear or the number of times you flash that winning smile, they hunger for some indication that visually reflects a factual change in their life. To put it another way, you have consistently endeavored to motivate them with inspiring words and spiritual references, whereas they have heard the same thing repeatedly from other people and media platforms, but nothing has changed for the better in their life.
In either case, patience will be your best resource for assisting someone under these circumstances. Despite the emotional drive to get them back in the game of life, you don’t want to smother them to the point where inspiration converts into guilt.
Life is filled with moments of joy and pain. The trials of life will affect everyone, regardless of their financial or personal status. Some of us will continue to contend for the things we love and desire, other, conversely, may become disheartened and falter on their reasons for continuing to live in this world.
I have overheard individuals saying on several occasions, “I love to people-watch at parks and malls.” What are they watching for? Humorous events, opportunities to make a viral video, people to mimic? We frequently encounter people who have come to accept the mindset of the living death as a way of life. Mastering the art of camouflaging their expressions in the eye of the public consumes their every face to face encounter. Smiling and laughing on the job while fighting back the tears to maintain the perception that life is good. Can you imagine the amount of mental energy required to constantly suppress every negative emotion to the background of the mind, secretly wanting to escape the surroundings physically?
The roads of life will never be easy or without affliction. We must, therefore, embrace the greatest gift on this planet: ourselves. You and I are life. Regardless of our race, gender, or religion, we can foster hope and courage in each other. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those who have fallen into despair or recommend professional counseling. I cannot guarantee that this article will be read by millions of people, but I can declare that this is only the first of many platforms I will utilize to reach out to those in need of a positive awakening.
Are you willing to uplift those around you who are in need?