Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder.
While that definition is accurate, it doesn’t really explain what grief is. So here’s another one we use to give a better idea of what grief is, beyond the fact that it’s normal:
“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”
What is your experience of Grief?
Normality is vastly over-rated.
Death, destruction, exploitation, control, rape, murder – are all natural – seen in many animal species; natural dose not imply desirable.
Grief is something I have experienced many times.
As a small child, my parents moved often. I lived 9 different places in my first 9 years of life.
I had a small flap of skin under my tongue until I was about 6 years old. I couldn’t make an R sound, few people took the time to try and understand me. When I started school I was labelled a “retard” by teachers and students alike. Teased, ignored, picked on – lots of space in those years for grief.
I lost my grandparents, then my parents. One of my closest friends suicided. Many people I have known well have died.
My first wife left me.
Lots of grief in those experiences.
5 years ago – told I could be dead in 6 weeks, and was very unlikely to see two years (less than a 2% chance) – a lot of grief there.
So many losses, real and imagined.
I remain alive.
I sometimes experience grief.
I sometimes experience joy.
I have many different experiences in many different domains. I have developed a habit of simply accepting the experiences I have.
Yes – we all experience grief and joy.
Yes – it is how we respond or react that makes a difference.
Not simply in how we feel (though that is an important aspect of our being), but in how we act.
Our neural networks are very interesting things.
They come with all sorts of default response probabilities that are strongly influenced by the genetics we inherit.
At the next level we develop new sets of influences on those response probability curves that come from our experience, the learning we take from that experience, at all the different levels we are capable of learning – all simultaneously much of the time. Much of the learning falls under the general category of culture, some of it is more individual and exploratory in nature.
It seems that there are potentially infinite classes of interpretive schema available to make sense of the world, but most human societies are dominated by a very small set of such schema.
It seems clear that most people come under the influence of various cultural schema that dominate those societies, most of which have various mechanisms inbuilt to retain membership – concepts like faith and truth, which once accepted prevent further exploration of other alternatives. From an evolutionary systems perspective, the existence of such mechanisms is exactly what one would expect to see – attributes (patterns, strategies if you wish) that promote the survival of particular collections of memes (sets of ideas/behaviours – cultures).
As a mathematician and logician, Kurt Goedel is famous for many things. I have often spoken of his incompleteness theorem, yet he is also famous for demonstrating that understanding any non-trivial problem requires much more that simple binary logic. He has demonstrated in logic that the world cannot be adequately explained in terms involving truth and falsity. One must be willing to admit of infinite gradations between those polarities – or in other words – probability. Some classes of things do allow of simple binaries – Boolean logic for example – computer programming as another, but those are not adequate for a complete explanation of reality. If you doubt that – just spend a bit of time with Quantum Mechanics.
To me, part of the issue is the vast array of different things that most people lump together under the term “feelings”.
To me it is very clear that there are many different classes of feelings, and all of them have their usefulness and their dangers.
We can all be at our most powerful when we understand as much as possible about the contexts that create our feelings, and the contexts where those feelings can be most powerfully given freedom and expressed or alternatively consciously controlled.
Very few people have explored the depths of their feelings.
Very few people have managed to avoid or go beyond the limits imposed by culture.
It seems clear that some of those cultural limits are present for reasons of safety (personal or societal), and many are present for reasons of control and domination (at many different levels).
I feel grief that some people die in earthquakes in ways that are easily preventable. Using brick or stone as a building medium in earthquake prone zones is little short of insanity.
I feel grief that most people so believe in cultural constructs like gods and money that they fail to take the relatively simple actions in reality that could prevent so much death and destruction in the world.
I feel grief that so very few people seem to be able to see that markets (and the measures of value derived from markets – money) are no longer serving humanity, and are now in fact restricting rather than empowering the vast majority of humanity.
If we as a society actually valued human life – we could easily ensure that all people on the planet had housing that was reasonably safe from earthquake, landslide, fire, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunami and volcanism. Those dwellings might look very different to what people have now, and they would be safe and secure. We could easily do that within two years – if the well-being of every individual was actually a societal priority.
But that’s not the world we live in.
We live in a world of money.
We live in a world of advertising.
We live in a world where people honour actors – people who specialise in pretence, rather than reality.
We live in a world of competing control systems – were genuine cooperation is relatively rare.
We live in a world dominated by competing truth claims – where people are trained to die rather than consider alternative ideas – and we glorify it as patriotism or faith – and sustain it with promises of a glorious afterlife – often replete with many virgins if young men are involved.
Belief structures that promote prayer are encouraged, while those that actually promote effective cooperative action are strictly limited and controlled.
It is a very strange world we live in indeed.
It all makes perfect sense from a certain perspective, from the perspective of the evolution of self sustaining collections of ideas (coming broadly under the title cultures).
But it doesn’t make much sense at all from the perspective of a collection of sapient entities who purport to value sapience and the cooperation implied within that term.