Four Truths of Death ($)
Understanding communication can help you find wisdom.
“It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
— Epictetus, Greek philosopher, c. 50 – 135 AD
Psychoanalyst Richard Billow (2021) proposed four aspects of truth in human communication: diplomacy, integrity, sincerity, and authenticity. I’d like to apply this to how we describe our experience of death.
This is a view of death from the viewpoint of the survivor; it is a reflection on loss. It presumes continuity and describes our experience of detachment. This may be of no use in contemplating one’s own death, and it may not assuage grief either but I think discerning communication can be of some use.
Diplomacy is how we behave for the purpose of maintaining the social order, preserving relationships and boundaries. This is our official or obliged response.
Integrity is the degree to which we hold to our belief systems, both personal and public. There is an overlap between integrity and diplomacy but they are not the same. One can uphold one’s belief with or without being diplomatic. Integrity is the strength of your belief.
By sincerity Billow means the quality of your feeling, not whether or not you are truthful in presenting your feeling. That is, the strength of the positive or negative feeling you convey, the depth of one’s feeling. For Billow, if you don’t feel one way or another, then you’re not sincere.
Authenticity is the closest of these four to truth, and it carries the complexity of truth. We’re not talking about absolute truth, truth for others, or truth in the world, we’re talking about personal truth. What is true for you.
Authenticity is not a question of whether you know what’s going on, but whether you can effectively convey what you think and feel. You can be sincerely inauthentic, and authentically insincere.
These four attributes of communication apply to how we interact with each other and communicate with ourselves.
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