Why Discussing death is so important in our "Death-Phobic" culture
Can we find the meaning of life in death? Psychologist Gisele Fernandes-Osterhold joined us to shed some light on the topic.
Dear friends and neighbors,
Gisele Fernandes-Osterhold is the epitome of the best of the humanistic psychology movement, which began in the US about 50 years ago when a group of psychologists, led by Drs. Carl Rogers and Abe Maslow, led us out of the intellectual pessimism of psychoanalysis and into the optimistic light of humanistic psychotherapy. This enabled a true Buberian "I/Thou" relationship between therapists and patients. Since she obviously lives her humanistic philosophy, being in Gisele's presence is, in and of itself, a healing experience.
You can listen to the audio here, or subscribe to read the transcript below.
NOTE: I am currently embarking on a new series featuring healing stories from those who have benefitted from psychedelics at the end of life, or in the face of a terminal diagnosis. I hope to interview those with direct personal experience, as well as relatives, friends, and clinicians with stories to share. Please email my producer if you would like to be interviewed on my program, and featured in a future book on this topic.
Wishing you Golden Light,
Dr. Richard Louis Miller
This podcast will always remain available at no cost. However, I’d like to offer my most loyal listeners additional options for enjoying my interviews – both as videos and transcripts.
*This transcript has been simplified for easier reading without changing the core content of the dialogue. Transcription provided by Vergilius.
Living fully and mindfully
Dr. Richard L. Miller (00:10): Welcome to Mind Body, Health and Politics. I'm your host, Dr. Richard Louis Miller. The mission of Mind, Body, Health and Politics is to enhance your physical and emotional wellbeing and encourage community. And I say encourage community because community is so important for our well-being in every way possible. As it turns out, humans are basically friendly tribal animals. We like being in community. We like doing things together, whether it's sewing circles or watching football or playing golf or swimming. We like to do things in groups. We love to eat together. You can see examples of that, cooperation and collaboration, including in business and science. All kinds of things humans love to do in community when we know one another and feel safe.
But at the same time, it's very important to recognize and stay aware that while 95% of us might be friendly, cooperative animals, a small percentage of us are very different.
They believe in top-down rule. They believe in dictatorships. They believe in what we call tyranny. And they would have our democracy and republic if they could. As you know, there are movements now in our country to overturn democracy. We must not forget what happened on January 6th because if they had gotten their hands on pence and stopped the orderly transfer of power, Trump might have declared martial law, and we might still have him as a dictator. We must always remember: democracy, one person one vote. No one is above the law. These are not givens. These are things we may have to fight for, but we certainly must be aware of them. In the words of one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." On mind, body, health, and politics.
I'm very happy to welcome Gisele Fernandes-Osterhold. She's a psychologist at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She's doing fascinating work with psychedelics that you'll want to hear about. Welcome, Gisele.
Gisele Fernandes-Osterhold (02:44): Thank you. It's so nice to be here with you. Richard.
Dr. Richard L. Miller (02:48): What grabs your attention as you walk through life, and in your research?
Gisele Fernandes-Osterhold (03:13): The theme of death always brings me in touch with how we're living. This idea that by being aware of our affinity, of our limitations of the time that we're here, the quality of the time in which we're living—it's a constant inquiry into how we're walking and talking in integrity with our heart, in harmony with our relationships, and respecting and honoring the environment, the earth. We're indeed living very powerful, transformative times. And so that sense of gratitude for every day, it's always present with me.
Dr. Richard L. Miller (04:15): Gratitude is key. I feel grateful simply to exist - so many sperm and eggs never become people.
Gisele Fernandes-Osterhold (04:36): <laugh>. Yes. And among all the people who created it and all the people in the world that we now get to sit together and have this conversation about something meaningful to you and meaningful to me and to many listening, that is also a gift. I also have deep gratitude for the opportunity to share that.
The benefits of working with death at a young age
Dr. Richard L. Miller (05:00): How did death capture your interest above all else? What about this transition from life to what comes next compelled your study?
Gisele Fernandes-Osterhold (05:22): Well, I originally came from Brazil, and when I was studying psychology, I had a job in a hospital. I started my career counseling people before and after heart surgery for four years when I was 19 to 22 or so. At the time, 25 years ago, people thought they would die from heart surgery. My encounters with them in the hospital helping them prepare psychologically and emotionally for the surgery would be about death.
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