You’ve seen this in every near-death-experience movie scene ever made: “It’s like my life flashed before my eyes,” declares the befuddled woman whose heart stopped for three minutes before being resuscitated. (This same baffled woman also saw a light at the end of the tunnel and felt like she was floating above her hospital gurney, but that’s not the part we’re discussing right now. We’re going to work with the “flashing before your eyes” bit, which scientists now believe ACTUALLY HAPPENS when we die . . . brainwaves of a patient dying from a heart attack showed the same patterns associated with memory recall, leading the neurosurgeons to conclude a possible “final recall of life.” Discuss amongst yourselves.)
Psychologists call this life flashback a “life review” when it’s done consciously (i.e.: when we are very much alive and not having deathly out of body experiences). A life review is a structured reminiscence that helps us integrate the highs and lows of life: the warm ’n fuzzy memories and illustrious achievements, juxtaposed against the acceptance of failure and bone-crushing disappointments (oh, the potpourri of life).
If you blow the dust off your Psychology 101 textbook, you’ll recall lifespan psychologist Erik Erikson’s concept of “ego integrity”; life reviews help us integrate the past to help come to terms with death. [Crash course: “Ego integrity” is achieved when we feel a sense of peace, wholeness, pride and fulfillment with the choices we’ve made in life.]
Imagine you dabbled with death for a brief moment (worry not—the AED is near), and lo and behold, you are now the befuddled enlightened one, announcing with incredulity that you’ve just witnessed your life montage.
What are the highlights that stand out to you in this life retrospective? What are the shiniest moments and memories? What makes you feel warm inside, smile, laugh, feel proud?
What are the lowlights in this reel? What pangs of regret might you feel? Can you see now from the entirety of the flashback how any of these dark moments helped shape your life or maybe led to eventual meaning?
Upon completing this life review visualization, what are you inspired to do more of in your life (so, what do you want more footage of in your montage)?
Can I have this be my life montage?
What clips would you like edited out onto the cutting room floor (other than your crimped hair in 1984)?
If you knew you had 16 more years on the planet—for a very specific-on-purpose-example—and your life really did flash before your eyes on your deathbed, what else do you want to be included in that version of your mortality montage? GO. MAKE. THAT. LIFE. HAPPEN. Stuff all the things you want in your movie montage, so when your life flashes before your eyes (many many many Mondays from now), you like what you see.