If I am reading your letter correctly, you are asking about three main issues, all of which may be related. Those three issues are (1) anxiety regarding life and death; (2) generalized anxiety (you mentioned having difficulty breathing and feeling extremely anxious) and (3) low self-esteem.
You wrote that your boyfriend and a teacher think because you are reading and asking questions related to spiritual and religious beliefs it means you have low self-esteem. You may have low self-esteem but even if you did, I do not think it’s related to your search for answers regarding life and death. Low self-esteem involves not feeling good about yourself. It means feeling that one is not “good enough.” If you did not think highly of yourself, what does that have to do with searching for definitive answers regarding an afterlife or spirituality? I do not see the connection to self-esteem that your boyfriend and teacher are making.
Related to this issue is the idea that some people might consider the act of questioning one’s religious or spiritual beliefs as wrong or immoral. There are many people who blindly follow the religion they were born into. Some people compare the religion they were born into with other religions and form their own set of values. The fact that you are exploring these issues and trying to come to some conclusion is a sign of a healthy mind.
With regard to your interest in spirituality, NDE’s, reincarnation, etc., you said that you wished that you had not begun your research into these matters because it left you confused. The reality is that you began your research looking for definitive answers in an area where there may be no clear-cut answers. People have been searching for answers to questions about life and death since the beginning of mankind. There are many thousands of books written on these issues. Scholars from every background have thought about many of the same issues. After thousands of years of study there are still no definitive answers.
I think you may have the wrong attitude when you are reading about these issues. It seems like when you read two conflicting opinions it upsets you. You said sometimes it even makes you feel anxious or depressed.
Let me recommend a new approach and attitude toward these issues. I would suggest that you continue to read all that you can. Remain inquisitive. Keep an open mind. Store the knowledge you learn from your studies that you find interesting or worthwhile in your “memory bank” and try to tolerate not having definitive answers. Realize that brilliant individuals such as Aristotle, Plato, Albert Einstein, Abraham Maslow, Niels Bohr, Isaac Newton, Carl Jung, and many more have contemplated these issues and did not form definitive conclusions. Why? Because they found that it was not possible. I would also suggest learning to be comfortable with the mystery of life and death. Be excited about exploring the unknown. Lastly, it would also be helpful in the future to suspend final judgment on these matters until you become expert enough to form conclusions. There are no simple or quick conclusions possible.
It would also be helpful if you studied the critical thinking process. Learning how to critically analyze materials might help you to be a better judge of what ideas are worthy of your consideration and what you should leave behind. Take care.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on January 5, 2009.