Death anxiety

It is generally acknowledged that most people experience anxiety about their own death. To acknowledge to self that I will die usually invokes anxiety.

And the fact is that any of us can die, any day, at any time in a multitude of ways. And we will all die at some point.

Wednesday sleeping

It has been proposed that to cope with this anxiety there are three possible solutions. (Australian psychological Society)

Escape acceptance – embracing death as a welcome escape from the suffering and pain of one’s life 

Approach acceptance – accepting death due to one’s beliefs about the existence of a desirable afterlife 

Neutral acceptance – accepting death as a natural part of life, and something outside of one’s control.

These are ways by which a person can reduce their death anxiety. I would suggest there is another way that is much more widely used than these.

In essence people lie to themselves. They develop a contamination through magical thinking. The Adult ego state of us all knows we can die at any time and ultimately will die but the Child ego state does not believe that will happen. 

magical thinking about death Jpeg

In essence we lie to ourselves because it reduces the anxiety. We form a contamination as shown here

death anxiety contamination Jpeg

This is supported in the trauma research. Below is a chart of common psychological responses to a traumatic experience. As you can see the traumatised individual can have their belief of “It will never happen to me” taken away. The person stops viewing the world as a safe and just place.

Trauma responses Jpeg

My view on this is the traumatised person becomes uncontaminated. The traumatic event decontaminates the Child contamination of the Adult that they have built up over a long period of time. Due to the traumatic experience the Adult facts become so strong they begin to over power the Child magical thinking of  “It will never happen to me”.

One of the goals in trauma debriefing therapy is to reestablish this contamination in the client so they again begin to lie to themselves about their potential mortality.

Hence we have a fourth way to deal with death anxiety. Develop a Child contamination of the Adult about one’s mortality.

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