“Terror Management Theory and our Response to the Paris Attacks”


In this short audio clip, psychologist Sheldon Solomon discusses what research on our unconscious fears about death can tell us about terrorism, intolerance, and radicalism. “In the wake of the Paris attacks, we examine the worm that some people think is eating away at our core — our fear of death.”

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  1. I’m not positive but we have a system that seems to function for profit off of death anxiety (all of medicine and the pseudo-medicine of psychiatry, the government, etc). People seem to think they can avoid death by taking the right pills, have that cancer screening done, wearing a seat belt, not drinking or eating certain foods, etc. Americans can’t even cope with the inevitability of the effects of growing old (wrinkles, gray hair, body aches, decreased activity, loss of sex drive, etc). We throw the elderly in nursing homes to not have to look at what’s coming and just generally ignore the topic entirely. People who are able to approach the subject are scorned, chastised and treated poorly (as mental “patients) for being able to perceive an end and attempting to spiritually prepare. Then, when approached with death it’s always a litany of questions and cliche’s (“They went too soon”, “They looked so good the last time I seen them”, “Was it his heart?”…) and we end up with immobilized people who aren’t able to offer much to the grieving people because they can’t overcome their own terror over death.
    Then there is the whole list of how we should grieve, how long it should take, when it becomes pathological and on and on. Even in grief we are not allowed to let it take it’s own course or to be individually effected by loss which is the salt in the wound. All circumstances are different and all people as well. I still have days when I weep for someone I have lost years later and I am forced to do it alone because psychiatric wisdom (what a joke) says I should be long over the loss of everyone. Funny thing is, most people I know say they experience the same thing and it seems to be quite an expected part of the process.
    Kubler-Ross herself, in later life, was appalled at the warped and unhealthy ways that her information on grief was broadly applied and misconstrued to the detriment of almost everyone ( http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/02/01/good-grief ). But it has become an area that fall under the “profit” area of main stream mental health and will likely be as well addressed as all other areas currently are. Death anxiety exists because it is allowed, expected and even promoted in this society. We shouldn’t be shocked at this. We should be outraged that even this basic human experience has been corrupted and regulated.

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  2. Good post.

    Without the “hysterical” fear of death most governments would be powerless, as it is ultimately this fear which underlies all man-made laws. Those who truly overcome the fear of death present a mortal threat to those who depend upon it to exert control.

    On another level, grieving “too long” disrupts the flow of production; taking a “no business as usual” break during or after a tragic event threatens an assembly-line economy. Hence it’s now another “psychiatric disorder.”

    I guess another issue is how much one should grieve for whom. I recently had a spate of deaths in my sphere of existence. Though I miss them all I was most upset about and still grieve the most for my cat. So I guess that’s pathological too. Too bad.

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