Terror Management Theory: The End is Inevitable

What if someone tells you that your dying soon?
 How would you react? What would you do?
What if a close friend of yours is dying? What are your beliefs? What would you say?

Terror Management Theory (TMT) was proposed in 1986 by social psychologists Jeff GreenbergTom Pyszczynski, and Sheldon Solomon. The theory was inspired by the writings of cultural anthropologist, Ernest Becker, and was initiated by two relatively simple questions: 

Why do people have such a great need to feel good about themselves?; and Why do people have so much trouble getting along with those different from themselves?

It assumes that humans have developed a suite of defense mechanisms to protect themselves from the existential anxiety they experience when they are cognizant of their mortality. Existential anxiety arises because individuals experience a profound motive, derived from evolutionary forces, to preserve their life. Therefore, an awareness of mortality could evoke existential anxiety, corresponding to a sense of futility, unless humans invoke a set of mechanisms that are intended to curb this awareness. Some of these mechanisms include a tendency to believe in an after life, to feel connected to a broader, enduring entity, or to distract attention from their mortality, reflecting a form of denial (Gailliot, Schmeichel, & Baumeister,2006).

"The plus side of TMT is that if we can learn to manage our terror bravely and mindfully confront the very real possibility that nothing but a great, black nothingness awaits us, rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, then who knows what humanity could achieve. The other side of the coin, the truly grim and scary proposition, is that all human culture is built on a foundation that is utterly insubstantial. " - Josh Clark

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