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The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life

Sheldon Solomon: The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  1. Recapitulate Ernest Becker’s claims in The Denial of Death regarding the ubiquity of death anxiety, and how humans manage existential terror by embracing cultural worldviews that confer a sense that one is a person of value in a world of meaning

  2. Describe basic terror management theory (TMT) research demonstrating that: self-esteem buffers anxiety; reminders of death instigates cultural worldview defense and self-esteem striving; and, threats to cherished beliefs or self-esteem bring non-conscious death thoughts more readily to mind

  3. Discuss death as it pertains to culture, self-esteem, and psychological fortitude

  4. Discuss how death anxiety inflames hostility toward people who do not share our beliefs

  5. Describe how death anxiety increases support for charismatic/populist leaders

  6. Discuss how existential threats make us uncomfortable with our bodies, estranged from nature, and prone to undermine the environment

  7. Explain the role of death anxiety in self-destructive health behaviors and etiology of psychological disorders including schizophrenia, phobias, obsessions, PTSD, depression, and suicide

  8. Have an informed conversation about existential psychotherapy approaches

  9. Discuss proximal and distal defenses and the difference between constructive and destructive defenses

  10. Describe how to bolster terror management resources by addressing the problem of meaningless, isolation, and death in practice

  11. Discuss how to help clients come to terms with death by developing genuine connections, compassion, and courage