Fear of Death

The Psychological Correlates of Decreased Death Anxiety After a Near-Death Experience: The Role of Self-Esteem, Mindfulness, and Death Representations

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Ahead of Print. Near-death experiences (NDE) are intense events that can have profound psychological consequences. Although decreased fear of death after an NDE is a well-documented phenomenon, it is unclear what psychological factors are associated with reduced death anxiety. In this study, grounded in terror management theory, we compared 102 people who had an NDE with 104 individuals who did not. Participants completed measures of death anxiety, self-esteem, mindfulness, and death representation. Results indicated that people who had an NDE had lower fear of death, higher self-esteem, greater mindfulness, and viewed death more as a transition rather than as absolute annihilation. Subsequent analyses found that NDE had a direct effect on death anxiety, and that the effect of NDE on death anxiety was also mediated by indirect effects on self-esteem and death representation. Implications of these findings are considered, limitations of the present study are acknowledged, and suggestions for future theory and research are proffered.

Future Time Perspective as an Operationalization of Existential Concerns Related to Time

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Ahead of Print. Psychologists and other clinical therapists often focus on the psychological processes that result from the fact that human beings will one day die, not death anxiety/afterlife anxiety itself. Nevertheless, existential concerns are death concerns, and any anxiety associated with death should be understood through that lens—as resulting from concerns about death. Understanding how one views the amount of time left to live, and how this perception influences motives, goal cognitions, mood, and well-being, is of great importance from a humanistic–existential perspective. Socioemotional selectivity theory and the concept of future time perspective (FTP) capture these phenomena and have the potential to operationalize perspectives of time constraints within existential psychology. The present work attempts to show how FTP may be used to operationalize the problem of time from an existential perspective, specifically targeting the existential themes of death, meaning, isolation, and freedom. Clinical implications of considering FTP as an existential construct are discussed, as are limitations and future directions.

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