Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 12 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The capacity for self-reflection, which plays an important role in human self-regulation, also leads people to become aware of the limitations of their existence. Awareness of the conflict between one's desires (e.g., to live) and the limitations of existence (e.g., the inevitability of death) creates the potential for existential anxiety. In this chapter, we review how this anxiety affects human motivation and behavior in a variety of life domains. Terror management theory and research suggest that transcending death and protecting oneself against existential anxiety are potent needs. This protection is provided by an anxiety-buffering system, which imbues people with a sense of meaning and value that function to shield them against these concerns. We review evidence of how the buffering system protects against existential anxiety in four dimensions of existence: the physical, personal, social, and spiritual domains. Because self-awareness is a prerequisite for existential anxiety, escaping self-awareness can also be an effective way to obviate the problem of existence. After elaborating on how existential anxiety can motivate escape from self-awareness, we conclude the chapter with a discussion of remaining issues and directions for future research and theory development.

Keywords: terror management theory, experimental existential psychology, death anxiety, existential anxiety, motivation

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.