15 October 2019
We all have one thing in common: we will die. Even though the rhetoric surrounding the topic of death is avoided almost entirely until we become older, this should not be a topic of discussion that we feel uncomfortable with. We should reevaluate our relationship with death.
Especially in America, death is not viewed as a celebration of life like in many other cultures such as Africa, Mexico, Indonesia and Japan. So why are we so afraid of death? I think this fear derives from belief systems, but especially from the fact that we refuse to talk about death, making it an even more unknown and frightening end.
This semester, I am taking Philosophy 3160: Death and Dying, which is taught by Mary Ann Cutter, and my viewpoints on death have changed for the better. Learning about this important topic and having an environment that facilitates conversations about the topic of death is beneficial for human beings to have, so instead of ignoring the inevitable, we can try to better understand how people all over the world approach death.
Death anxiety is an issue that is also not talked about or acknowledged in our culture because some people would rather not admit that they are in fact terrified of dying, or they would rather avoid bringing up the topic in the first place.
According to an article from MedicalNewsToday, Ernest Becker, an anthropologist that studied death, gave rise to “terror management theory” (TMT), which posits that humans must constantly deal with an internal conflict: the basic desire to live against the certainty of death. Also credited to MedicalNewsToday, TMT emphasizes individuals’ self-consciousness and their drive to achieve personal goals, motivated by the awareness of mortality.
In this article from MedicalNewsToday it is mentioned that, according to TMT, self-esteem is key for the degree to which individuals experience death anxiety. People with high self-esteem are better at managing fear of death, while people with low self-esteem are more easily intimidated by death-related situations.
Becker believed that death anxiety comes naturally to all people who find the thought of death and dying unacceptable. So, perhaps this Thanatophobia, or the fear of dying, is subconsciously rooted in our ability to have proper rhetoric surrounding our ultimate fate.
As scholars and students at a university, there should be no topics that are out of the realm of discussion for students to learn about and discuss; therefore, if we can talk about death more freely in all disciplines, not just philosophy, perhaps we could be making a greater accomplishment in our psyches.
I highly encourage all UCCS students to consider taking professor Cutter’s course, or even looking into the topic of death and dying on your own to bring it up in conversation.
We all die, so how will you approach death?