We are now in a position to attempt some broader integrations and extrapolations of the material presented in the preceding chapters. Let us begin by reviewing the major points that have emerged. A central idea that was developed is that persons learn that being human means experiencing sharp contradictions and catastrophes. Illness, death, loss, and adaption to meaningless demands are unavoidable. Such inescapable conditions pose an everpresent threat and probably stimulate neutralization efforts based on adopting wishful, optimistic notions. It is presumed that existence is manageable only if self-deceptive and pretense-based fictions are cultivated, which reassuringly dampen the intensity of what is only too obviously lurking "out there." Death anxiety has been particularly singled out (e.g., Becker, 1973) as a fact of human biological fate that, in its raw unblunted form, would make a mockery of existence for humans who are so uniquely and exquisitely self-aware.
Much of the reviewed material is a testimony to the fantastic ingenuity persons have shown in constructing strategies to filter out death, loss of control, and insignificance. The array of "defense mechanisms" and illusionbuilding modes fervently pressed into service is remarkable. To maintain a sense that the world is a reasonable place, average, quite normal persons are diversely required to deny what they know, to invent make-believe rationalizations, to ascribe optimistic meanings to blatantly tragic events, and to populate the universe with a pantheon of magical figures. There is little evidence that the illusion-construction strategies pressed into service can be reasonably differentiated in terms of their levels of "maturity." What is sup-