Death Anxiety and Clinical Practice

By Robert Langs | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Death anxiety and psychotherapy

As I have indicated, death is a universal and inherently unresolvable adaptive issue, and conscious and unconscious forms of death anxiety are ever-present. As a result, these grave concerns are significant factors in the development of virtually every type of emotional dysfunction.

But here, too, there is a notable trade-off. Whereas on the one hand maladaptive and failed attempts to adapt to death-related issues and the anxieties they arouse contribute significantly to emotional disturbance, on the other hand efforts to cope consciously and especially unconsciously with death anxiety are a source of considerable inventiveness and creativity. Thus, the successful negotiation of death anxieties may contribute to emotional health or emotional ills, depending on how they are negotiated. In addition, emotional health requires that an individual successfully adapt to his or her death-related conflicts and anxieties.

The widespread effects of death and death anxiety similarly infiltrate virtually every aspect of the psychotherapy situation. Death-related issues consistently play a major role in the therapeutic process. However, many of these effects, which are quite

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