Mortality denial is a verifiable influence in most lives.
Not surprisingly, respondents in our national research provide significant evidence of mortality fear, repression and denial. Evidence suggests that since childhood they were taught to fear death and to characterize aging and dying as traumatic. While pervasive in our society, this characterization is not universal and many societies depict aging and dying as natural life passages. In these cultures a death is often the time the family gathers to celebrate the life of the departed.
Most respondents learned that they are mortal between the ages of 5 and 9 when they first came to understand that life is not a permanent condition and that it ends in death. Half of respondents received some explanation about death from their parents. The other half did not and learned about death from friends, movies and television, a media that tends to reinforce our culture's traumatic characterization of aging and dying.
Ours is generally a society that plans and prepares--except when it comes to dying. We prepare for major life passages--birth--confirmation--marriage--graduation--parenting and for retirement, yet when it comes to preparing for death, we rarely do. The end result is that we are become increasingly remote from the decision making process at the time of the death of a loved one (or for our own death) and increasingly we turn such decisions over to institutions and to professionals who we ask to make our personal choices as well as our medical ones.
The study suggests that driving force behind our abdication is an avoidance driven by the primal fear--a fear or aging and of mortality. This fear can be categorized by types. The most prominent fear is that there may be nothing more after we die (31%). Other fears relate to biological loss--Loss of Consciousness (16%)--Loss of Control (16%). Others fear the loss of their identity (13%), and still others fear suffering physical pain at time of death (11%). Those who expect a consciousness after biological death, worry about the nature of life after life--for example they fear that there may be a Judgment Day (11%). Mortality fears run across all educational levels and are found in all adult age groups.
The power and pervasive influence of the primal fear (dying) is evidenced when you compare the last two charts on this page. Respondents were asked "Suppose you could know the date you will die. Would you want to know it? 67% indicated they would not want to know their death date if they could.
Yet of this same group, 88% indicated that knowing their death date in advance (if they could), would affect them positively. Included in the benefits they listed were: that they would better plan the rest of their life (23%); that they would make plans jointly with their loved ones (4%); that they would rethink life priorities (25%); that that would take more risks (4%) and that they would value their time alive more (27%). Yet even in the face of these benefits, 67% of respondents still would not want to know their death date. Their mortality fear is strong enough that they would deny themselves the benefits they themselves list, just to avoid knowing.
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The Life Awareness Center.
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