Firestone, Robert W. Psychological Defenses Against Death Anxiety. (Chapter reprinted from Death Anxiety Handbook: Research, Instrumentation, and Application by Robert A. Neimeyer (Ed.), Taylor & Francis Publishers.)

The purpose of this chapter is to describe specific defenses against death anxiety in the context of the cultural framework that supports them. I integrate psychoanalytic and existential thought in explaining how early trauma leads to defense formation and how these defenses are reinforced as the developing child gradually becomes aware of his or her mortality. Thereafter, people adapt to death anxiety through a process of self-denial and withdrawal of interest in life-affirming activities. The denial of death through progressive self-denial leads to premature physical or psychological death; reinforces an antifeeling, antisexual existence; supports the choice of addictive attachment over genuine involvement, love and concern; and predisposes to alienation from others and from personal goals.