Reminders of Death Can Help Us Live Authentic Livesgemini july horoscope 2020
Reminders of Death Can Help Us Live Authentic Livesgemini july horoscope 2020Key points Funeral care workers with daily reminders of death may have more authentic motivation to achieve their goals, compared to other people. This effect appears to be stronger among people with a high psychological flexibility and weaker for those with high levels of death anxiety. Reminders of death can trigger personal growth, especially if we can think flexibly and manage our anxiety about death and dying.
The pandemic has brought the contemplation of death and dying uncomfortably close to our everyday lives. While reminders of death are frightening, one of the tenets of existential psychology is that facing these thoughts and overcoming death anxiety brings positive benefits. One such benefit is the desire to live life authentically according to your own personal values.
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Last week, new research published in the journal OMEGA showed evidence that people surrounded by reminders of death live life more authentically.
This research, led by Dr. Andrew Arena at the Black Dog Institute, compared 107 funeral care workers to a similar group of 121 people who did not receive any reminders of death in their jobs. These two groups of people were similar in a lot of important ways—the same age, the same level of education, the same proportion of women, married versus unmarried, and belonging to different cultural groups. The major difference between them was simply that one group was surrounded by reminders of death and dying in their daily life.
On average, the funeral care workers had lower death anxiety and also showed more authentic self-driven motivation to achieve their goals. The funeral care workers were also more curious, more psychologically flexible, and more likely to use active forms of coping with stress (such as approaching the problem rather than avoiding it).
These results support existential theories that reflecting on death and mortality can lead to growth outcomes.
In Arena’s study, the researchers measured authenticity in terms of the different motivations people have to pursue their goals. Study participants listed five different personal projects that were important in their lives. These projects could be things like “lose weight,” “make more male friends,” or “spend more time with my children.” They then rated four different sources of motivation for doing this project.
The four different sources of motivation are described below.
External motivation. Your reason for doing something is to get a reward, praise, or approval. You are doing it because someone else wants you to do this, and you will get something from them if you do it. Introjected motivation. Your reason for doing something is because you feel like you are obligated to do it. You would feel ashamed, guilty, or anxious if you didn’t do this.Identified motivation. Your reason for doing something is that you sincerely value the project and genuinely care about the outcome. Intrinsic motivation. Your reason for doing something is because it is fun, enjoyable, and interesting. You want to have this experience because it gives you pleasure.
People with high authenticity have intrinsic and identified motivation, rather than external and introjected motivation. That is, authenticity represents doing things because you value and enjoy them rather than because you feel you have to because of what other people want.
In Arena’s study, the funeral care workers had higher authenticity—the important projects in their lives were things they valued and enjoyed.
The study found that while exposure to death related to greater authenticity, there were two characteristics that could increase or decrease this effect.
People with high death anxiety did not benefit from the reminders of mortality. That is, for people with high death anxiety, there was no difference in authenticity for the funeral care workers compared to the others. One reason for this is that facing and overcoming anxiety about death is thought to be the process by which growth outcomes occur. While the funeral care workers had lower death anxiety on average, those of them who experienced similar anxiety to the comparison group were not experiencing greater authenticity.People with more psychological flexibility showed greater benefit from the reminders of mortality. Psychological flexibility is the tendency to be comfortable thinking about emotions and unpleasant memories. People with high flexibility would disagree with the item “I’m afraid of my feelings.” Among people with high flexibility, there was an even bigger difference in authenticity between the funeral care workers and the others. The psychologically flexible funeral care workers really enjoyed and valued their life projects. The researchers proposed that flexibility acted as a catalyst for growth outcomes, facilitating the process of death reflection that prompts personal growth.
This study suggests that reminders of death can prompt us to enjoy our lives and live according to our values. If we are able to sit comfortably with our negative emotions or memories, and to consider death without excessive anxiety, we can benefit from these reminders of death and dying, and use them to help us live our most authentic life.
Arena, A. F., MacCann, C., Moreton, S. G., Menzies, R. E., & Tiliopoulos, N. (2022). Living Authentically in the Face of Death: Predictors of Autonomous Motivation Among Individuals Exposed to Chronic Mortality Cues Compared to a Matched Community Sample. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, https://doi.org/10.1177/00302228221074160.
gemini july horoscope 2020Reminders of Death Can Help Us Live Authentic Lives