Curing the Dread of Death: Theory, Research and Practice

Edited by Rachel E. Menzies, Ross G. Menzies, Lisa Iverach

The dread of death has appeared throughout recorded human history in art, literature, song, myth, and ritual. In both ancient and modern societies, the spectre of death has always been with us, stalking the terrified living who seek to avoid its inevitable arrival. Our attempts to respond to the finitude of life range from ancient burial customs such as mummification to computerised chatbots which imitate the personality of those who have departed.

Such efforts speak to the uniqueness of humans in their awareness of their own mortality.

Yet death is not to be feared. Indeed, it may hold the key to living a vital, authentic life. The many authors of this volume argue persuasively that we cannot live fully without complete acceptance of the fragility and finiteness of life.

This unique book explores the dread of death and its management from a wide range of perspectives with researchers and writers from a variety of cultures, academic traditions and disciplines across the globe. The fields covered are broad - including palliative care and grief, psychodynamic theory, social, developmental and clinical psychology, sociology and anthropology, counselling practice as well as history, art, and philosophy.

Not only is this book a fascinating journey into the very core of the human psyche , it is also a guide to our psychological health. The challenge we all face is to discover pathways to an acceptance of death that enables a life of significance and meaning.

Read, learn, and explore what an examination of the dread of death can bring to one's life.

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About the Author


Rachel Menzies completed her honours degree in psychology at the University of Sydney, taking out the Dick Thompson Thesis Prize for her work on the dread of death and its relationship to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She published her first paper on death fears in Clinical Psychology Review as an undergraduate student, and followed this by convening a symposium on the topic at the 8th World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies in Melbourne in 2016. Her manuscript on death fears and OCD was the lead paper in the first edition of the Australian Clinical Psychologist.

Professor Ross Menzies completed his undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in psychology at the University of NSW. He is currently Professor of Psychology in the Graduate School of Health, University of Technology Sydney (UTS). In 1991, he was appointed founding Director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the University of Sydney, a post which he held for over 20 years. He is the past New South Wales President, and twice National President, of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy (AACBT). He is the editor of Australia's national CBT journal, Behaviour Change, and has trained psychologists, psychiatrists and allied health workers in CBT around the globe.

Lisa Iverach has published several theoretical and experimental papers on the topic of death anxiety, including a comprehensive review regarding the role of anxiety in psychopathology, which appeared in Clinical Psychology Review. She has also shared her knowledge of death anxiety at conferences and via several media interviews. Lisa recently made a career transition into the government sector, and is now coordinating research projects with universities around Australia to understand the relationship between human behaviour and future transport (e.g., drones, electric cars, automated vehicles), which fascinates her just as much as death anxiety does.

Table of Contents

  • Section 1: Theoretical Issues
  • 1 Impermanence and the human dilemma: Observations across the ages
  • Rachel E. Menzies
  • 2 Fear of death: Nature, development and moderating factors
  • Ross G. Menzies and Rachel E. Menzies
  • 3 Beyond the dread of death: Existentialism's embrace of the meaninglessness of life
  • Gerard Kuperus
  • 4 Love, death, and the quest for meaning
  • Mario Mikulincer
  • 5 The death instinct and psychodynamic accounts of the wound of mortality
  • Ross G. Menzies and Rachel E. Menzies
  • 6 An intelligent design theory of the origins, evolution and function of religion: Toward an integration of existential and evolutionary perspectives
  • Tom Pyszczynski and Sharlynn Thompson
  • 7 Death anxiety and psychopathology
  • Lisa Iverach
  • Section 2: Treatment approaches
  • 8 Death in existential psychotherapies: A critical review
  • Joel Vos
  • 9 Cognitive and behavioural procedures for the treatment of death anxiety
  • Rachel E. Menzies
  • 10 Death acceptance and the meaning-centred approach to end-of-life care
  • Paul T. P. Wong, David F. Carreno, and Beatriz Gongora Oliver
  • 11 Continuing bonds between the living and the dead in contemporary western societies: Implications for our understandings of death and the experience of death anxiety pp. x-x
  • Edith Steffen and Elaine Kasket
  • 12 Treating low self-esteem: Cognitive behavioural therapies and terror management theory
  • Peter J. Helm, Jennifer E. Duchschere and Jeff Greenberg
  • 13 Therapeutic interventions for the dread of death: Personal and clinical reflections
  • Thomas Heidenreich und Alexander Noyon