The Denial of Death

TheDenial of Death

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TheDenial of Death

Inthe book, TheDenial of Death, ErnestBecker strives to answer the questions regarding why human beingsexist. The ideas highlighted by Becker are in contrast to thePsychoanalytic approach proposed by Sigmund Freud. The author arguesthat human beings have the tendency to refuse that mortality is areality. People fail to acknowledge that they will die. Rather, theylive in denial and their thoughts are only pre-occupied with liferather than death. In chapter ten of the book, Becker provides ananalysis of mental illness and his views regarding this issue(Becker, 2011).

Basedon his discussion of mental illnesses, Becker argues that the denialof death is essential in allowing humans to remain functional and atthe same time be sane. The denial of death can be regarded as a formof illusion that gives people an opportunity to make sense of theirtemporary existence. Through such illusion, people see themselves areheroes who cannot face death, but as immortal beings who willovercome death. Nonetheless, this is not the truth, but just a beliefmeant in oneself that enables people to gain inner strength. Beckernotes that patients suffering from various mental illnesses tend topossess varying perceptions of mental illness. For example, patientsof schizophrenia and depression think more of death than otherpeople. As such, they do not consider themselves as immortalinstead, they see themselves dying easily and at a high risk ofcoming across experiences that will accelerate their death. This isnot the case in the normal population and people suffering from othermental illnesses (Becker, 2011).

FromBecker’s explanation of mental illnesses, people suffering fromsuch conditions are unable to accept the illusions and beliefs thatit is essential to remain sane. This explains why such people sufferfrom anxiety and as a result create their own reality, which can beseen both as an alternative and unacceptable. Becker’s argument isalso based on the notion that religious beliefs tend to shield peoplefrom mental health conditions. Moreover, with science replacingreligion, a great problem can be experienced in the society. However,science does not provide the awareness that people need to overcomefeelings of anxiety. Becker also argues that with the improvements inthe field of psychiatry, it has become possible to address mentalillnesses. Treatment strategies such as the use of technology makesit possible for patients to have easy access to therapists (Becker,2011).

Becker’sdiscussion of mental illness is also based on the methods applied byhumans in order to ensure that they achieve relationships that areboth bearable and stable at the same time. Becker states thatstrategies such as partialization and repression are employed bypeople who do not want to face reality. Although such persons areaware of reality, they do not want to accept what can truly happen tothem. There is a tendency for human beings to narrow down the worldto a small size, which they can easily manage rather than deal withthe universe as complex as it appears. Thus, defense mechanisms areemployed by people who strive to deny that some aspects of realityreally exist. The use of these mechanisms enables people to stopthinking of life experiences that may demoralize them. Rather, theyfocus on the positive aspects of life that are seen as beneficial(Becker, 2011).

Basedon the Frontline Program, the trends in Aging indicate that thefastest growing segment of the United States population comprises of“the old.” As a result of advances in the medical field, a largenumber of Americans can live healthy lives, and at the same time livefor long. However, as they age, old people experience a decline inphysical strength and this implies that they need to be catered forby the rest of the population. Although there is a lot of care neededby older Americans, there is a shortage of caregivers who can providethis care. This poses a challenge to old people who may experienceneglect from the society. As a result, old Americans tend to contractillnesses since there is little care accorded to them. The agedpopulation in America experiences chronic illnesses, which affecttheir health adversely. They also become frail and dementia is acommon condition among old Americans (Frontline, 2011).

Theemotional well-being of old Americans and their families is severelyaffected by aging. When Americans grow old, they are sent to nursinghomes where they are cared for and they experience difficulties inrealign with one another, as well as with the other members ofsociety. Old people tend to be irritable and terminal illnesses is acommon occurrence among this population. Some elderly Americans maytry to lessen the burden on their families and caregivers throughwriting directives on what they want done. With such directives,caregivers can know what the elderly population needs to be done andwhat they are against (Frontline, 2011).


Becker,E. (2011). TheDenial of Death. London:Souvenir Press.

Frontline(2006). LivingOld. RetrievedFrom: