Defense strategies against existential fear

Wiesław Łukaszewski, Julia Boguszewska


This paper analyzes people’s responses to the experience of the strongest existential terror – the fear of death. The first section describes the Terror Management Theory (TMT) and its proposed ways of reducing fear: by boosting one’s self-esteem and by activating a collective system of meanings. However, much of the data discussed further in the paper shows that facts related to the experience of mortality salience are better explained and predicted by the assumption that the regulatory mechanism relies on seeking social approval and on mood regulation. This has been reflected by such surprising behavior as increased interest in one’s appearance, conspicuous consumption, or seeking power in response to confronting the idea of death. However, further studies are needed to resolve existing controversies.


mortality salience; self-esteem; worldview; social approval; mood regulation

Full Text:

PDF (Polish)