Meaning as a Buffer for Existential Anxiety

P. Russo-Netzer & A. Batthyany (Eds.), Meaning in Existential and Positive Psychology. New York: Free Press, Forthcoming

23 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2013

See all articles by Pelin Kesebir

Pelin Kesebir

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

Tom Pyszczynski

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

Human life is spent in a densely woven web of meanings — meanings big and small. It is virtually impossible for us to imagine life without meaning, and when we do, it tends to resemble either utter chaos or vast emptiness. We need and want meaning. Although meaning does a variety of things for people, this chapter will focus on the function of meaning as an existential anxiety buffer. We will argue that the relentless human search for meaning is motivated, to a significant extent, by awareness of mortality, and that meaning can assuage the potential terror born from this awareness. We start with a discussion of what meaning is, after which we examine how meaning at different levels of abstraction helps people deal with the unsettling knowledge of their own mortality.

Keywords: meaning, terror management theory

Suggested Citation

Kesebir, Pelin and Pyszczynski, Tom, Meaning as a Buffer for Existential Anxiety (2013). P. Russo-Netzer & A. Batthyany (Eds.), Meaning in Existential and Positive Psychology. New York: Free Press, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2297982

Pelin Kesebir (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Center for Investigating Healthy Minds ( email )

1500 Highland Avenue, Suite S119
Waisman Center
Madison, WI 53705-2280
United States

Tom Pyszczynski

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs ( email )

1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-7150
United States

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