The Psychology of Death and Dying

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Collectively, Americans seem to actively deny death as a natural occurrence in life. Just like our obsession with maintaining youthful appearances, we are fixated on maintaining unprecedented life spans, now a possibility through stem cell research and the potential future of widespread eugenics. Instead of acknowledging death, it becomes a taboo subject, occasionally brought up during life insurance policies and estate sales. Americans do not have holidays to pay homage to the deceased like El Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico or shrines of ancestors as a permanent fixture in their homes like the Japanese. The only portrayal of death found in the media is the typical notion of heaven and hell, for example movies like What Dreams May Come, where Robin Williams must emancipate his wife from the shackles of hell. Or other popular movies, such as Contact with Jodie Foster, where children perceive the dead as normal people existing in a parallel realm, not unlike physical reality. Another common misconception is that death is a temporary inconvenience, often illustrated in children’s movies like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Children are given the impression that death is just a really long, luxurious nap and if the right man kisses the sleeping individual she will magically spring back into consciousness.Unfortunately, the only other prevalent acknowledgement of death in the popular media and American society can be found in violent actions movies and psychological thrillers. Gratuitous violence and cold-blooded murder accompanied by internal body parts externalized, decapitated heads and even cannibalism. We have a gross fascination concerning violence and the mutilation of the human form, a rather unhealthy obsession lurking in video games and cult classic movies. Americans have not addressed the finality of death, and only in recent years have new age religions fabricated a new approach toward death, or the passageway into the unknown.As I child, forced to…

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