Terror management theory research suggests that self-esteem acts as an anxiety buffer and high self-esteem can reduce implicit death thoughts and worldview defense. Our research investigated self-compassion that enhances wellbeing by making people feel safe and secure, whereas self-esteem makes people feel superior and sometimes unrealistically self-confident. Results in our series of studies failed to consistently replicate the basic hypothesis of terror management theory. However, isolated results, though interpreted with caution, may warrant further investigation. For example, individuals high in self-compassion were found to report less explicit death-related anxiety. Additionally, similar to the previous research investigating the role of mindfulness on terror management, we found that self-compassionate individuals process death thoughts more deeply without suppressing them and showing less defensiveness. This research is especially pertinent to understand how we think about death and how treating oneself with compassion may prevent defensive responses. Previous research shows that these defensive responses can often have negative consequences, for example, people are more likely to aggress against someone who disagrees with their worldview following mortality reminders. By better understanding how self-compassion prevents such defensive responses, we could work to overcome the negative outcomes associated with thinking about our mortality by being compassionate to self.

Dev Ashish, MA

University of Arizona

Dev Ashish is a doctoral student in clinical psychology working in the Neuropsychology, Emotion and Meditation lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. He is currently working on … MORE