The curse and the blessing: The self as source of the terror and the primary avenue for managing it

Lyla Rothschild, Uri Lifshin, Peter Jameson Helm, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Terror management is fundamentally a theory about the self, the problems that arise from self-awareness, and the role of the self in ameliorating those problems. In this chapter, we begin with an account of the emergence of the need for self-esteem. Then we review empirical evidence on the role of self-esteem in terror management. First, we consider evidence that self-esteem reduces anxiety, defenses, and death-related thought in response to mortality salience (MS). Then we review evidence that reminders of death increase self-esteem striving and desire for a coherent self-narrative. We then describe the evidence that self-awareness makes death-related thoughts more accessible. Finally, we consider the effect of MS on creativity and self-expansion. We conclude with a brief summary, note some remaining issues in need of further study, and provide an overview of a new line of research concerning perceptions of the self vis-à-vis animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Terror Management Theory
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9780128118443
ISBN (Print)9780128118450
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Anxiety
  • Death-thought accessibility
  • Defensiveness
  • Mortality salience
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-expansion
  • Self-narrative
  • Terror management
  • Worldview

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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