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Langs, R. (2003). Adaptive Insights into Death Anxiety. Psychoanal. Rev., 90(4):565-582.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Review, 90(4):565-582

Adaptive Insights into Death Anxiety

Robert Langs

The danger of death appears to be the most fundamental and universal source of adaptive and defensive structures. Death is a universal and inherently unresolvable adaptive issue, and conscious and unconscious forms of death anxiety are ever-present. As a result, these grave concerns are significant factors in the development of virtually every type of emotional dysfunction. With the prospect of death looming large throughout the world today, the task of gaining a deeper understanding of the profound effects of this threat has become a matter of utmost importance (cf. Liechty, 2002). Toward this end, this article will present some recent insights developed by what has been known as the communicative approach to psychotherapy and psychoanalysis and is now called the strong adaptive approach to emphasize one of its most basic features-a primary adaptive orientation (Langs, 2003). Because, as noted by Raney (1984), Smith (1991, 1998), and others, it is a new paradigm of dynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis-terms I use interchangeably-I will first describe the distinctive features of the approach and then present some of its most recent findings and insights in respect to the topics of death and death anxiety (Langs, 1997, 1999b, 2002). Because the approach is adaptively oriented, these very real issues and concerns have been explored in some detail clinically, with some rather surprising results.

The Strong Adaptive Approach

The following is a summary of the most well-established clinical findings and theoretical constructs of the strong adaptive approach (for extensive supportive clinical evidence, see Langs, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2003).

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