September 27, 2017
Presenter: Norman Straker, MD
Discussant: Anna Burton, MD
This presentation will address the longstanding neglect of “death anxiety” by psychoanalysts. As a profession we have denied the importance of helping our patients with the existential crisis of facing death and have had a tendency to discourage our patients from speaking about their fears of death and dying. As a counterpoint, our society has very recently and actively moved to pass legislation for “assisted death” to respond to those who want to exercise control over their anxieties about facing death. Our theory and practice needs to be more connected to the needs of our patients and to our medical colleagues, rather than being stuck in the theoretical past. I have had to evolve my thinking and leave the comfort of Freud’s view that “our unconscious believes in our own immortality.” This view defended me against my own countertransference anxiety about death and permitted me in the past to feel comfortable discouraging my patients from working through their fears of death and dying. I have found that a more direct existential approach backed up by empirical data has given me a sense of competence and comfort in facing the most challenging crisis in each of our lives. This approach lessens the patient’s death anxiety and promotes meaningful, psychological growth at the end of life.
2 CME/CE credits offered
New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute
247 East 82nd Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
The Marianne & Nicholas Young Auditorium