Dr. Sheldon Solomon on Terror Management Theory: Exclusive Interview

The following transcript contains part of an exclusive interview with Dr. Lisa Firestone and Dr. Sheldon Solomon.


TMT Findings Imply A Better Way To Live

Sheldon Solomon talks about Terror Management Theory and the implications of a better way to live.

SS: It is important for people to feel that they are of genuine value and that that cannot be accomplished in an interpersonal vacuum. And that all of those things have to start developmentally, from the ground up. And so, those, you know, are recommendations, you know. Treat people decently. People are not nor will they ever be equal. But it doesn’t follow from that that the grotesque and radical inequitable distribution of both physical and psychological resources in our country and in industrialized societies should ever be tolerated. I’ve just not met anyone who does not have a kernel of humanity. That you get the sense that under optimal conditions would manifest itself. And I know I’m speaking in what to some would just be lame and troubling generalizations. But I think we have to start some place.

Even Nietzsche, you know, the philosopher, you know, everyone is always, “Oh, the guy was such a fucking Nazi and, you know, he’s always disparaging of other people.” True to a degree, but when you read him in other places and you realize the guy was a romantic because in some of his earlier work – I think it’s Day Break – I don’t know what the actual German title was – but he just talks about that if you are quiet and pay attention and just look at people, you will find the beauty and grace and dignity in every human. And I found that just quite uplifting. And I think that would be a good start. Give people the benefit of the doubt, allow for the fact that folks are different. And see, you know, the general humanistic — Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, everybody that we like sort of in the existential psychodynamic tradition — just the idea that the abstract goal is to bring the best out of each of us. And to hope or even better than that – just insist that the closer we get to doing that, the more likely we are to realize the kind of peaceful and prosperous world that, you know, that we dream about and that the novelists and the playwrights and the movie makers depict when everything is going well.


Order a DVD of Dr. Sheldon Solomon’s full interview with PsychAlive, “Creating Meaning

Sheldon-Solomon-DVD-cover-212x300In this DVD, Dr. Sheldon Solomon addresses a variety of topics concerning how human beings can create meaningful lives in the face of death. In a lively and candid style, Dr. Solomon discusses the development of Terror Management Theory, the ways in which people form defenses against death anxiety and the concept of life affirming death awareness, arguing that we can “accept the reality of the human condition and parlay that into bringing out the best in us. ” He also addresses the societal effects of death awareness, including the social nature of human beings, the role of education and government, and the elements that make up an ideal society. Ultimately, Dr. Solomon advocates that people treat one another humanely and with a greater emphasis on compassion.


Read More from Dr. Sheldon Solomon

Dr. Sheldon Solomon is a psychologist and the Ross Professor for Interdisciplinary Studies at Skidmore College. He is best known for developing Terror Management Theory, along with Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski, which is concerned with how humans deal with their own sense of mortality. Dr. Solomon is the author or co-author of more than 100 articles and several books, including In the Wake of 9-11: The Psychology of Terror. He’s been featured in several films and TV documentaries as well as countless radio interviews.

About the Author

Sheldon Solomon, Ph.D. Dr. Sheldon Solomon is a psychologist and the Ross Professor for Interdisciplinary Studies at Skidmore College. He is best known for developing Terror Management Theory, along with Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski, which is concerned with how humans deal with their own sense of mortality. Dr. Solomon is the author or co-author of more than 100 articles and several books, including In the Wake of 9-11: The Psychology of Terror. He’s been featured in several films and TV documentaries as well as countless radio interviews.

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