Fleeing the Body: A Terror Management Perspective on the Problem of Human Corporeality

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From the perspective of terror management theory, the human body is problematic because it serves as a perpetual reminder of the inevitability of death. Human beings confront this problem through the development of cultural worldviews that imbue reality-and the body as part of that reality-with abstract symbolic meaning. This fanciful flight from death is in turn the psychological impetus for distancing from other animals and the need to regulate behaviors that remind us of our physical nature. This analysis is applied to questions concerning why people are embarrassed and disgusted by their bodies' functions; why sex is such a common source of problems, difficulties, regulations, and ritualizations; why sex tends to be associated with romantic love; and why cultures value physical attractiveness and objectify women. This article then briefly considers implications of this analysis for understanding psychological problems related to the physical body and cultural variations in the need to separate oneself from the natural world.

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Personality and Social Psychology Review, v. 4, issue 3, p. 200-218