Do we fear death less after a near-death experience?

‘Near-death experiences’ come up often in films and novels – the idea of a ‘white light’ or experiencing meeting loved ones from years before. But are there common aspects to these experiences? And what sorts of consequences might they have once you have them? This week I speak with Dr Natasha Tassell-Matamua, Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology at Massey University, New Zealand to find out more.

Here is the link to the paper we talk about in this week’s show:

Here is the abstract for some context:

According to terror management theory, fear of death is one of the most profound of human anxieties. Yet, the near-death experience (NDE) and its associated pattern of after-effects represent an intriguing exception to this theory. Studies indicate the loss of the fear of death is an instantaneous and pervasive after-effect of NDEs. Some theorists propose this elimination of death fear could be related to the sense of disembodiment felt during the NDE. In this article, we expand on previous theories by suggesting the combination of four specific elements of the NDE directly influence the loss of the fear of death, including: the sense of disembodiment, positive emotional content, meeting and greeting with deceased others and spiritual beings and exposure to a bright otherworldly light. We conclude by making suggestions for future research endeavours in this area, and their potential beneficial implications for health service delivery, particularly in end-of-life care.

Apologies for the sound quality in parts of the show. Natasha was kind enough to be interviewed when on parental leave, so you can hear some of the joys of normal life in the background – but we manage to keep the conversation on track.

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