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Ernest Becker, Transference & Transcendence
Generative Death Anxiety in Psychological and Pastoral Counseling

7 CE Credits/Hours - Online Course - $69.00

Developed by Daniel Liechty, Ph.D.

CE Credits for Psychologists. CE Credits (CEUs) for LMFTs, Social Workers, Counselors and Nurses.
CE Approvals by BBS-CA, ASWB, NBCC, NAADAC, CA-BRN & more.
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Ernest Becker Online Course This intermediate course provides an overview of the works and ideas of Ernest Becker (1924-1974) and points toward ways these ideas can be useful to those engaged in the practice of clinical psychotherapy and counseling. Becker's work was motivated by one large and overarching question, "What makes people act the way they do?" Becker consciously ignored the restraints of standardized disciplinary boundaries, and although he was thoroughly grounded in the literature of psychology and sociology, he also pursued his data widely into other disciplines, such as educational philosophy and even into religious studies.

Becker's work culminated in his award-winning classic 1973 book, The Denial of Death, in which he defended the thesis that one of the major forces in both individual and collective human behavior is the need to defend ourselves against constant conscious awareness that we are mortal creatures destined for death. An enormous amount of our individual (psychic) and collective (cultural, political) energy is devoted to the construction of monuments and actions which prove on a physical, but mostly symbolic, level that we are substantial beings engaged in a vital pageant of action within a cosmos of significant and eternal meaning. All societies are structured to maintain the plausibility of this belief. When individuals or groups of people start to doubt this belief about themselves, rational action begins to break down into recognizable patterns of depression on one side and manic frenzy on the other.

Through examination of some of the main tenets of Becker's work, this course casts light on the role of mortality awareness and death anxiety in human behavior. Although human beings share much of their cognitive and social characteristics with other species, particularly the higher mammals, it has become popular in circles of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology to suggest that the study of animal behavior is the key to understanding human behavior. However, human beings are the only species (as far as we know) who are aware of mortality and must, therefore, construct psychological defenses against death anxiety as an ongoing condition of the existence of being. Here we explore some of the most important implications of this fact about human psychological, emotional, and spiritual development. Although Becker did not attempt or intend to outline a separate 'school' of therapeutic practice, we will see that his ideas are compatible with many of the major schools of therapeutic practice and extend the knowledge-pool concerning human behavior on which the various schools of thought draw.

Educational Objectives:

    This course will teach the participant to
  • Identify the most important ways in which human awareness of death and mortality impacts human behavior.
  • Articulate the role that psychological defense mechanisms play in helping human beings to cope with the potentially debilitating effects of death anxiety.
  • Describe ways in which defense against death awareness contours important aspects of culture and personality in human existence.
  • Delineate pathways for applying insights about death awareness into clinical practice.
  • Discuss the concept of self-esteem maintenance in relation to the theory of generative death anxiety.
  • Understand ways in which existential death anxiety functions as a contact point between various leading psychological theories.

Course Syllabus:

  • Ernest Becker in Context
    • Biographical Sketch
    • Cultural Pluralism and Postmodern Therapies
    • Human Evolutionary Advancement
    • Educational Philosophy
    • Science of Man(kind)
  • Overview and Empirical Support of Becker's Ideas
    • Generative Death Anxiety
    • Terror Management Theory
    • 17 Theses Summarizing Ernest Becker's Individual and Social Psychology
  • Human Ego Development: Primary Concepts
    • Biological Background
    • The role of Anxiety
    • Maintenance of Self-Esteem
    • The Oedipal Transition
    • Socialization-Adapting to Culture
    • A transactional View of Mental Illness
  • Expansion, Anxiety, and Evil
    • The Oedipal Project
    • The Cultural Causa Sui Narrative
    • The Urge Toward Cosmic Heroism
    • A Key to Understanding Human Evil
  • Transference and Terror-The Heart of Ernest Becker's Analysis
    • Psychoanalytic Transference
    • The Leader and the Group
    • Normal Transference
  • Death and the Limits of Psychotherapy
    • Death and Depression
    • The Limits of Psychotherapy
  • Metaxy-Life In-Between: A Model of Adult Psychology
    • The Ontological Axis
    • The Existential Axis
  • Moving Beyond Becker
    • The Limits of Psychotherapy, noch Einmal
    • Intimations of Transcendence
  • Bibliography and Further Reading


Author's Bio


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