Asking Bing AI: “What is the best relief from death anxiety?”

Following on from ChatGPT being made available to the public in 2022, the same technology is now being offered commercially by Microsoft as Bing AI, or as it prefers to call itself:”chat mode for Bing”.

There are some differences to how this version answers the same question I asked previously: “What is the best relief from death anxiety?”. The first obvious difference is that this version communicates in the first person including using emojis. Microsoft are still trying different versions of the service including how personal or impersonal Bing AI should be. Possibly the first person approach works better in this context given a lot of people may be in a vulnerable place when searching for death anxiety answers.

I personally liked how Bing AI didn’t include religion in its answer. But it also didn’t include spirituality and maybe that’s an oversight? I suppose a risk for a commercial venture is they don’t want to end up recommending people do things on the risky end of the spirituality spectrum which might make them legally responsible?

I appreciated how Bing AI encouraged me to ‘meditate on death or practice mindfulness to accept the reality of death’. But I felt its answer was actually weaker for not including ChatGPT’s point of ‘educating oneself about death and the natural process of dying, in order to alleviate some of the fear and uncertainty associated with it’. Here, and this may be the legal side of things again influencing the answer, Bing AI directs people towards professionals as opposed to self-education.

It’s interesting to anticipate the near-future where a certain level of response or medical health advice will be handled by chat bots. I think I’m ok with it as long as the public & private sectors are mandated by law to let you know you’re chatting with a program as opposed to a real person.

Here’s Bing AI’s answer in full…

Question: What is the best relief from death anxiety?


Some possible ways to overcome your fear of death are¹⁴⁶:

  • Exercise regularly to reduce stress and improve your physical and mental health.
  • Meditate on death or practice mindfulness to accept the reality of death and appreciate the present moment.
  • Talk to a therapist, a counselor, a friend or a support group about your feelings and thoughts about death.
  • Change your habits that may trigger your anxiety, such as watching too much news, avoiding social interactions or dwelling on negative thoughts.
  • Learn to spot when you are getting anxious and use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or visualization.
  • Try exposure therapy with the help of a professional, where you gradually face your fears in a safe and controlled environment.
  • Seek professional support if your anxiety interferes with your daily functioning or causes you significant distress.

I hope this helps. Remember that you are not alone in this and there is always hope for healing.🙏

Source: Conversation with Bing, 28/02/2023(1) Death Anxiety: 9 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Death | hims. Accessed 28/02/2023.
(2) Thanatophobia (death anxiety): Symptoms and overcoming it. Accessed 28/02/2023.
(3) 17 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Death and Death Anxiety – Nick Wignall. Accessed 28/02/2023.
(4) How to Cope with Anxiety About Death: 11 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow. Accessed 28/02/2023.
(5) Death Anxiety: 9 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Death | hims. Accessed 28/02/2023.
(6) 8 Healthy Coping Skills for Death Anxiety | Psychology Today. Accessed 28/02/2023.

Source: Bing AI, 2023

Quote Post: @lazenby

'[T]he thicket of mind and flesh, the one on fire with the awareness of death, of your grave-bound life. [A]nd above all, the awareness of the crumbling, meaningless insubstantiality of life lived only by your own lights. [T]hat burden is what … relationship[s] [can help relieve]'

― @lazenby on Tumblr


Quote Post: Irvin D. Yalom

'A sense of fulfillment, a feeling that life has been well lived, mitigates against the terror of death.'

― Irvin D. Yalom

Quote Post: Irvin D. Yalom

'If there are no rules, no grand designs, nothing we must do, then we are free to do as we choose … But we are unprepared; it is too much to bear, anxiety clamours for release, and, at both individual and social levels, we engage in a frenetic search to shield ourselves from freedom.'

― Irvin D. Yalom

Terror Management Theory criticism

A list of academic criticism of Terror Management Theory (TMT), and also efforts to replicate original studies

(ordered chronologically by date first published)

1997. David M. Buss – ‘Human Social Motivation in Evolutionary Perspective: Grounding Terror Management Theory’, Psychological Enquiry, January 1997.

2002. Mark R. Leary and Lisa S. Schreindorfer – ‘Unresolved Issues With Terror Management Theory’, EBSCO Publishing, 2002.

2005. Carlos David Navarrete and Daniel M.T. Fessler – ‘Normative Bias and Adaptive Challenges: A Relational Approach to Coalitional Psychology and a Critique of Terror Management Theory’, Evolutionary Psychology, 2005.

2006. Lee A. Kirkpatrick & Carlos David Navarrette – ‘Reports of My Death Anxiety Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: A Critique of Terror Management Theory from an Evolutionary Perspective’, Psychological Enquiry, 2006.

2008. Wissink et al. – ‘Replication of “Terror management and adults’ attachment to their parents: The safe haven remains” by CR Cox, J Arndt, T Pyszczynski, J Greenberg, A Abdollahi, S Solomon’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008.

2011. Zachary P. Hohman, Michael A. Hogg – ‘Fear and uncertainty in the face of death: The role of life after death in group identification’, European Journal of Social Psychology, June 2011.

2014. Lambert et al. – ‘Toward a greater understanding of the emotional dynamics of the mortality salience manipulation: revisiting the “affect-free” claim of terror management research’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 2014.

2019. Bjørn Sætrevik & Hallgeir Sjåstad – ‘Mortality salience effects fail to replicate in traditional and novel measures’, May 2019.

2019. Javier Rodríguez-Ferreiro et al. – ‘Are we truly special and unique? A replication of Goldenberg et al. (2001)’, Royal Society Open Science, November 2019.

2019. Klein et al. – ‘Many Labs 4: Failure to Replicate Mortality Salience Effect With and Without Original Author Involvement’, December 2019.


And just for completeness really, here are a couple of the early foundational TMT studies:

1986. Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, and Sheldon Solomon – ‘The causes and consequences of a need for self-esteem: a terror management theory’, Springer Series in Social Psychology, January 1986.

1994. Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon, Linda Simon, and Michael Breus – ‘Role of Consciousness and Accessibility of Death-Related Thoughts in Mortality Salience Effects’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, November 1994.

If I’ve missed any obvious academic criticism up to 2022, or any obvious foundational TMT studies, please let me know, and I will make sure to add them.

TMT and Me: My attempt to understand whether Terror Management Theory is pseudoscience or not

Source: Graphic generated using the free version of the Stable Diffusion latent text-to-image diffusion model (

When I deconverted from Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity in 2017, one of the things I found hardest was reckoning with the fact I was no longer going to live forever. That might sound crazy, but I had been raised to believe that I would. In the autumn of 2017 I became the worst person to talk to at a party because all I wanted to talk about was the fact we were all going to die one day.

Then I read Sheldon Solomon’s interview with Sophie Roell on In the interview Solomon contends that Ernest Becker achieved an important development to our understanding of fear of death. Becker was an American anthropologist who died in 1974 and wrote the books The Denial of Death and Escape From Evil. Solomon says that Becker’s ideas about the fear of death being a massive unconscious influence on us was one of the main inspirations for him choosing to study death anxiety. Solomon and his co-authors Tom Pyszczynski and Jeff Greenberg have gone on to see if they can empirically prove Becker’s theories, calling their ideas Terror Management Theory (TMT). They have also written a book about TMT called The Worm at the Core.

What I found compelling about Becker’s writing, and TMT, was the idea that anxiety about fear of death was not benign. TMT holds that human beings knowing we are gong to die produces existential terror (Greenburg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986). The theory says people seek to counter this unconscious fear through symbolic immortality. This means things like, for example, living on after death through the things we achieve professionally, or by associating our identity with culture that will live on after we die.

I was intrigued and captivated. Becker’s theories made intuitive sense to me. And Solomon was saying that “[t]here are now upwards of 1000 of these studies [that have been] done“. I was afraid of dying and I was afraid of the nonexistence that came after. And I didn’t like the idea of being unconsciously controlled by fear of death. I was very interested that TMT held the promise of both understanding my death anxiety better and potentially finding more peace in the face of my future expiration.

One of the main ideas that has sprung out of TMT is the mortality salience (MS) hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that an outcome of feeling death anxiety is that people are more likely to defend their cultural worldviews. For example, if nationalism is one way a person is trying to achieve symbolic immortality (“I am part of this great nation which will live on after I die”), when encountering reminders of death the same person may be inclined to unconsciously increase their defence of their nationalism and also possibly disparage other countries/cultural worldviews.

There was something about the “underpinning of everything”-ness of TMT that was deeply attractive to me. It felt like the dark shadow of humanism; yes we had the gift of being alive, but not only did the end always lie in wait, there was this evidence that unconsciously fear of death troubled us more than we wanted to admit and was negatively affecting how we were living. I thought TMT could help me to live a better life less afraid of death so that I might die a better death.

At the same time though I was worried I was falling for TMT too hard, too quickly. Was I looking for a worldview that explained everything to replace my Fundamentalist Christianity? There were times when I felt like all I could see was mortality salience playing out in every aspect of our lives. I was worried I might have reclaimed myself from one ideology only to find myself giving it over to another.

“While some of the foundational studies on which TMT is based have failed to replicate, thereby drawing criticism within the field of psychology, the framework continues to resonate for many.”


I googled “Terror Management Theory” and found myself on which says “[w]hile some of the foundational studies on which TMT is based have failed to replicate, thereby drawing criticism within the field of psychology, the framework continues to resonate for many” (retrieved on December 7, 2022, capture | Google cache capture). What did ‘failed to replicate’ mean? Was none of it true? I sat at my computer trying to think of ways to justify ignoring this new information about failure to replicate so I could keep believing in TMT.

I decided to look up critical reviews of The Worm at the Core on, the book review website, secretly hoping to find only positive reviews. One review said: ‘I felt the book suffered from too many claims and assertions that, while not being necessary for the integrity of the rather convincing underlying thesis, seem to be somewhat suspect or at least poorly grounded.’ Another review: ‘Too much of this premise is taking place behind the scenes, which is a risk you run in all social psychology experimentation, but that doesn’t mean your extrapolations qualify as proof.’ A person named B. Rule said that ‘[t]his book is really a restatement of Ernest Becker’s ideas, and the value-added, if you will, is that the team of authors have supposedly provided empirical support for his theories. Several of their experiments are described throughout the text. While several were interesting, there were many where I was highly dubious that the lines of causation were as clear as the authors proposed. They just didn’t seem very rigorously designed to eliminate other variables or preclude other interpretations’. 

The critical reviews for The Denial of Death were no better. Someone called Tyler said that Becker’s claims to scientific proof were ‘pseudoscience’. Another review called Becker’s work ‘outdated psychobabble’ and ‘closer to medieval scholasticism’. A person called Gary Beauregard Bottomley summed up their review of Denial of Death this way: 

‘I can highly recommend this book since it gives such an interesting window that psychoanalysis mistakenly provided to human understanding in 1973. It clearly gives a great peak [sic] into how psychiatry got off the rails. I would highly recommend reading “Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry” before attempting this pseudo-scientific book. “Shrinks” documents how psychiatry got so far off the rails and how it found itself by becoming a real science by including the empirical. This book, “Denial of Death”, marks the start of the beginning from which a new era for human understanding began to finally find itself and jettison junk like this book contains.’

Psychobabble and pseudoscience. I worried I had been too quick to sign on to TMT. And to make matters worse, I had started this very blog about fear of death. I groaned internally, how embarrassing.

Then I read this review of The Worm at the Core from 2020 by someone called Travis Rebello. Rebello talks about how they had once given a presentation about denial of death ideas including those of Terror Management Theory. Rebello said one of the professors had said the problem with TMT was “replicability”. Rebello then goes on to list examples of studies failing to replicate the results of experiments originally used to empirically support the validity of TMT.

I felt puzzled. What was going on here? How could ‘upwards of 1000’ studies be getting carried out on a theory that couldn’t even be replicated?

One study was particularly interesting. It was called Many Labs 4 (ML4), first published in 2019, and was specifically about trying to replicate an original TMT study from 1994 whose co-authors included the three authors behind Worm at the Core: Solomon, Greenburg, and Pyszczynski. Many Labs was so-called because of the participation of 17 labs around the world with 1578 participants, meaning a decent sample size to replicate or not replicate the original findings. Not only that, a group of half the labs involved with ML4 would have expert input from one of the original authors of the 1994 study (Tom Pyszczynski) in order to test whether the “secret sauce” of the original researchers had an outsized effect on results.

The result? From one of the lead authors of ML4: “ultimately neither group successfully replicated the effect”. Pretty open and shut. But if this was true, I still didn’t understand why there were thousands of studies as Solomon claimed? I didn’t know enough about academia to know how common it was for an official handbook to be written for a theory that had essentially been debunked. I glumly listened to the ML4 episode of the Black Goat podcast where one of the hosts declared TMT “dead in the water”. It seemed the “replication crisis” for psychology studies (retrieved on December 7, 2022, capture) I had heard about was real.

I took to Twitter to see if there was any commentary on the ML4 paper. It turned out in 2020 a paper called ‘A Word of Caution about Many Labs 4’ had been published which reanalysed the ML4 data and concluded the studies had not been well-conducted and, most importantly from my point of view, the conclusions of ML4 had been wrong: an effect had been found!


So where did things stand now? A successful TMT study from 1994 had been chosen to attempt to be replicated by a large modern study. ML4 couldn’t replicate the 1994 findings. But the authors of a reanalysis said that ML4’s own data showed findings of a ‘modest effect size’. Modest effect size didn’t sound like “dead in the water” but it also didn’t sound like a slam dunk either.

Still, I thought modest effect size was certainly different from the ‘neither group successfully replicated the effect’ that ML4 was concluding. I could see online that ML4 had been republished in November 2020 but when I compared the changes to the 2020 version to the 2019 version the conclusions were still the same: ’we observed little evidence that priming mortality salience increased worldview defence compared to a control condition’ (p. 30)  and ‘with these protocols, in the context of these Labs and time in history, we find little support for this key finding of TMT’ (p. 30).

For a non-academic like myself, it was hard to know which conclusion from the data I should agree with.

I had read earlier this year about how meta-analysis studies can be a good barometer of the state of an academic field. Meta-analysis is essentially a study of a group of studies. I had come across a recent meta-analysis of TMT literature out of the University of British Columbia from January 2022. Here’s what they concluded:

‘[O]ur main results suggest that tests of the MS [Mortality Salience] hypothesis are generally underpowered in the literature’ (p. 23).

Translation: These TMT test results are not strong.

‘[W]e conclude there is evidential value in the overall literature, and there are non-zero effects underlying the studies on a whole.’ (p. 23)

Translation: But, there is something there.

‘The pattern of increasing power after the field began to take QRPs [Questionable Research Practices] seriously bodes well for TMT’ (p. 30)

Translation: No more cheating you guys.

‘Our findings are therefore more optimistic about the MS [mortality salience] hypothesis than failed replications pointing to a null effect.’ (p. 38)

Translation: E.g. ML4.

‘[T]he overall weak effects found in studies that test the MS hypothesis would seem to call into question early articulations of TMT as an organising principle that explains the origins of such foundational human characteristics as culture and self-esteem (see Greenburg et al. 1986; Solomon et al.,1991). If effect sizes can serve as a guide for interpreting the field’s conclusions about which psychological phenomena are most foundational, the evidence is mounting against these early claims that many behaviours emerged as a product of efforts to suppress death thoughts.’ (p. 41)

Translation. TMT may not be as complete an explanatory theory as Dave Underwood is hoping it is.

The study concludes:

‘It is worth noting that our p-curve analysis focuses on the MS hypothesis, derived from TMT, but is not itself a test of the overarching theory. For this reason, many phenomena may yet have an existential origin that are not adequately tested through the MS hypothesis.’ (p. .42)

‘While the recent publication of several failed replications of TMT studies may have led some to expect that our p-curve analysis of the TMT literature would result in an autopsy of the field, we have instead detected a clear pulse. The overall state of the field may not be as healthy as its most enthusiastic champions have suggested, but it is alive, and we hope future researchers design their studies with the results of this p-curve analysis in mind’. (p. 42-43)

When a layperson such as myself wanders into an area of academia he knows nothing about, I think it is easy to want to draw a line under things. I think this is especially true when, as in my case, someone is associating their identity and understanding of the world with a theory or area of research.

Can you have “hope” in a theory? Or is that too much like having “faith” in a theory?

My small foray into psychology academia has shown me that researchers are human like the rest of us, they have their favourite theories and are reluctant to give those up quickly. Doubly so if their theory and ideas are basically their professional legacy. But science moves on, if I can say that, and the quest for replication seems important to me. What I’ve learned from trying to understand TMT better is that replicating problematic tests is, well, problematic. But also in psychology you are testing in a certain time and place and it is impossible to perfectly reproduce those conditions.

And as for me? Well, it’s probably telling that I chose to pick a meta-analysis that detects a pulse. I am keen to continue thinking & writing about the fear of death. But I feel like I’ve learnt an important lesson about treating books about theories as sacred texts of quasi-belief systems. They are not the same, and thank Zeus for that.

Quote Post: George Bernard Shaw

'Old men are dangerous: it doesn't matter to them what is going to happen to the world.'

― George Bernard Shaw

Asking artificial intelligence program ChatGPT ‘What is the best relief from death anxiety?’

What is the best relief from death anxiety?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with death anxiety, as each person's experience and coping mechanisms are unique. However, some common ways to alleviate death anxiety include:

Engaging in activities that bring a sense of meaning and purpose to life, such as volunteering, pursuing a hobby, or spending time with loved ones
Practicing mindfulness and staying present in the moment, rather than worrying about the future or ruminating on the past
Seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional to help process and manage feelings of anxiety
Engaging in physical activity, such as exercise or yoga, to reduce stress and improve overall mental health
Exploring spirituality or religion to find a sense of comfort and connection to something greater than oneself
Educating oneself about death and the natural process of dying, in order to alleviate some of the fear and uncertainty associated with it.

Making a change means acknowledging the difference making the change earlier would have made

From Existential Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom:

‘To decide to change would entail accepting existential guilt‘

Change can often be good & powerful, but the existential guilt is often too powerful for all of us at different times in our lives. Better to make no change and avoid having to deal with the truth.

that corporate ladder

Watch on YouTube:

Quote Post: Vladimir Nabokov

'The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.'

― Vladimir Nabokov

Quote Post: Thomas Hardy

If a way to the better there be, it lies in taking a full look at the worst.

― Thomas Hardy

Childhood methods of coping with fear of death that can carry through to adulthood: ‘I Am Special’, and ‘Supernatural Rescuer’

Screenshots from Existential Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom:

Capital G

I'm sick of hearing about the haves and the have nots
Have some personal accountability
The biggest problem with the way that we've been doing things is
The more we let you have, the less that I'll be keeping for me

Don't give a shit about the temperature in
Don't really see what all the fuss is about
I'm not going to worry about no future generations
I'm sure somebody's going to figure it out

Don't try to tell me how some power can corrupt a person
You haven't had enough to know what it's like
You're only angry because you wish you were in my position
Now nod your head because you know that I'm right

[Lyrics from the song Capital G by Nine Inch Nails]

Quote Post: Dame Deborah James

Dame Deborah James talking about when she moved into end-of-life hospice care at home:
"I am not brave - I am not dignified going towards my death - I am simply a scared girl who is doing something she has no choice in but I know I am grateful for the life that I have had."
— Dame Deborah James 1982-2022


Quote Post: Superette

"I'm gonna die
I don't know why
Never killed nothing
Never hurt no one"

— Lyrics from Killer Clown by Superette

Are we ultimately hardwired to go extinct?

Over the last few months or so I have been having conversations with friends & family about the findings of Seth Wynes & Kimberly Nicholas (2017) with regards to the top five actions each of us can personally do to combat climate change:

(Source: Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas – ‘The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions’. Published July 12, 2017.

One of the most common comments I’ve had in response to the top five is people referring to the often-quoted line “100 companies are responsible for 70% of all carbon emissions”. Which is true, and we need to put pressure on those companies to urgently find ways to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. But I have found it surprising that this quote is used to provide cover for not making individual efforts to try to reduce personal carbon emissions as much as possible. Surely the majority of us can be doing both?

Some people can’t financially afford to fully take all the top five steps, which is fair enough. And some people argue over the wording of the top five and/or question the validity of the findings. And while I’m all for critical thinking, this just feels like sophisticated denial to me.

But besides the reactions above, often what people do in response to hearing the top five steps is react defensively and start justifying why they haven’t started or won’t start doing one or more of the things on the list. It’s not always articulated this way, but it often comes across as “well, yes, OTHER people should start doing those things but I can’t/won’t because…”

It seems to be part of the human condition: these rules don’t apply to me. Or to put it another way, not obeying these rules has no negative consequences for me right now so I’m not going to change my behaviour. I think part of this is an aversion to discomfort and/or change. It’s a perceived threat to “my way of life” which I think some people unconsciously interpret as “a threat to my survival”. Which I can understand, I want to survive too.

But it makes me wonder: this hardwired survival instinct i.e. selfishness, if one way it’s manifesting is a resistance to making personal changes to combat the climate crisis, is the human species ultimately hardwired for extinction?

Here’s my question:

At the scale of billions of people, is it realistic to try to get enough people to cooperate & overcome our selfish instincts in order to ultimately avoid the extinction of the human species?

Please let me know what you think in the comments 🙂👍 >>