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Rollo May's existential theory has been moderately influential as a method of psychotherapy, but it has sparked almost no direct empirical research. This state of affairs is no doubt related to the critical stance that May adopted toward objective and quantitative measurement. Any theory that emphasizes the connection between subject and object and the uniqueness of each individual will not be conducive to large sample research with experimental or questionnaire design. In fact, May argued that modern science is too rationalistic, too objective, and that a new science is needed hi order to grasp the total, living person.

One existential topic to receive some empirical attention has been existential anxiety. May (1967) defined anxiety as "the apprehension cued off by a threat to some value which the individual holds essential to his [or her] existence as a self" (p. 72). When events threaten our physical or psychological existence, we experience existential anxiety, and strongest among the threats to our existence is death. Indeed May and Yalom (1989) argued that "a major developmental task is to deal with the terror of obliteration" (p. 367). In a sense, life is the process of coping with and confronting death.

An existential approach to the study of terror and death has carried over hito "terror management," a modem experimental offshoot of existential psychology. A conceptual bridge between existential psychology and terror management theory was provided by the American psychiatrist Ernest Becker, who was hispired by Kierkegaard and Otto Rank. A basic argument of these existentialists (as well as

Chapter 12 May: Existential Psychology 361

writers such as Camus and Sartre) is that humans are first and foremost motivated by fear of death. Moreover, many of these thinkers see human creativity, culture, and meaning as unconscious defenses agahist mortality. The work of Becker, in particular, has been a major source of inspiration for terror management theorists.

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