Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Fifty five graduate students in the 2008 class of Smith College School for Social Work, on average, seek symbolic immortality through existential themes, excluding religion. Additionally, the more students identify with themes that define meaning in their lives, the greater their fear of encountering threats to that meaning. Further, students reported that they daydream about existential fears that threaten symbolic immortality more frequently than they dream, or have memories of them; and that they dream about primal fears more frequently than they daydream, or have memories of them. This study tested the hypotheses that people fear what they imagine might happen to them more than what has actually happened to them (Kunzendorf, et al., 2003-2004; 2006-2007); and that the imagined happening that each individual fears most is not death per se, but something that represents a threat to meaning of life as defined by each individual (Kunzendorf, et al., 2006-2007). Students were surveyed to examine if they preserve their immortality through their work as social workers. Students were invited via e-mail to anonymously participate in this quantitative study that explored an individual's fears through utilization of three self-rating scales. This research may increase awareness that although social work graduate students dream about primal fears, they daydream about their meaningful lives, and that they hope to live on through their positive work with their clients. Additionally, findings suggest that it is important for social workers to attend to their clients' worst fears by listening for existential themes that threaten meaning in life.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. v, 105 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 72-76)