Mental Use-By Date
February 1, 2010 2:39 AM   Subscribe

Is there a proper term for the superstition that one won't outlive their parents?

I've felt this myself and through reading books such as Motherless Daughters & speaking to other people who have lost parent(s) unusually early it is common for bereaved children to have a sense of apprehension when they reach the age a parent died at.
It may be confirmation bias, but I see this especially when the same gender parent died young but I haven't noticed it so much when the parent is the opposite gender.
I've heard same sentiment coming from friends, books, blogs, etc. I've done grief counselling & I remember this issue being discussed in my training, but there must be a proper term for it? What is that term?

I'd also be interested to get an idea of what age this sort of thing tapers off, if it does.

My mother died when she was 26, and I could never really picture myself living beyond that until I turned 27 and did actually did continue my existence. It was like I had a mental use by date in my head and to exceed that date would be quite an achievement.
Motherless Daughters says that there is always a piece of you, kind of frozen in time, at the age you were when your mother died. And I often feel I'm still carrying with me my 4 year old self.
There must be a name for this?
posted by goshling to Human Relations (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From what I can tell it just gets lumped in as a variant of hypochondria.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:57 AM on February 1, 2010

Generic fear of dying is called thanatophobia, apparently.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:24 AM on February 1, 2010

Best answer: You might benefit from the post Freudian psychoanalysts educated in Britain or the United States from 1945-1960. My favorite of these is Irwin Yalom. The topic you raise is gone over ad infinitum within the context of what they called Attachment Theory. Disclaimer: this is considered obsolete by modern scientific physicians and psychiatrists.

The single closest answer to your question is in a work by Anee Ancelin Schutzenberger called The Ancestor Syndrome. I took a weekend workshop with her about five years ago. My mother died when she was 48, and Ms. Schutzenberger insisted something transitional would happen to me at age 48. That is next year and I am not worried about it at all. I agree with your description of superstition.

Nevertheless the books are fascinating.
posted by bukvich at 11:48 AM on February 1, 2010

« Older Your recommendations on how to get a phone fixed.   |   I want to ride my bicycle Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.