Existentialism proposes that people have the freedom, and the responsibility, to make our own choices and that leaning on institutions or other individuals to tell us how to make our moral choices is inauthentic and hinders our personal development. According to existential thought, we must look within ourselves to find meaning, to assert our values, and to make the decisions that shape our lives.
Existential psychotherapies use a range of approaches, but major themes focus on the concepts of responsibility and freedom. Therapists help you find meaning in the face of anxiety by choosing to think and act responsibly and by confronting negative internal thoughts rather than focusing on external forces like societal pressures or luck. Fostering creativity, love, authenticity, and free will are common avenues that help move you toward transformation. Similarly, when treating addiction disorders, the existential therapist coaches a person to face the anxiety that abuse use may be alleviating, and encourages them to take responsibility for their life. The goal: To make more willful decisions about how to live, drawing on creativity and love, instead of letting outside events determine one's behavior.
Yalom was a pioneer in the area of existential psychotherapy. Existential psychotherapy emphasizes that mental health problems are frequently caused by struggles with existence. Common themes include fear of death, the drive toward freedom, and the desire to avoid isolation. Existential psychotherapy recognizes four basic human issues that all people struggle with: isolation, meaninglessness, mortality, and freedom. Through his writing, Yalom helped to explain existentialism and demonstrate its importance in therapy.
A very special episode with a very special person!In today' s episode I spoke with Irvin Yalom, the author of best-selling books such as When Nietzsche Wept and Love's Executioner, the father of existential psychotherapy and a pioneer in the field of group theory. We spoke about his latest book, A Matter of Death and Life, which he co-authored with his late wife, Marylin Yalom. Marylin and Irvin weave together a beautiful and touching tale of true love, old age, and a life well-lived. Click here for their latest book: A Matter of Death and Life
In this paper, I argue that Heidegger's particular idea ofBeing-towards-death is important to psychotherapeutic work; it enriches thescope of the therapeutic process. By this I mean that clients attend more tothe sense of meaning in their lives, and the possibilities that are open tothem, rather than exclusively focusing on the ending of life and thepointlessness of truly engaging in any commitment to living in the face ofthis. In order to show that this is pertinent to our work with clients, I useand make reference to Heidegger's language, which is set within anextensive labyrinth of neologisms and inter-connected ideas. Specifically, Iclaim that the distinction that Heidegger makes between two of hisself-created terms, Being-ahead-of-itself and Being-a-whole is key tounderstanding authentic Being-towards-death. Along the way, I recognise thatthe signal outcome of addressing our Being-towards-death in terms ofBeing-a-whole is our realisation of freedom towards death, which is avaluable endeavour in psychotherapy.
A number of my clients, otherwise relatively healthy and notsuffering from illness, have touched on the finitude of their lives, eitherindirectly, or more explicitly, and the following vignette illustrates wellthe impact of considering one's own mortality and the sense of thewholeness of life. Ken, a 32-year-old unmarried man, had come to me toaddress his marijuana and alcohol consumption, as well as his constant andunrelenting pursuit of women for sexual gratification. After a number oftherapy sessions, he had come to recognising that his life was anunsatisfactory series of moments that did not take in the idea of his life asa totality. He began to lament the manner in which he had wasted andsquandered his life thus far, and how he had grasped the future simply as onemoment following another and living without regard for a wider horizon fromwhich his life could be understood. We might say that Ken had experienced acall of conscience about his life, resulting in existential guilt about thefact that he wasn't living in a more committed way towards thepossibilities that were available to him. His frequent reference to his agereflected his awareness of his temporality, and the concomitantly increasingawareness of his responsibility for his own temporal life. In time, he wasaware of the choices that he could make, as well as the freedom to act in theface of the boundary of his finitude. 2b1af7f3a8