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Thu Dec 13, 2007

On Existentialism and Psychotherapy

The atrocities of World War II brought with them an unshakable preoccupation with the meaning of life and the seeming absurdity of human suffering. Philosophers in Europe cut deeper than Freud in their descriptions of the human condition and theorized that the essence of one's self was defined by one's solutions to the core problems of human existence: namely, how does a person live a life that he himself finds meaningful when (a) there are infinite possible worlds that he could create for himself, (b) the responsibility for the course of his life ultimately rests on no other person but him, and (c) he is faced with constant reminders of the reality that his life in this world will one day end.

When existentialism is applied in psychotherapy, then, the focus is on the person's responsibility for the situation in which he finds himself and for exploring the deepest meaning of psychological symptoms in order to creatively resolve them. Many of these symptoms, both individually and culturally, are boiled down to the fear of annihilation, and it is the task of the individual to ease this fear by choosing to embrace mortality and live life as fully as possible.

posted at: 19:36 | path: /existential | link