existential psychology

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Existential Psychology

Existential PsychologyAdam SchwartzCPS-503-Psychological Foundations: Personality Dr. OBrienRollo May1909-1994The School of AthensRaphael SanzioAnti-TheoreticalLess of a specific framework for therapy than a Philosophical orientation of the Therapist.Existentialism is inherently anti-theoretical in its contention that scientific theory clashes with the subjective experiences of ones existence.Its an appreciation for being in the moment of existence that empowers us to make use of our freedom.Individuals are responsible for making use of this freedom to form the conditions of their existence.

Biographical OutlineBorn in Ada Ohio, April 21 1909 to Earl Tittle May and Matie Boughton May.Early childhood spent in Marine City, MI.Not close to either parent, described mother as, bitch-kitty on wheels. and sister suffered from Psychosis.Found solace in St. Clair River where he swam and skated and learned more from its tranquility than he did in school.

Biographical Outline(cont.)Bachelors degree in 1930 from Oberlin College in Ohio.Toured Europe for three years tutoring English and Painting.Experienced a, nervous breakdown, which left him bed ridden for two weeks.Attended a seminar by Adler in Vienna whom he greatly admired and returned to the U.S.

Biographical Outline (cont.)Enrolled in Union Seminary School and was mentored by Theological Philosopher Paul Tillich. Graduated with Master in Divinity.Left to study Psychoanalysis at the William Alanson Institute while working as a counselor at City College of NY.Opened his own practice in 1946. In 1949 earned Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University.

Biographical Outline (cont.)In his early 30s he lived with Tuberculosis for 3 years unsure if he would live.Observed that those that resigned themselves to a passive narrative died, and that asserted a will to survive tended to do so.This later profoundly impacted his approach to Therapy.Visiting professor at Harvard and Princeton. Adjunct Professor at NYU. Chaired and Presided over a handful of boards, foundations and associations.

Biography Outline (Cont.)Died on October 22nd 1994 in Tiburon California where he had settled with his 3rd Wife.Writings;The meaning of AnxietyMans Search for HimselfExistence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and PsychologyLove and WillAwards;APA Distinguished Contribution to the Science and Profession of Clinical PsychologyDr. Martin Luther King, Jr. AwardAPF Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Contributions to Professional Psychology

Origins of Existential Psychology8

Key DefinitionsExistentialism- Philosophical movement that contends that subjective experience must be the genesis of thought. Places emphasis on the moment and the freedom to choose within that moment to understand why people exist in the ways that they do. Examines the implications of freedom when weighed against the encumbrance of responsibility. Seeks to understand how and why people think and act under this anxiety.

Central Tenets of ExistentialismExistence, the process of continual growth and change supersedes Essence, the state of merely being.Human are both objective and subjective, therefore they cannot merely be but must question their own existence.We ultimately are solely responsible for the state of our own existence.Phenomena can only be fully authentic through experience.

Key DefinitionsPhenomenology- The Philosophical study of subjective human experience and consciousness. It examines the actions we take and how those actions effect others, the world, and ourselves as conscious phenomena causing agents. Considers the structures with which we perceive phenomena subjectively, how that perception differs from anyone elses, and how those structures influence our corresponding actions and reactions within the world.

As A Therapeutic Movement In The United StatesWith the death of mystery comes the death of Hope.-MayCentral ThemesRational explanations must not extinguish all mystery from lifeInspiration and creativity arise from strife, angst, and painUnique individual is above the organizational manJoy and meaning are found in the aesthetic and the ecstatic

Existential Angst; The Ageless QuestionsWhat is the meaning of life?Is there a god?Does anything I do even matter?Is this the only existence well ever know?Why is there suffering in the world?What are the keys to happiness and fulfillment?

Edvard Munch The Scream

Being-In-The-World(Dasein)Self in relation to world of nature and natural Laws(time and space)Self in relation to others (people)Self in relation to self (spirit)DaseinRodanThe ThinkerBeing in a disconnected state in any of these three areas can result in purposelessness, alienation, and angst. Facing Non-Being

Realization of existence within the world carries with it the dread of death or non-being.We retreat from being, Dasein, into anxiety and self-destructive coping mechanisms.AddictionOver-conformityHostilityDespairCompulsion

Existential ParadoxWith objective knowledge and Scientific theory we lose touchwith our subjective attachment to ourselves and naturalphenomena. We become increasingly uncertain as to the purpose of existence and to the meaning of life.Objectivity Removes ExperienceOntological AnxietyNeurotic Vs. NormalNormal Anxiety comes with acceptance of responsibility and freedom. It is a by-product of progress within ones existence and a necessary part of being.

Neurotic Anxiety is incommensurate to the threat of being and results from a refusal to acknowledge the freedom and responsibility inherent in existence.

Ontological GuiltUmwelt Guilt- With increased civilization and industrial progress we become estranged from nature and develop an innate sense of guilt.Mitwelt Guilt- According to Phenomenology we can only know the world through our own experience and accordingly we can only relate to each other in a limited capacity.Eigenwelt Guilt- Results from our own limited self-realization. We can always increasingly approach our potential and thus always have a sense of guilt propelling us to full actualization.

IntentionalityBegins to reconcile the subjective (person) with the objective (environment).The meaning of our actions is brought forth in intentionality. Our acts in the world become purposeful and directed toward a teleology or ends. The same subject can act on the same object with a multiplicity of intentions and this gives a meaning and a responsibility to our choices.

To Wish Vs. To WillTo will is to organize ones capacities towards a goal. The wish enables and gives content to the will, but the wish is immature. The lack of will can serve to protect the wish from failure by depriving it of conscious action.Will cannot exist without wish but can become trapped by it.

Forms of FreedomExistential Freedom- Freedom to make choices and act upon those choices.Essential Freedom- Freedom to realize ones self and ones potential.Destiny- Exercising our will, within our limitations, towards the goals we set before ourselves.

Limited Existential FreedomFull Existential FreedomEssential FreedomCommunication Through MythMyths are a cultural way of communicating transcendent and spiritual truths.Western culture is lacking in these modes of communication which in turn leaves people lacking identity.This results in emptiness which people fill in self-destructive ways such as addiction, compulsion, or apathy toward their potential.

Oedipus RexBy Sophocles

Mays Stages of DevelopmentInnocence- Precede the ego and self-conscious, have infantile drives to fulfill needs.Rebellion- Desire independence but have little understanding of its inherent responsibilities.Decision- Transition toward independence, decisions are made on how to fulfill rebellious wishes.Ordinary- Normal adult ego, retreats from individual responsibility into conformity and cultural norms. Creative- Authentic self, transcendent and self-actualized, beyond egocentrism.King Sisyphus Greek Myth

View of PsychopathologyFirst instances of childhood rebellion are met with harsh criticism. Rebellion should be the first affirmation of freedom but if it is instead a source of anxiety then freedom takes on a negative and fearful connotation.A disconnection from nature, others, and self. (umwelt, mitwelt, eigenwelt) Leads to a dimming of the consciousness, an inability to be known to others and a directionless apathy.A refusal to pursue ones destiny due to a disproportionate fear of death, nothingness, or the responsibility that accompanies freedom.

PsychotherapySymptomology is a by-product of the patients attempt to escape their own freedom.Therapy therefore is intended to engage people in the use of their own freedom.The therapist, through developing a friendship of guidance, must invite the patient to subjectively live through their emotional experiences.The therapist must help them choose to venture forth freely into their potential destiny by reevaluating the situations from their past which caused freedom to become associated with negativity. Appropriate Clientele Patients at odds with the norms of society or the status quo.Patients complaining of emptiness or a lack of identity (BPD or other personality disorders).Patients at a life crossroads (empty-nest, midlife, adolescence, aging w/physical limitations) .Patients in situational crises (death of spouse, chronically ill, suicidal).Patients experiencing the end of a marriage or career.

Hypothetical Case StudyAn elderly man presents with extreme depression following the death of his wife. He can find l