AN EXISTENTIAL ORIENTATION TO PERSONALITY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY
Life as it is for all people everywhere, and as we experience it, is central
fact of our existence.
1. AUTHENTICITY (which Bugenthal views as the primary
good or value of the
existential viewpoint) exists "when our being-in-the-world is in
the nature of ourselves in the world." One accomplishes this with
AWARENESS, CHOICES, AND
2. RESPONSIBILITY. It is a primary goal of existence.
Attributes of authenticity:
a. Being as fully aware as one can at the moment
b. Choosing what possibilities to actualize at the moment. When we
make cnhoices we are guided toward our potentialities which lead us
to our actualization.
c. Taking responsibility for those choices and realizing that
nothing can forestall the potential for tragedy.
These attributes disclose to each person that:
a. she is finite
b. she has the potential to take action
c. she has some choice of action to take
d. she is at once separate from and related to others
Authenticity need not mean rejecting the familiar world, but rather an
adaptation and participation. LETTING GO is an important part of authenticity
which is not considered rejection. It is letting be, having an awareness.
3. SEVERAL IMPORTANT IDEAS
- ALONENESS AND ENCOUNTER. Existentially we are both alone and in reationships.
Seeing yourself as an individual is an aloneness but when you have a
relation with another, the encounter includes an awareness of self and
also of the other.
- REALITY. Existentially, it is being thrown into a world we
cannot comprehend with the task of creating ourselves as we
discover ourselves and our world. We have to choose and act on the
basis of such incomplete understanding. Includes endlesssly coming
up against the walls of our loneliness.
- EXISTENTIAL JOY: The exaltation and illumination that
authenticity can bring. What we love, desire, and hope for is ours if
are authentic to our being.
- TRAGEDY: When what we fear and attempt to forestall happens.
- AWARENESS: Is recognizing "is-ness." Awareness is limited
in the respect that our awareness is not all-encompassing. There is
always potential awareness.
- FORFEITING AUTHENTICITY. To keep from perceiving or facing a
feared reality, we maintain an appearance of peace at heavy inner
cost.We trade off some of our being in the hope of avoiding the
pain and panic of non-being.
MALADJUSTMENT", MENTAL ILLNESS, AND EMOTIONAL DISTRESS often
"ADAPTATION, ADJUSTMENT, OR CONFORMITY" has an important component
a. Re. "adaptation" & "adjustment": Helping
a person passively
accept social values and avoid of conflict "may assist her in
making rigid a character disorder that diminishes her humanity &
b. Adjustment is often equated with competitive striving,
accumulating goods, secrecy and separateness. In authenticity, one
may reject these values as limited and distorted expressions of
experience, or may participate in the familiar world with a sense
of perspective and awareness which preserves one's own autonomy
c. It is not authentic when we pretend to renounce that which
still has a hold on us.
4. FINITENESS. My stream of awareness is limited, incomplete,
part of a broader stream of potential awareness. Thus sometimes I
5. CONTINGENCY AND FATE. Because we do not know all,
we do not
know enough to assure the outcomes we want. What happens to us is
sometimes contingent on events we cannot control. "Thus is born
athe sense of being subject to Fate, which in its ultimate form is
the anticipation of death. This leads to inescapable existential
6. EXISTENTIAL ANXIETY. This is part of being human. This is
accepting the responsibility of making choices and also recognizing the
"potentiality of tragedy." We fear:
a) Fate and death
b) Guilt and condemnation
c) Meaninglessness and emptiness
d) Loneliness and isolation
7. GUILT. A sense of the incompleteness of our realizaation of
potential, that our actions express much less than our full being.
But guilt is also the appreciation that what we do matters.
Condemnation is the potential of overwhelming guilt. Guilt and
condemnation are the two forms of existential anxiety.
8. TOOLS FOR DEALING WITH EXISTENTIAL ANXIETIES:
a. Responsibility. This expresses our involvement in the world and
heals the breach that contingency creates. It restores our
relatedness to the world.
b. Courage. Expressed in the choice to be. Courage is our acceptance of
responsibility in being and making choices without denying the potential
c. Being. The process of self-aware existence.
d d. Creativity. The transformation of nothingness into
something.Confronting meaninglessness by creating meaning.
e. Encounter. We are symbiotic, depending on our relations with
9. NEUROSIS. Neurosis is the denial of what is, or distortion
. NEUROTIC ANXIETY. When we forfeit authenticity we fall
into neurotic anxiety. We are giving up being and actualizing ourselves.
THIS IS "distorting the existential reality of life." It is
not accepting choices and the possibility of tragedy. We develop fantasies
of security. It occurs when we forfeit authenticity, thinking
this will make us secure from tragedy and contingency and let us
avoid to avoid the hard work of dealing with existential anxiety.
Gets worse the longer this avoidance continues. It can use various
defense mechanisms like denial, displacement, and rationalization.
12. THE EXISTENTIAL CRISIS. A crisis of our existence, our whole
being. A crossroads. Involves:
a. Heightened choice anxiety about opposing possibilities
b. Eruption of existential anxiety --resistances have been breached.
c. One's whole way of being in the world --beliefs, perceptions,
the nature of relationships. Our whole life may seem on the
d. The resolution, the growth alternative is unknown.
e. The growth alternative involves accepting existential guilt and tragedy.
POTENTIAL TO ACT. We all have the potential to act. Acting is when we
know that we have responsibilities and take those responsibilities which
give us the awareness to relate to our world.
MEANINGLESNESS AND CREATIVITY. Meaninglessness is a "nothingness."
When this nothingness is transformed into something meaningful it is creativity.
11. PSYCHOTHERAPY. Not "healing an illness",
but a philosophic
venture in which the person dares and learns to confront self and
world. Not "learning to adjust," but facing infinite
un-adjustability. The therapist sees the patient as an encumbered person
struggles against the limitations imposed by her encumbrances.
The central concern is to aid the client in discarding distortions of
awareness that are used to allay existential ancieties and to accept responsibility
for authentic being in the world. The task is to get through the shiweld
that the clieent has put up to avoid the realities of the world she fears
confronting. To do this the client becomes conscious of the inner
conflicts that give rise to defensive and constrictive maneuvers,
and encourage the growth tendency of striving for actualization
which will overthrow the defensive maneuvers.
It is confronting first neurotic, then existential anxiety.
Avoids extrinsic rewards. Offers instead the existential rewards of encountering
12. RESISTANCE. The shield the client erects to forestall
confrontation with the reality of her being in the world.
CONTINGENCY: One can't guarantee outcomes and yet our lifes are affected
TRAGEDY: When what we fear and attempt to forestall happens
EXISTENTIAL JOY: The exaltation and illumination that authenticity can
bring to being-in-the world.
EXISTENCE: "IS-NESS"--The basic given of all experience.
ENCOUNTER: Two or more people experiencing relationship
CONFIRMATION: a Recognizing another human being in her world
DIALOGUE: Attempting to communicate meanings
ENGAGEMENT: Letting another matter in her being-ness.