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Defining Existentialism’s Being
Existentialism is still a relatively new approach to psychotherapy, coming to the United States in 1960 (May 13). Over the last half a century, therapists who practice existentialism serve to define this approach with each passing year. Perhaps the best way to do this is to compare with older practices, such as Freudian theory and behavior modification. Then, we can start to describe how existentialist thought is unique to itself.
When existentialist thought came to the United States, it met both praise and criticism like most any other new trains of thought when first introduced. The biggest pros that people associated with existentialism was “immediacy of experience, the unity of thought and action, and the importance of decision and commitment”, which is what William James emphasizes (13). These traits link very well to modern Americans. On the other hand, critics of this approach described its concepts of “being” and “nonbeing” as “hopelessly vague and muddled” (16). May’s arguments serve to disprove those critics and support the ones who praise it.
Out of respect, May brings up Freud, who is arguably regarded as the father of psychotherapy. In beginning to describe the differences between Freudian thought and existentialism, he says that while Freud knew about anxiety, Kierkegaard–a man who has been linked to being one of the pioneers of existentialism–knew anxiety. May goes further into this argument by challenging two of Freud’s well-known terms: repression and transference. He explores these terms through an existentialist lens, saying that the concept of “being” and “encounter” are missing.
Question for this chapter:
Describe the difference between Freud’s transference & May’s encounter. Cite examples from text.
*To answer next Saturday!*