Posted in Scholastic Saturdays

Scholastic Saturday: Beginning to Define Existentialism

Write Reaction Paper to The Discovery of Being by Rollo May (Chapter One…or most of it, anyway)

(c) Copyright 2012 VC/GS

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!*

Posted in Scholastic Saturdays

Scholastic Saturday: Finding Where I Fit In

I have to begin by apologizing for this being a day late.  I got flashbacks of my college weekends where I’d study then hang out with friends until late at night/early in the morning then return to my place of residence and put off doing a paper in favor of sleeping in the next day.  That’s exactly what happened: I became engrossed in this first text on my Pre-Master’s Degree Suggested Reading List on the way to a friend’s birthday party an hour’s drive away (Not to worry–hubby was in the driver’s seat!  Although I HAVE actually seen people with their nose in a book during rush hour.  Scary!).  We stayed until about 11:30 PM and while we were driving back home, I decided I was so tired and by the time we got back it would already be the next day so really there was no point in trying to rush the blog and publish it before the day officially ended at midnight.  I went home and promptly crashed on my bed.

Aside from a brief study for the GRE last year, I haven’t done anything heavily study-related since finishing my two bachelor’s degrees & two minors in 2006.  I was actually surprised by how quickly I became interested in studying again (I’m sure that will change once things start to get difficult to understand).  As I have a degree in English, I was very used to having to read 1000 pages in three days plus a five-page reaction paper written for just one class.  To say the least, I was tickled pink to discover that the four books I checked out from the library that were on the Suggested Reading List had a combined page count of about 500 pages, most likely less.  And this time around I gave myself a four-week deadline (finish one book per week for Scholastic Saturdays)!  Woohoo!  Anyways, without further adieu, I present my latest item checked off my list:

Write Reaction Paper to The Discovery of Being by Rollo May (foreword)*
FYI, since I spent the better part of my education using MLA as my Bible, all papers, including works cited, will be in MLA form unless otherwise noted.

(c) Copyright 2012 VC/GS

 Choosing to Let People Be Themselves

       The field of psychotherapy has many different approaches when it comes to application and treatment.  Some choose to use their knowledge of human existence and what they believe to be overarching normal responses to certain situations when they go to treat patients.  Others delve into the patient’s unconscious to see what might be causing a conflict.  Still others separate functional from dysfunctional behaviors and try to steer the patient towards the behaviors that are labeled as correct.  Out of all the approaches, I believe I relate the most to existential psychotherapy.  In this type of approach, I feel that the power is put mostly in the patient’s hands.  In practicing existential psychotherapy rather than another approach, I would not be changing a patient’s core.    Rather, I would be helping my patient figure out who he or she is and to become the best possible version of that person.

      As a therapist practicing existential psychology, one of the most important tasks I would be responsible for would be to help my patient become more aware of himself.  As people lose their awareness, they become more apathetic or hedonistic; youth and teenagers have more frequently been turning to taking their own lives when they lose their sense of self (May 9).  “Who am I?” and “What is the meaning of life?” are questions that are commonly asked when one is in despair.  Oftentimes those who have lost their sense of being are unable to define themselves and find a reason for living.  My obligation, therefore, would be to help one define himself.  I would help them determine their values, beliefs, passions, and personality.  From there, the patient would be able to have the power to decide for himself what the meaning of his unique life is.  In this power, I think one can start to find both determination and peace.  As Ray states, “It is by discovering and affirming the being in ourselves that some inner certainty will become possible” (10).  After finding inner certainty, so many good personality traits naturally follow:  confidence, determination, and clarity are only a few.

      When someone is forced to change who they are in order to improve a situation, a lot of focus is lost.  She questions her very being, and I believe this is where the fear of being viewed as broken comes from.  If she is berated for being herself, then she will essentially become someone else.  Her sense of self becomes lost as she masks the parts that are seen as abnormal, and that is exactly where I think problems begin to arise.  “In covering up being we lose those things we most cherish in life” (10).  When we lose the things we most cherish in life, it is easy to see where changing a person rather than empowering a person to be herself can be counterproductive.

      I am excited to be learning how to essentially empower someone to take charge of her own life.  To instill a sense of self into someone is an incredible honor, and a challenge I know I will enjoy practicing for years to come.

Works Cited

May, R.  The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology.  New York:

      Norton, 1983.

(c) Copyright 2012 VC/GS