The Philosophy of Existentialism
Have you ever found yourself wondering, “What is the meaning of all this? What is my purpose? What happens after I die?” These are common questions related to existentialism. Existential therapy focuses on the human condition as a whole. It is based on self-determination, free will, and the search for meaning. Existential therapy looks at the capacity for self-awareness, freedom, and personal responsibility.
Two pioneers of existential philosophy, Victor Frankl and Irvin Yalom, describe the importance of creating meaning in life and becoming aware of and accepting of the human condition. Existential work often focuses on taking responsibility for decisions and free will, increasing self-awareness, the idea of God or a Higher Power, living authentically, coping with life’s inevitable anxieties, death, finding personal meaning, and living in the present. You may be familiar with the term “existential crisis” in which some tragedy or life change creates a struggle for adjustment and a questioning of our core beliefs, values, morals, and identity.
Existentialism in Therapy
Existential therapy can help you sort out and create meaning from such changes in life. Existential therapy emphasizes the relationship between you and your therapist and the importance of a caring, supportive and honest relationship that permits you to explore life’s uncertainties safely with another person. This type of therapy explores thoughts and feelings in a respectful, compassionate, and supportive way that helps one confront their worldview and promote one’s capacity to explore responsibility and freedom, and embrace their own authentic way of being and interacting with the world.
Unlike some types of therapy, existential therapy asks a person to consider their experience and exploration of their place in the world rather than eradicate problems and circumstances. This eliminates the idea of an “outcome” or solution in a therapy session and instead allows for freedom of expression, curiosity, and authenticity.