Existential Psychology – the tool for our time

One of the things that I am most grateful for is that life has given me the opportunity to get to know many different cultures and ways of life in depth. That has taught me to be open, curious and to understand that there are many different ways of relating to oneself and to life that are mirroring the society, the culture and the time in which we live.

As a Psychologist it is a privilege to learn so much about life through your clients and also to practice different tools and ways of working depending on the person and its context.In my work in Sweden and in the Western World I have found that Existential Psychology offers a very useful perspective on life suited to support us who live at a time and in a society characterised by a high level of freedom of choice and at the same time a lack of connection to wisdom and philosophical practice. In our part of the word we have set ourselves free from the ties (and the shelter) of religion, family and tradition – a path that makes us responsible for our own choices, for our happiness and for our failure. This is a time when we need perspectives and tools to be able to live well and to assume full responsibility for our actions.

The Existential perspective offers a philosophical and humanistic way of looking at mental ill health such as depression, anxiety and burnout, and believes that it arises when the person has no insight into how she can relate to a complicated life situation. The symptoms are signs of this ‘inability to live well’ and of the individual’s sustainability and recovery ability not working. Existential therapy thus focuses on helping the client understand and change his/her interaction with the outside world so that this becomes more adapted to the person he/she is today and to the life circumstances at hand. Existential therapy helps the client to rethink and to re-establish his life in a new form that brings meaning and resilience.

An important point of departure for the work is to see man not as firm, rigid or determined by his past or by destiny, but as constantly changing and becoming. Not only have we come to this world to respond to it and let everything happen, but we are ‘doomed to choose’ i.e. make decisions about how we should interact with the world so that our intentions with it will be expressed and realized. But to live also means that we must interact with everything that is there – with other people, with the physical existence at hand, with circumstances that arise over time and based on our own constant change of our perspectives, intentions and values. This is where freedom meets responsibility.

Living well in time, in space and in relationships is not easy and requires that you have a perspective on your life and are willing to accept that everything flows and changes, that we to a large extent choose our existence and who we want to become and that it really does matter what we ourselves do to feel good in the short and long term and how we chose to contribute to the greater good of the world we live in. The existential therapy holds an optimistic position to life in stating that man is only weakly determined by his past and by his circumstances and that we have the potential to strongly evolve and change throughout our life.

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