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9.S: Chapter Summary
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Review of Key Points
- Existentialism focuses on an individual’s subjective “truth.” The freedom and responsibility that come with personal truth lead to anxiety, but they can also elevate the individual to lead an authentic life.
- Heidegger believed that all creatures are connected, but that only humans can become aware of this connection. Dasein, the realization of this connection, allows us to connect with Being. Awareness of our impending death, however, leads to anxiety, but if we accept that truth we can live an authentic life.
- Sartre believed that humans were unique, something he called en-soi. Awareness of the nothingness that separates the en-soi from the pour-soi is what drives some individuals to make something significant of their lives. For those who cannot, Sartre expressed a need for existential psychoanalysis.
- Viktor Frankl developed his ideas for logotherapy (an existential psychoanalysis) during his impressive early career. He had an extraordinary opportunity to put his ideas to the test while imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps.
- Recognized as the third Viennese school of psychotherapy, logotherapy focuses on one’s will-to-meaning, the desire to find meaning and purpose in one’s life.
- People who cannot find meaning experience existential frustration, which can lead to a noogenic neurosis.
- Logotherapy itself relies primarily on the techniques of paradoxical intention and dereflection. These techniques are designed to break the cycle of anticipatory anxiety and failure that plague individuals who suffer from existential crises.
- Going beyond ordinary, everyday life, Frankl proposed a super-meaning to life, and he suggested that there is also a will-to-ultimate-meaning that can be pursued through religion or spirituality. In this light, Frankl referred to logotherapy as “height psychology” (in contrast to depth psychology, another term for psychoanalysis).
- Rollo May believed that anxiety underlies nearly every crisis. He proposed that anxiety must be understood in terms of freedom, and he distinguished between normal anxiety and neurotic anxiety.
- Culture has significant effects on the nature and amount of anxiety that people are likely to experience in their lives. Since anxiety can lead to hostility, these cultural factors are, and have been throughout history, very important issues (e.g., opposition to the civil rights movement in the United States, and the recent dramatic rise in international terrorism).
- A critical factor in life, according to May, is our ability to integrate into our world. One of the challenges to integration is the human dilemma: whether we are the subject or the object in our lives. As self-aware beings we can know that we are both subject and object, and so, in psychological terms, we exist in a world between either behaviorism or humanistic psychology.
- There are different types of love, all of which are very important to our lives. Love can give meaning to our lives, but it must be honest and responsible love.
- Through will and intentionality we can give structure to our lives and meaning to our actions. However, overwhelming anxiety can destroy our ability to participate actively in our own lives.
- The daimonic is any function that can take over the whole person. It can be a source of violence, but also a source of creativity. We can choose how the daimonic takes over, and whether that choice is responsible or not determines whether our actions are violent or creative.
- Being creative requires that we live in the future and actively participate in shaping our lives. Such bold choices require courage, especially in light of the inescapable reality that we will die.
- May felt that myth provides an important cultural framework within which we can form our lives. Unfortunately, the Western world has lost many of its myths, making people susceptible to cults, drugs, superstition, etc.
- According to May, the primary goal of existential psychotherapy is to help the client realize their own being, to have an “I-Am” experience. Time is an important aspect of this procedure. The client must be helped to shift their focus from the past to the future, and even more so, to transcend time altogether.
- Although existential psychology is younger than most other schools of psychology, it has much in common with ancient Eastern philosophies, such as Yoga, Buddhism, and Taoism.
- Terrorism is not the result of Islam. Terrorists are found all over the world, from many different races, religions, and nationalities. Islam opposes violence and murder.
- Terrorism is based on psychological factors (a perception that there are no alternatives, and that terrorism is legitimate), and seeks to cause psychological effects (feelings of terror and helplessness). Thus, psychologists have an important role to play in understanding and eliminating terrorism.
- One can easily find those who believe that terrorism either never works or always works. Some believe that we must respond with understanding to eliminate the root causes of terrorism, whereas others believe we must use force (but not too much force, lest we become terrorists as well). Clearly there are no easy answers for dealing with terrorists themselves or terrorism in general.