The “person-in-the-world” approach

The “person-in-the-world” approach
Drawing by Adrian Serghie

   The whole point of psychology is to understand the human being, but sometimes it drifts away from this and it tends to see a person as a bunch of projected theories. Some years ago, a dude called Rollo May said something like “F*ck this sh*t! I’m going to make psychology about humans again!” and he developed the existential therapy, which is:

“[..] a form of psychotherapy based on the model of human nature and experience developed by the existential tradition of European philosophy. It focuses on concepts that are universally applicable to human existence including death, freedom, responsibility, and the meaning of life. Instead of regarding human experiences such as anxiety, alienation and depression as implying the presence of mental illness, existential psychotherapy sees these experiences as natural stages in a normal process of human development and maturation. In facilitating this process of development and maturation existential psychotherapy involves a philosophical exploration of an individual’s experiences while stressing the individual’s freedom and responsibility to facilitate a higher degree of meaning and well-being in his or her life.” – Wikipedia

  Basically, this “thing” approaches someone as being an individual, a human being, not a projection of theories about that individual. It states that a person needs to be considered a process, not an outcome. These therapists insist about the fact that an individual has an influence over his relationship with the destiny, which is why their studies are oriented towards will (seen as a power to take a stand against conformism and collectivism), anguish (seen as a living feeling of being thrown away in the world without the ability to choose the course of own destiny) and death (seen as the only absolute concept in life that cannot be changed, Rollo May saying that “no one can die in your place. It’s the only thing we need to do on our own”).

   The existentialism brakes the barrier between normal and pathologic and it talks about a psychopathology of masses in which people live isolated. Just because something is done by the majority of people, it doesn’t mean it’s normal nor pathologic. It just is. This shouldn’t force someone to behave in a certain way just because “that’s how it’s done”. This is what triggers the anguish.

   We, as a society, are a bunch of unique individuals which have own paths in this world and this is what the existentialism tries to remind us. The way we develop is unique and it doesn’t need to be the same with the rest of the society. But do we have the will to do it until we die? Are we willing to die on our own terms?

   This type of psychology is based on the existential philosophy so that’s why it has all these abstract concepts. Anyway, what do you think about this? How should therapists treat people in order to help them the best they can?

11 thoughts on “The “person-in-the-world” approach

  1. You asked “How should therapists treat people in order to help them the best they can?”. Listen, challenge gently and even with humor, if possible, and bring back self-control. Renaming self-control to self regulation doesn’t help.
    I think many therapists need to accept that replacing words to fix errors of past therapy philosophies makes a fool of us and them.

    1. Listening is a huge part of the therapy and it is one of the main reasons people come to therapy. But it needs to be genuine, otherwise it won’t have the needed impact.

      1. No question about it. And it can’t be listening alone. A conversation as to take place. The centre of the conversation however is the client with not equal share.

  2. In meditation it arises that the autopilot is always on. You have done, are doing and will do against new input what your singular balance of experience equates. There is no value judgement, this just is.

    What “I” do is a sum of my memories (aka thinking) versus impinging biological imperatives to eat, sleep, socialize, etc. Understanding this, we can guide new behavior.

    Guide me only knowing we are each dreaming behind curtains of a simulation, marvelously mistaking our myriad self-made maps for the territory.

    Thank you for helping people when you can, with honesty, humor and compassion.

  3. I’m lucky enough to have a mental health team that looks at the physiological causes of mental health issues and avoids blaming the symptoms on something being wrong with just my mentality. Mental health and physical health are directly connected. When it is approached this way, there are tangible things I can do to fix myself instead of just taking a pill to mask symptoms.

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