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Re: [existlist] eduard's path...

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  • George Walton
    Rosa, It helps to understand how existentialism goes about circumscribing the nature of human language itself. What is the absurd , after all? It s not
    Message 1 of 18 , Feb 11, 2002

      It helps to understand how existentialism goes about circumscribing the "nature" of human language itself.

      What "is" the "absurd", after all? It's not like a hammer or a table, right? It's not a Thing that can be described in such a way that everyone walks away convinced they are denoting the same...well...thing. In other words, you can't pull The Absurd out of your pocket like a rock and say, "hey, look everyone, I have The Absurd here!". As soon as you do that [even among existentialists] others pull out their own rocks [bigger, smaller, brighter, duller] and exclaim, "no, that's not The Absurd, this is!!". The same with Freedom and Justice and Human Nature and Moral Truth and God and Wisdom and Reason all the other words that connote meaning far, far more than they denote anything at all.

      So, will a philosophy that denotes "the meaning of life" as essentially connotative, be a good tool for approaching therapy? Well, like with everything else, the therapist will take out of it what he or she puts into it: their own particular vantage point...a vantage point that necessarily reflects his or her own upbringing, experiences....his or her own existentential context and trajectory. How can it be otherwise? It can work with particular therapists and/or with particular patients.

      What folks like May and Frankel were suggesting is that, in order to treat someone, you have to do so in the context of the actual life they lived; not try to hammer that life into some normative contraption that flows in large part from compartmentalized renditions of human interactions that rely rather heavily on the Right and the Wrong way to behave around others. Of course, the danger is this: realistically, how can anyone even begin to grasp "reality" as it is perceived by another? How do you go about treating someone you can never really know unless your own existential trajectectory overlaps in significant ways? For example, if a distraught 15 year old girl blurts out to her therapist, "I'm pregnant and my parents will kill me if they find out....I want to get an abortion!" and the therapist is a 55 year man who works with the Jerry Falwell organization he might approach the sessions a tad differently from a counselor who is a 25 year old woman who works for Planned Parenthood.

      There is no way to know how we ought to behave around others. Thus, in my view, psychology, like philosophy, must seek to construct ways that teach people to bridge the gaps between many necessarily complex and contradictory vantage points....bridge them in such a way it teaches folks more practical ways to keep their relationships from growing farther apart. Instead, most therapeutic [like most philosophical] renditions try to figure out ways to bring people closer together. They invariably do this, of course, by proposing the most Rational or Moral approach [their own] to go about this. Thus in the case of the young pregnant girl above, just as, philosophically, there is no way to know if abortion is moral or immoral, there is no way to know which therapeutic approach is the best. At least with an existential approach, however, the patient is seen far more as the complex, convoluted and contradictory "I" that she really is and not as someone who must be hammered back into the Right psychological [or moral] frame of mind.



      ----- Original Message -----
      From: rosammmm@...
      To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2002 6:48 AM
      Subject: Re: [existlist] eduard's path...

      By way of introduction, I am in a graduate class, "Developing Individual
      Counseling Skills." The students were asked to research and make
      presentations on different approaches to psychotherapy. I was fortunate to
      get assigned a presentation on the therapeutic approach of existentialism and
      I loved it; it so fell in line with my own Zen Buddhist practice. I read
      Rollo May's The Art of Counseling and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning
      . Through my research is how I came upon this list. In reading the postings
      here though, I have seen almost an irreconcilable great tension between the
      application of these two men's humanistic approach and the positions that I
      have read here. How can the philosophy of the absurdity of life be an
      encouraging approach to a counselee with a fragile psyche? Were May and
      Frankl really existentialist?

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