“It’s reserved for man alone to find his very existence questionable, to experience the whole dubiousness of being. More than such faculties as power of speech, conceptual thinking, or walking erect, this factor of doubting the significance of his own existence is what sets man apart from animal”1
“To be a person in modern society is being caught in a field of great tension, simultaneously pulled in the direction of individual autonomy and alone-ness, and in the direction of connectedness, relatedness and the communal… What does it mean to intend something, to act with intentionality and purpose? What does it meant to be powerful, to be able to exert influence and control? What does it mean to be powerless, to be a victim of oppression, to be controlled by others? What is the right balance in a life between powerfulness and powerlessness, between controlling others and allowing them to control oneself, domination and submission?... What meaning can life have?... When does time end, for each of us?”2.
Viktor Frankl emphasised “meaning” as the primary motivation in life, that if absent leads to an existential vacuum that gives way to suicide and depression3. Lack of meaning in life is evidenced to be significantly related to depression4.
Counselling and psychotherapy can help in confronting the tension between the awareness of the inevitability of death, and the wish to continue to be; acceptance of the possibilities of our freedom and our responsibility for our actions; the ultimate experience of isolation; and meaninglessness5
Counselling and psychotherapy can help!
1: Frankl, V.E. (1969/2004). The doctor and the soul. London-UK: Souvenir Press Ltd.
2: McLeod, J. (2013). An Introduction to Counselling. Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press.
3: Frankl, V.E. (1959). Man’s search for meaning. New York, NY: Pocket Books.
4: Mascaro, N., & Rosen, D. H. (2005). Existential meaning’s role in the enhancement of hope and prevention of depressive symptoms. Journal of Personality, 73(4), 985-1013.
5: Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. Basic Books.