In a world gone mad, the politics of disturbed behaviour has no parallel. But treatment for individual disorders is a robust field that affords troubled individuals a remedy to overcome their personal plight in the world. Maybe such an approach has an application as a destructive political illness that so often is the basis of public policy. Examine the patient and ask can the professional ‘pols’ be cured?
Tim LeBon defines the topic thusly: “Existential Psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy which aims at enhancing self-knowledge in the client and allowing them to be the author of their own lives. Its philosophical roots are to be found in the works of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre and other existential thinkers as well as Husserl and phenomenologists. Historically, existential therapy began when Binswanger attempted to use Heidegger's theory therapeutically, an approach that was adapted by Victor Frankl, Rollo May and others in the United States.”
Most normal individuals seek medical treatment when they are ill. Heal thyself is certainly preferable to major surgery, but on occasions the patient needs external assistance to recover their health. Techniques and treatments vary, drugs and herbs may invigorate and extraordinary measures may prolong life, but what about achieving a state of clear mental health within the consciousness of political decision makers? Doesn’t common sense dictate that public affairs warrant that sound minded and stable emotions are a prerequisite for anyone involved in making and administrating government regulations?
Emmy van Deurzen ( in Handbook of Individual Therapy, ed Dryden) outlines the goals of existential therapy:
1) to enable people to become more truthful with themselves.
2) to widen their perspective on themselves and the world around them.
3) to find clarity on how to proceed in the future while taking lessons from the past and creating something valuable to live for in the present.
For those politicians that believe they are personally sincere, many are often misguided about their own lack of honesty with themselves. This affliction can be seen in generations of liberal proponents that seek to better the world through government programs and solutions. How can an experienced and cosmopolitan player on the world stage dream up the notion that society if not the entire planet would be a better place if only their public policy became universally applied and enforced? How wide is their personal perspective when so many officials deem they are doing the noble work of the man made god of the State? Just look around the world, can any rational and honest person conclude that public policies have actually improved the human condition?
Since this question is repugnant to the minions of governmental operations, their collective clarion call is not to ask and avoid at all cost the existential question of the real purpose of public policy. Their embedded and institutional response is to forge ahead and proceed with their official policies and evade any semblance of constraints that are consistent with all of history and human nature. To these troubled ‘public servants’ the valuable aspect of present day achievement is conformity to unnatural governmental dictates.
Is this pattern of behaviour inherently disturbed and desperately in need of professional help? It would seem so, still the perplexing dilemma is that the rules are created and the mechanisms for social compliance are under the direct control of a band of asylum inmates. The culture of sickness that accepts this systemic default surrenders it own authenticity to damaging public programs. Unhinged bureaucrats never dispense social equity for their contributions and performance. They are rewarded for their destructive social conduct in service to the state.
The anguish that is unavoidable from this social conflict demands a remedy. In existential therapies, denial is considered the framework by which clients understand their world. Not directly confronting denial, therapists assist clients in exploring their worldview and considering alternative ways of being. Now that application seems sensible for subjects that actually are seeking help. But as we all know power hungry egomaniacs are the last people standing in line for psychoanalysis. Their prime objective is to advance their standing in ever increasing seats of dominance. Their denial is not curable, but for the masses of the exploited, there is no valid excuse to refuse your own denial therapy.
Unlike most other personality theorists, the existentialists make no effort to avoid value judgments. Phenomenologically, good and bad are as "real" as solid waste and burnt toast. So they are quite clear that there are better and worse ways of living life. The better ways they call authentic.
To live authentically means to be aware of yourself, of your circumstances (thrownness), of your social world (fallenness), of your duty to create yourself (understanding), of the inevitability of anxiety, of guilt, and of death. It means further to accept these things in an act of self-affirmation. It means involvement, compassion, and commitment.
Notice that the ideal of mental health is not pleasure or even happiness, although existentialists have nothing particularly against those things. The goal is to do your best.
For the ordinary citizen a populist civilization based upon a healthy culture and a sound political organization is the standard for a sane society. What reasonable and thoughtful person would attest that such a model actually exists today? An Existential approach to confront the delusional disease of accepting political oppression is necessary therapy to rest our civic health as a nation. Defending a failed political structure of self-destructive policies is the very definition of insanity.
In the recesses of the brain is a rudder for moral conduct. It is called a conscience. Right and wrong is known and ethical actions are real and can and should be observed. Any linkage that equates a duty to accept destructive public policies as necessary and legitimate is habitually deranged. Community denial of reality is a prime objective of the State. The psychology of individual adherence of dehumanising rule is based upon illusion and the threat of pain. Defence of decadent government is immoral. Denial is not a lasting defence mechanism. And defending the indefensible is pure lunacy. Take the Existential therapy and cure yourself of your government addiction.
Yopu make interesting points, but I have a couple of questions. Do you accept that is is through bureacracy that the material benefits of contemporary civilisation are maintained? Could you think of another means of maintaining stability in society?
You make interesting points, but I have a couple of questions. Do you accept that is is through bureacracy that the material benefits of contemporary civilisation are maintained? Could you think of another means of maintaining stability in society?
I do not accept the first assertion.
Another means can be imagined. But a perspective borrowed from David Hume on the how populations replace themselves makes it clear why proper (authentic?) stability is near impossibility.
Each is born into a system which damps and abuses the individual's natural sense of law.
A perpetuation of bureaucracy occurs as each child is born into a world seeing mom and dad (and everybody) kowtowing to it, and merely assuming such as government is inevitable.
We witness spears, and now guns, keeping us in line through fear.
Hume's is an ancient observation. One which has been a core tool of priesthoods and now governments as part of a simple means to dominate others.
One a system is established, you need only spear a few people on occasion publicly, to keep any newcomers from having any bright ideas.
I very much appreciate you thorough review of existentialism, and particularly here - the one arena in which is continues to show growth (although fairly underground), which is in psychology. I am studying to engage in just this, with a PsyD and thorough existential psychology focus. While Yalom has aided in furthering the field considerably, I do love Kierkegaard, van Deurzen, and Frankl much more. It is funny, that even within this, many debates arise, such as whether one has personal agency at all time or whether an "unconscious" exists. Believe it or not, Chicago is a hotbed for existential education, specifically in psychology. It is encouraged and rather popular. Hopefully this bodes well for the future of our mental health services. I think you, personally, would rather enjoy R.D. Laing. He is (was) part of the anti-psychiatry movement, and his phenomenological respect for one's definition of normal is unparalleled.
To live reactively, responsively, creatively, as an artist, act the way your life forms the best possible narrative, like a novel or a film, towards Death, End of the Story. According to Heidegger, Life is what Is. Sorge. Being kind of your own God? Primacy of Aestethics over Ethics.
The political stance of guns and spear to induce fear for cooperation is some of the worse way to promote political obedience, however it is the easiest. In the existential sense, a promotion of life and quality of life in the individual is a more productive stance. How can one turn down a life full of quality moments that are thus meaningful to the individual than a fearful life of stagnant moments for a number of years. Frankl's view of finding a meaning to life in the darkest points adds to the quality of ones life so that one has a desire to live longer for the production of more such moments until the point in which one's end has come and they can know that they didn't reach the finish line from a fear of it but from a desire to make the path to the finish line an unforgettable and substantial and meaningful life to the individual. Fear is the cousin of anger which is the son of death.F
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