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Are past events the root cause of all your problems today? Therapists regularly delve into the past to dig out unpleasant events that shaped the way you are today. You grow up with the belief “you are what you are” because your parents raised you in a specific way, were mentally or physically abused by someone you knew, or witnessed something unpleasant as a kid. Existential therapy dumps conventional theories of the past being responsible for everything in life and believes otherwise. This form of therapy focuses on the “present” that actually defines your identity; it does not hold the past accountable for your state and is used for the treatment of multiple emotional, psychological, and behavioral issues.
Origins of Existential Therapy
Existential therapy dates back to approximately the 1800s and was introduced by Rollo May, an existential psychologist, and gifted writer. He was a famous author with more than a dozen titles to his credit. Some of his books “The Art of Counseling”, “The Meaning of Anxiety” and “Love and Will” went on to become quite popular among readers. He, in fact, had a troubled childhood himself. His sister was schizophrenic and faced neglect from his parents as a child. But, his own troubled past did not cause any mental health problems in him. So, he went the extra mile to treat mental health issues with a completely opposite perspective that gave birth to existential therapy.
Delving Into the Existentialism Philosophy
Existentialism philosophy has been influenced by the views of esteemed philosophers like Nietzsche, Buber, Tillich, and Kierkegaard. In order to understand what it means you first must understand existentialism.
Believers of existentialism focus on the existence, freedom, and choice of a person. This implies you define and determine your meaning in this life and make the best choices that seem right at a given point in time. Existential therapy firmly believes that every person can overcome their own challenges with deep introspection, responsibility, and free will. In short, one is solely responsible for their actions in life.
Stop the Blame Game of The Past
Existential therapy no way means you can take care of mental health issues alone. It implies your past is not responsible for your problems and blaming it will not make your future right. Your past does play a role in shaping you but you cannot blame it for the mistakes you make as an adult. Counselors of existential therapy use your past only as a tool to make you acknowledge the fact that it has nothing to do with your present. For instance, if someone abused you as a kid, this does not mean you stay a victim or become an abuser for the rest of your life.
Existential therapy states you need to accept your existence and death. This helps you face your present and future better. It focuses on the following-
- Freedom and responsibility
- Existential isolation and
Many people cannot accept the unavoidable reality of death. You will not be here forever. Some people refuse to even think of it. Theorists of Existential Therapy emphasize the fear of the inevitable is a hindrance to unlocking your real potential. If you can face the truth that we all will die one day, this belief alone liberates and gives you wings to fly wherever you want to!