Iro Michael

Existential Psychotherapy

Discovering Meaning and Purpose in Life

Explore Existential Psychotherapy, rooted in the philosophy of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Sartre, to understand what it means to be human in a world of random events and intrinsic meaning."

Embracing Existentialism for a More Fulfilling Life

The Power of Existential Psychotherapy

Existential psychotherapy draws from the philosophical roots of Existentialism, which centers around the concept of existence and the human experience in a world that is unpredictable and often devoid of inherent meaning. The therapy acknowledges that existential issues, such as freedom of choice, anxiety, guilt, responsibility, meaninglessness, uncertainty, and death, are an integral part of being human and cannot be avoided.

Through existential psychotherapy, individuals can learn to embrace and address these issues, rather than being held back by them. By exploring the existential concerns that are causing dissatisfaction and distress, individuals can discover ways to live a more functional and fulfilling life. With the support of a therapist, clients can develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world, leading to greater personal growth and a stronger sense of purpose.

Benefits of Existential Therapy

Alleviate Anxiety, Guilt, and More Through Honest Self-Evaluation

Existential therapy can help individuals confront the realities of life, such as meaninglessness, death, suffering, and loss, with the aim of promoting positive experiences, relationships, and emotions. By encouraging honest self-evaluation, this approach can alleviate difficult emotions such as anxiety, guilt, and shame. In this manner, existential therapy encourages clients to:

  • Evaluate beliefs, values, and situations to gain greater self-awareness
  • Find meaning and purpose in life by exploring one’s passions and interests
  • Realize limitations and possibilities in life
  • Communicate more effectively with others to improve relationships
  • Explore major life changes such as divorce, death, separation, and loss, as well as birth and new beginnings to develop coping skills and resilience.

Conditions that Existential Therapy works with

Helping Individuals Make Healthy Choices and Take Responsibility

Existential therapy works with people struggling to make healthy choices in life and take responsibility of those choices. As a result, they may struggle with anxiety, addiction, depression, relationships, and wide range of behavioral and psychological issues.

Just like most of the therapeutic approaches, existential therapy will mostly benefit those who are willing to engage in honest self-exploration. Those who wish to receive immediate relief from their symptoms and are reluctant to engage in a discussion of meaning may not be appropriate for existential therapy.

Embracing Life's Givens through Existential Philosophy

How accepting the 'givens' of existence can lead to personal growth

Existential philosophy recognizes that there are certain aspects of our lives that are beyond our control – these are the ‘givens’ of our existence. These can include our family members, gender, body, social background, and even our own birth. We are thrown into the world and must deal with whatever life throws our way, whether it’s a devastating earthquake, tragic accident, or the loss of a loved one.

Existential therapy helps individuals recognize and accept these givens of existence, and encourages them to find value and meaning in their experiences, no matter how difficult or painful they may be. This approach empowers individuals to make choices that lead to personal growth and positive change, rather than becoming trapped in feelings of resentment or confusion.

By embracing the givens of existence, individuals can learn to take responsibility for their own lives and find purpose and meaning in their experiences. They can also develop greater resilience and coping skills, enabling them to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and grace. Through existential therapy, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them, leading to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

The Power of
Freedom and Responsibility

Understanding the Relationship Between
Choice and Responsibility

Existential philosophy places a great emphasis on the concept of freedom of choice. Although we are limited by our individual circumstances and values, we possess a far greater degree of freedom than we may think or want to admit. This means we are ‘condemned’ to our freedom, and we must take responsibility for our choices.

The power of freedom to choose how we respond to any situation is both exhilarating and anxiety-inducing. With the freedom to choose comes the possibility of making the ‘wrong’ choice, leading to loss and subsequently, the realm of responsibility. This can be uncomfortable, making it easier to blame circumstances rather than owning our choices. We are faced with another choice here, to accept responsibility and own our role-play or avoid responsibility by attributing events to the situation we find ourselves in.

Denial of responsibility may make us feel like victims of fate, resulting in a loss of power and control over our lives. Acceptance, on the other hand, can give us back a sense of control and empowerment. If we are free to choose our paths, then we also have the power to change, within the limitations of our given circumstances.

Existential therapy aims to make us aware of this power, encouraging us to take responsibility for our choices and become more empowered in our lives. By understanding the relationship between choice and responsibility, we can embrace our freedom and make meaningful changes towards a more fulfilling life.

Understanding Existential Anxiety

Learning to Live in Balance with Life’s Inevitable Anxiety

Existential philosophy and psychotherapy emphasize that anxiety is an inevitable aspect of existence, stemming from our confrontations with our limitations, finiteness, and the unknown. While fear has a specific object, existential anxiety is about our own being in existence, and it can be unsettling, frustrating, and terrifying. However, rather than pushing it away, we can choose to learn from this experience and live our lives to the fullest.

Living in balance means not being ruled by recklessness or controlled by anxiety, but rather acknowledging the tension between the two. Existential anxiety is a warning or teaching that redirects us towards knowledge and self-actualization. Trying to eliminate anxiety is not only an illusion but also an obstacle to a reflective and courageous life.

Through Existential therapy, we can develop a greater awareness of our anxiety, understand its origins and learn how to manage it in a healthy, constructive way. We can embrace our anxiety as a natural part of our existence, and use it to help us grow, rather than letting it control us. By living in balance with our anxiety, we can lead a more fulfilling and authentic life.

Coping with Uncertainty

Embracing Life’s Unknowns

Uncertainty is an unavoidable aspect of life that can lead to anxiety and distress. In therapy sessions, clients often express their desire for certainty, even though the reality is that events beyond our control could occur at any moment. While seeking safety and certainty is a natural instinct, it can become an obstacle to personal growth and limit our experiences.

Existential therapy acknowledges the challenges of uncertainty and aims to help clients become more aware of their attitudes toward this inevitability. By accepting the impossibility of absolute safety and certainty, clients can learn to navigate life’s unknowns and embrace the opportunities that uncertainty provides.

Through this process, clients can develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their potential, becoming more resilient and better equipped to cope with the challenges of life. While uncertainty can be unsettling, it can also be a catalyst for growth and self-discovery.

In conclusion, rather than seeking certainty, existential therapy encourages clients to embrace the unknowns of life, enabling them to live more fully and authentically. While it may be uncomfortable at times, learning to cope with uncertainty can be a transformative experience that leads to personal growth and fulfillment.

Confronting Death

Embracing the Inevitable to Live Life More Fully

Death is the one certainty that we all must face, and yet it remains an unpredictable and an anxiety-inducing unknown. The fear of death can lead us to live in a false sense of certainty, procrastinating and missing out on opportunities. However, the acknowledgement of death’s inevitability can also serve as a motivator to live life more fully and authentically.

In existential thought and therapy, death is seen as the ultimate and unavoidable limitation of our existence. Rather than denying or avoiding this truth, existentialists encourage us to confront it in order to gain a deeper appreciation for life. The possibility of death gives meaning and urgency to our existence, reminding us to focus on what is truly important.

Beliefs in an afterlife or spiritual transformation can offer comfort, but they do not change the fact that death marks the end of our physical existence and all of its possibilities. However, the thought of death can also be a powerful tool to help us prioritize our values and goals. By recognizing the fragility of life, we can let go of trivial matters and focus on what truly matters.

Confronting death can be a difficult and uncomfortable process, but it can also be transformative. It can help us move forward with a renewed sense of purpose, passion, and appreciation for the present moment. Rather than letting the fear of death hold us back, we can use it as a reminder to live life to the fullest and embrace the inevitable.

Understanding Guilt and Existential Guilt

How Guilt Can Help Us Live More Fully

Existential guilt spurs inside us the moment we realize that our best was not good enough, that we could have done more or less depending on the case, and that we cannot undo what has already been done in the past, nor live what we have ‘left’ out. It can be a powerful force that makes us feel like we have failed ourselves and others. However, guilt is not necessarily a negative emotion, as it can also serve as a catalyst for personal growth and change.

Existential guilt is a type of guilt that is related to the unrealized potential and unfinished business of the past. It arises when we feel like we have not fully actualized our possibilities or have fallen short of our dreams. It can be a challenging emotion to confront, as it reminds us of our limitations as finite beings. However, existential psychotherapy can help individuals come to terms with their guilt and anxiety, and encourage them to live more fully and authentically.

Heidegger’s philosophy encourages us to listen to the voice in our conscience, which alerts us when we are falling short and living inauthentically. By taking stock of our limitations and responding to them, we can live a life that resembles our dreams as closely as possible. Although existential guilt can never be completely avoided, facing it with courage and the courage to become can help us stop living fractionally and instead, be plunged into the dizziness of life. Ultimately, guilt and existential guilt can be opportunities for growth and self-discovery if we learn to confront them and use them as a catalyst for change.

Finding Meaning in a
Meaningless World

The Search for Purpose in Existential Psychotherapy

Existential psychotherapy is based on the premise that we are born into a world without inherent meaning, and that we are ultimately destined to die. This can lead to a feeling of pointlessness, absurdity, and despair. But according to this approach, the absence of objective meaning in life is actually a gift, as it allows us to create our own purpose and find meaning in our existence.

One of the keys to finding meaning is recognizing that we are free to make choices, despite the limitations and pressures that society and our families may place upon us. While succumbing to these external expectations may feel like the safe or easy route, it ultimately leaves us unfulfilled and disconnected from our true selves. We must be willing to confront the struggles and challenges of life, even when doing so leads to feelings of guilt and anxiety.

Existential psychotherapy emphasizes that meaning is not fixed or static, but rather constantly evolving. What gave our life meaning at one point may no longer resonate with us, and it is up to us to find new sources of significance. When we experience a loss of meaning, such as the end of a relationship or the loss of a job, it can be an incredibly difficult and overwhelming experience. However, this is also an opportunity to re-evaluate our values and priorities, and to find new meaning in life.

In order to create meaning and find purpose, we must be willing to take an honest look at ourselves and our lives. This can be a challenging and sometimes painful process, but it is essential for growth and fulfillment. Existential psychotherapy provides a framework for exploring these questions and working through the difficult emotions that can arise in the search for meaning. By embracing our freedom and courageously confronting life’s challenges, we can find a sense of purpose and meaning in even the most seemingly meaningless existence.

Relationships in
Existential Psychotherapy

The Importance of Interpersonal Connections

In existential psychotherapy, relationships are considered a crucial aspect of healthy living. Our connections with the people, animals, and natural world around us shape our worldview and the meaning we give to our lives. The relationships we have with ourselves and with our therapist are also central to the therapeutic work.

From the existential perspective, we are born into a world with other beings, and we are all interdependent. Our survival, physical and emotional well-being, and social life depend on our relationships with others. Therefore, the quality of our relationships is essential for living a harmonious life. In this sense, existential therapy focuses on exploring personal relationships.

Interpersonal difficulties are common reasons why individuals seek therapy. Life’s painful experiences, such as trauma or suffering, can impact the way we relate to others, ourselves, and the world around us. These difficulties often extend into the therapy room and affect the relationship between the client and therapist. For this reason, the therapeutic relationship is used as a mirror to identify and remove the individual’s relationship issues.

Group therapy is an excellent space to work on interpersonal difficulties. In this setting, the therapist can observe the client’s way of relating to others, and a wider range of behavioral patterns is exposed than in individual sessions. As group members interact with each other, various interpersonal relationship difficulties are triggered and manifested. The client receives feedback from both group members and the therapist, allowing them to become aware of how they are with others, how they affect or are affected by others, and how others perceive them. The goal is to identify obstacles to establishing satisfactory interpersonal relationships and work through them by exploring responses and behaviors.

In summary, relationships are a crucial aspect of our existence, and their quality determines the harmony of our lives. Existential therapy recognizes this importance and uses the therapeutic relationship and group therapy as tools to explore and improve interpersonal connections.

Coping with Isolation and Aloneness

How Existential Therapy Can Help You Navigate Life’s Challenges

Existential therapy recognizes isolation and aloneness as fundamental aspects of the human experience, but also acknowledges that they can be a source of great pain and difficulty. While we are relational beings by nature, there may be times when we struggle to connect with others or feel disconnected from the world around us. This feeling of isolation can be emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually based, and can be a significant obstacle to living a fulfilling life.

One of the core principles of existential therapy is that we are free to choose our own path in life, but that this freedom also comes with responsibility. This responsibility can be overwhelming, particularly when faced with difficult choices or decisions. While seeking advice from others can be helpful, ultimately the decision must be made alone. This realization can be daunting and may contribute to feelings of isolation.

However, existential therapy also emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility and the power of choice. By embracing our freedom to choose and taking responsibility for our decisions, we can find a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives, even in the face of isolation and aloneness. Through therapy, individuals can explore their personal values and beliefs, as well as their relationship with themselves and others, in order to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and understanding.

Existential therapy can also help individuals learn to cope with the painful feelings of isolation and aloneness. By exploring the root causes of these emotions and developing strategies to manage them, individuals can begin to cultivate a greater sense of connection with the world around them. This may involve learning to be more vulnerable with others, setting boundaries in relationships, or exploring new ways of engaging with the world.

Ultimately, existential therapy can provide individuals with the tools and insights needed to navigate life’s challenges, including the difficulties of isolation and aloneness. By embracing personal responsibility and developing a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s relationships, individuals can find greater meaning and purpose in their lives, even in the face of adversity.

Understanding Existential Psychotherapy: A Brief Summary

Exploring the Philosophical Approach to Therapy

Existential psychotherapy is a philosophical approach to therapy that draws upon the principles of existential philosophy and uses phenomenology as a method of exploring an individual’s experience of being in the world. The goal of this therapy is to engage in a philosophical dialogue between the therapist and the client to shed light on the internal conflicts that the individual may be struggling with and to help them come to terms with the paradoxical aspects of existence.

Existential therapy encourages individuals to embrace personal growth and transformation, rather than remaining stagnant. It acknowledges that the journey towards self-awareness and fulfillment is not an easy one, but it is ultimately rewarding. Through this approach, individuals are empowered to confront their fears and anxieties, to take responsibility for their own lives, and to create meaning and purpose in their existence.

In summary, existential psychotherapy is a unique and valuable approach to therapy that provides individuals with a framework for exploring the deep questions and conflicts that are inherent to the human experience. By embracing this philosophical approach to therapy, individuals can develop a greater sense of self-awareness, overcome obstacles, and live more fulfilling lives.