>On the meaning of life

>Part of the hopes of my program is that at the end, students will have some idea as to what sort of orientation they will operate from as registered psychologists. Thus far, I have been unable to really find one which pertains to me on a personal level. Certainly there are many that make sense to me, but it definitely has been frustrating in trying to determine how my practice will operate. Indeed, my PHd mentor’s dissertation focus is determining how practitioners find their orientation. Complicated, yes?

One of the topics for this week is existentialism and thus far, I seem to have found a certain liking to it. Its been quite difficult trying to determine just what the damned thing even means, and indeed, part of existentialism’s goals include the clinician creating meaning as they administer therapy to the client. That’s nice. I won’t figure out what it really means until I practice it. Another characteristic tends to include experiencing serious trauma. I feel like I have had some rough times in my life, but certainly nothing earth shattering.

Anyways, the one thing that really hit home with me was how it focuses on the lack of essence in our lives. There is no essence of living within. We cannot be boiled down to a basic structure, a meaning to which we can adhere to. Rather, we must construct meaning through experience, by making choices, and through this, we can determine what the essence of life is. Part of the reasoning includes the idea that all the things we attempt to rid our lives of, such as loneliness and unhappiness, are not separate entities, bur rather are part of a continuous spectrum where common end goals like acceptance and happiness exist on opposite extremes.

The idea is the paradoxical nature of these entities, such as death vs. living. You cannot experience death without living, nor can you experience living without death. Perhaps most easily interpretable is thinking how you cannot feel full without understanding hunger. Existentialism states that we can find meaning in suffering, and in this, we must be genuine with ourselves and stop lying/shunting the very real conflicts like death, loneliness, meaningless and responsibility(vs. freedom). The rationale is that psychologists have been too objective with empirical science, and that there are no cures for these conflicts. Rather, we must engage the subjective nature of the individual and help them determine their own essences of life, and must therefore help them engage/confront the despairing nature of these ideas.

I am not totally sold on the use of existentialism in practice just yet, but I am certainly hooked. All the internal conflict within me could certainly find some meaning one day.

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