As human beings, we are meaning-making machines. We seek out meaning about our trauma, broken relationships, loss, and inadequacies.
Existential counseling in Orlando is a theory utilized by many therapists. It is concerned with the dilemma that humans are meaning-seeking by nature, however, we live in an inherently meaningless world. The existential perspective in counseling acknowledges 4 main themes about the human condition: death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. These 4 items are considered the ultimate concerns of human beings.
Death is a terrible, undeniable, truth. We wish to live on, but we know that death is coming. Death is a fundamental source of anxiety lurking in the shadows behind our more obvious concerns.
In his foundational book for therapists, Existential Psychotherapy, Irvin Yalom states, “Although the physicality of death destroys man, the idea of death saves him.”
Being in touch with our own mortality can intensify our experiences, bringing us more vitality.
Freedom, in the existential sense, refers to the absence of external structure. It’s easy to miss in our curated world, but no one innate structure exists. In other words, existentialism proports that there is no reason for the happenings of the world- disease, hunger, disaster, and catastrophe are happenstance, unfortunate events at best.
Ultimately, there is no ground beneath us and no absolute truth to the universe.
There is only a huge void of nothingness. This may sound extremely pessimistic, but there is always a flip side to the negatives. Freedom is desirable, and having absolute possibilities is exciting, but it is also terrifying. We tend to cope with freedom by creating a structure through laws/rules, tradition, society, culture, and religion/spirituality, to name a few.
This ultimate concern is referring, not to the loneliness we feel apart from others, but the fundamental aloneness of being a person in the world- physically and mentally separate from all else in our experience. We want to be a part of a larger whole, and often try to be, to deal with existential aloneness.
We take our first breath and last breath ourselves- alone. We are the only person living in our own body and mind, and thus we must cope with our desire for connection and protection while remaining a separate entity. Spiritual ideas also help to create a more suitable outlook of all life as one connected part.
We pacify this pain through developing relationships with others, often relying on them to understand us, or suffer with us.
The fourth given of existence is meaninglessness. There is no pre-determined plan for our lives and no meaning simply given to us. To be blunt, no one is made to be special. We must create our own design- our own purpose. This leads to the common existential questions of,
“Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, and “What is the purpose of my life?”
In existential individual counseling Orlando, the existential perspective is often addressed to identify ideas that may conflict with your current worldview or that create a sense of tension.
The beauty of this outlook is that it empowers the individual to decide what their life will mean to them. It can create awareness around our reactions as possible defenses against one of the four existential concerns. For example, part of the reason losing a loved one is so hard is because their death reminds us of our own mortality.
Existentialism unites us as beings who suffer in similar capacities. We are not alone in the content of our suffering even if we are fundamentally alone in our experiences.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.