Understanding the existential-humanistic perspective.
By Bob Edelstein, LMFT, MFT
This blog was originally posted in Psychology Today on July 28, 2017
I’m often asked what is the existential-humanistic perspective. Simply put, it comes from the root words of ‘exist’ and ‘human.’ ‘Existential’ is an exploration of our existence and ‘humanistic’ is an exploration of what it means for each of us to be human.
The bottom line is that we exist—we are alive. The challenge of our lives is how do we choose to live our existence and how do we make meaning of our unique, individual journeys.
Here are some essential concepts that describe the perspective.
We stay open to the flow of life, its process, and its content. Yet, within this openness, we take stands.
We are an active participant in our life’s events. We live in the paradox that nothing is for certain. Yet, we do not let this deter us from consciously deciding our life.
We aspire to live a life of integrity and wholeness. If we feel split and fragmented, we listen and stay open to all of what is going on. We will then start shifting into clarity and a more unified understanding of our concerns and responses.
We believe in possibility and potential. Simultaneously, we acknowledge there are limitations to being human.
We are always both ‘being’ and ‘becoming.’
We are connected to the world, and everyone and everything in it. When we heal some of our pain, we heal some of the world’s pain. When we focus on healing some of the world’s pain, we are healing some of our own pain. We know that we are not separate from anyone or anything.
We believe there is something greater than ourselves. There is something greater than our personality or ego that it is important to stay open to.
We aspire to be open-hearted and clear-minded. We aspire to love every human being for all of who they are—all of their struggles and successes, all of their joys and pains. We aspire to love ourselves in the same way.
We intend to live in the present moment, for it is what we have. In this present moment, the past and future are embodied. We want to be conscious of how we feel, what we think, and how we act in the present moment. This makes life vital.
We intend to act from our authentic core. We believe that as human beings, if supported to be our authentic selves, we will ultimately act in the best interests of self, each other, our community, and the planet as a whole.
We intend to have relationships of honesty, openness, and mutuality. With this attitude, we believe fresh discoveries will be made, deepening will occur, and intimacy will happen.
We endeavor to embrace and honor our shadow-self as a valid part of ourselves. We explore and understand our shadow-self in an accepting, integrated, holistic way. We acknowledge that our shadow-self is an integral part of our human condition and take responsibility for it.
We believe that human beings are innately good. However, they need to explore and heal their wounds in order to actualize their goodness.
We believe life is an ongoing learning process. There are always further discoveries we can make about ourselves and the world. We are always evolving.
We believe we are constantly choosing our existence, whether we recognize that or not. We are the authors of our own life.
I hope these concepts will provide a better understanding of the existential-humanistic perspective. I also hope you can use some of these concepts to enhance your life.