Psychotherapy ministers to disturbances of “existence.” Mostly, human despair. Issues of meaning, freedom, isolation, relationships, death or transcendence.
For Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “existence” refers to freedom and choice. Heidegger focuses on temporality and authenticity. Nietzsche speaks of determinism. Camus thinks of absurdity.
Dr. Irvin Yalom, a noted grandfather of modern-day existential therapy, writes of its basic premise: “We humans are the only creatures for whom our own existence is the problem.”
So by existential therapy, we mean healing not only from parental wounds (internalized unloving adults), not only from our thought distortions (cognitive-behavioral), not only from our raw instincts or desires (Freudian), or not only from our biochemical imbalances (psychopharmacology).
But also - but also - from our confrontation with the problem of our “existence.”
Whether you’re an atheist, a religious, spiritual or neither, Dr. Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” has deep insights on this problem of our “existence.”
The book addresses the most basic questions everyone faces in existence and life: Why am I here? What is my purpose?
Self help or therapy usually tells us to look within - at our own past, at our own desires, gifts, or needs, at our own dreams.
But Dr. Warren says that the proper starting place for our problems with “existence” must be with God and His eternal purposes for each of our lives.
For him, “existential therapy” is a life based on eternal purposes, not cultural values.
As mathematician genius Blaise Pascal put it, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known to us through Jesus Christ.”