Psychotherapy of Confusion

Conditii ExistentialeAre you curious to know what is behind the questions a psy guy is asking you? The discussion goes effortless and is using a lot of common-sense, but the training, especially my psychodynamic training, is something totally different. I will reveal here one of the existentialist exercises we were given, just to get a glimpse of how things really are. You will see that what’s happening behind the closed doors is not effortless at all.

The 2 images are written in Romanian, but I translated them in English as correctly as possible, trying to keep the meaning (click to enlarge them!). I also take this opportunity to thank my trainer, Liana, for all the insights I had while training with her.

So, you are given first a set of 8 questions – the fundamental conditions of the human existence (image1):

1. My life relies on what? What gives me support?
2. When everything becomes shaky around me, what is upholding me?
3. In what do I trust? What is my last resort?
4. What is my last thought on which I can rely on?
5. What provides warmth to my life?
6. What are the values, the relationships that make my life worthy?
7. What is the relationship between me and my life? Do I like my life?
8. Essentially, how do I resent my life? Is it a good thing the fact that I exist?

You have to ponder on them and give an answer. You have to answer. If you don’t know, the exercise stops until you know.

Teme ExistentialeThe second part of the exercise is to create a hierarchy of the following existential themes (image 2):

Peace, Truth, Fidelity, Power, Hope, Faith, Love, Self-Acceptance, Joy, Pleasure, Rest, Respect, Dignity, Spirituality, Purpose, Desire, Will, Existential Void.

You can’t have 2 values on the same level. The hierarchy is strict. You have to choose which value is more important for you. In the end, you will have only one main inner value. Period.

Now, many times, you don’t feel very smart in front of your client. There is a huge category of people who simply can’t do the above exercise. Their minds can’t take it. So you do the exercise for them, in your head. It would be nice if people would be intelligent intellectual pleasant folks, but most often they aren’t. So you’re guessing. You’re guessing what is important in their life while paying attention to the choices they made. You guess the value that holds them when everything collapses. Their face expression changes when they speak about what gives warmth to their life. And so on. If you ask them directly, they couldn’t answer. But it’s not necessary that they know what’s happening. It’s necessary that you know what’s happening and why. And after a while, even you don’t need to know all the time what you’re doing, as you’re acting out of instinct or habit.

Dare to do the exercise?
What would you do if you’d discover that Love isn’t you innermost value? Would you acknowledge that and still accept yourself?

This exercise is helpful in vague situations, when the client doesn’t know what to do, either because he never thought about inner values, or because he has lost contact with them, following a distressing event. Also, when the client does something and doesn’t know why he does it (he finds himself doing it). Cheating, for instance. Or wanting to leave the world and live in a monastery. Or stealing. Or making the same mistake over and over again.


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