Existential Psychotherapy (book review) Irvin D. Yalom

121217: this book becomes more interesting and convincing as it goes- and this is a long book. for me, the application of existential thought in psychology is most interesting when directed to therapists rather than patients, when clarity, approach, thought, is applied in finding and directing therapy, not to certain pathological cases eg. psychosis but to the point everyday conflicts of searching for meaning, purpose, value in life... such is not an easy process...


i have read of and by many existential thinkers, particularly the ones referred to here, sartre, heidegger, schopenhauer, kierkegaard, so i am conversant in the portrayal of the universe requiring engaged meaning from humans, as in camus, but it is useful to see these thoughts in another, parallel, emotional, psychological realm. this book is long because there are many vignettes, cases, which are used in support of the thesis that in fact human ultimate concerns, of death, freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, are underlying symptomatic psychological problems...


there is more direction to therapists, rather than academic argument, or patient experiences, and this reminds me of the Indic philosophy contention that any philosophy without moral, ethical, pragmatic, application is no philosophy... with eagerness this book seeks to correct this deficit for existentialism, however simplified, and does succeed in such project, as it presents comprehension, action, according to this philosophy, as useful and appropriate, and how this is not transcendental meditation, est, primal scream, or other popularized psychology ways...


the final section, on meaninglessness, is a curious interpretation, more zen than existentialism, but is perhaps offering a place of rest from constantly living 'authentically' or as an individual 'creating meaning', for he does suggest approaching this angst obliquely rather than directly, that is just 'doing' the immediate, accessible, concrete, acts that give you meaning, and when the big question is subsumed in living- the big 'meaning', the moral, ethical, pragmatic, will answer itself... well i like zen as well...


indeed the reason i give this a five is perhaps more in recognition of existentialism being incorporated, the aspiration rather than success of such, for though i have taken psych at u that was years (decades...) ago, and was more convinced the answer to meaning, purpose, value, was in reading another book... well i continue to read a lot, not with the idea of 'solving' the problem of life, but 'living' the experience of life... this book definitely helps...

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