The cornerstones of existence – the four existential fundamental motivations

Viktor Frankl considered the search for meaning to be our deepest motivation. Developments in Existential Analysis led to the discovery of three existential (or personal) motivations that precede the motivation for meaning. Together these four motivations lead to profound and enduring personal discovery:

  1. We are motivated by the fundamental question of existence: I exist – can I be in this world where I live? Do I have the necessary space, protection and support? When we experience these we feel accepted and this in turn enables us to embrace an accepting attitude toward ourselves. – A deficit can lead to anxiety.
  2. We are motivated by the fundamental question of life: I am alive – do I like this? Do I have access to my emotions?  Do I feel my emotions, feel their value? Experiencing the value of my life makes me aware that it is good to be alive – “that I am here”.  – Deficits can lead to depression.
  3. We are motivated by the fundamental question of “self”: I am myself – but do I feel free to be myself? Am I allowed to be who I am? Do I experience attention, justice, appreciation, esteem, respect, my own worth?  Do I feel I have the right to be me? – Deficits at this level can lead to a histrionic complex of symptoms and to the main personality disorders.
  4. We are motivated by the question of meaning: I am here – for what purpose?  What is present today that may make my life part of a meaningful whole? What do I live for? – A deficit can lead to suicidal tendencies, aggravate addictions and other dependencies.

We are continuously challenged and questioned by the four existential motivations – world, life, self, context and future (meaning). The practice of Existential Analysis relies on dialogue as the main therapeutic tool to explore these challenges at the individual level.

Existential fulfilment is the result of a life with “inner consent”.