Existenzanalyse 2/2012

What does it mean to want?

Günther Pöltner
This contribution attempts to point out to which extent wanting is a phenomenon of response. Wanting must be distinguished from similar phenomena such as wishing. Intending and defining an aim comes second, invoking an action situation comes first. Response is not a subsequent reaction, but rather a correspondence in which requirement and refraining from action merge together. Whoever wishes for something serious, allows the own availability. Since this often only succeeds by overcoming internal and external resistance, practice in letting something be is necessary. Own limits not only restrict wanting, but also render it possible to want.
Keywords: refraining from action, wanting


Working on the scope of freedom instead of appealing to a free spirit

Emmanuel J. Bauer
Freedom is a constituent of human existence, understood as mankind’s fundamental openness to design one’s own being and resulting from the capability to take a step back from oneself, one’s actions and one’s world. The question of philosophy today is not, whether the human being is free, but to what extent and in which quality his freedom lies. Neurobiological findings make us aware of the manifold conditionality and limitedness of freedom. It is neither pure arbitrariness nor indifference, and also not mere autonomy of action, but a dynamic, grown, historic-biographically determined margin for personal wanting. Therefore the process of psychotherapy cannot have great leaps in mind (in terms of Frankl’s voluntarist freedom optimism) nor can it conjure up a homunculus like free spirit in the human being, but rather, considering the manifold dimensions, only work continuously on expanding of the scope of freedom.
Keywords: existential openness, freedom of will, scope of freedom


From relaxed will to forced letting be
About the life and practice of real freedom

Alfried Längle
The will – expression of the freedom of the human being – is what Existential Analysis sees as enabling fulfillment of existence. Its three forms of appearance are described at the beginning. The freedom of will is grounded in the capacity of letting be as well as in the reference to one`s own person. Letting be provides space for growth. By contrast, the will assumes specific active functions giving action its personal character. The personal-existential fundamental motivations give the complex structure of the will and its development an order. – Great problems with the will result from dilemmas due to a collision of values and the process of integration. The will is seducible. Weakness inherently belongs to the will. Knowledge concerning integrated weaknesses of the will facilitate an accepting way of life.
An appropriate understanding of the will is essential for treatment in therapy and counseling. Several methods are referred to when it comes to dealing with problems concerning the will, and a method of self-confrontation is introduced for solving dilemma situations. The method becomes significant when the failure of the primary intention becomes inevitable. Through such an approach a new breaking up towards self-discovery becomes retrievable.
Keywords: Existential Fundamental Motivations, freedom, letting be, self-confrontation, will


Why don’t I do what I want to do?
Emotional orientation for dealing with psychodynamic blockages

Christoph Kolbe
Many people perceive themselves as blocked when it comes to what they want to do or should be doing. According to existential analytical theory, the reasons for this are to be searched on two levels: Either the personal encounter with ones values or a clarity concerning these values is not achieved from an existential viewpoint leading to diffusivity, or more common in psychotherapeutic regard, making it yet tougher, the problem of psychodynamic blockages which hinders personal values from being lived. In this case, a fear always lurks in the background, which the affected person at first urgently soothes.
Typical conflict issues hindering personal volition are described, provided that these conflicts are unsolved and must therefore be managed through psychodynamic reaction patterns. The Model of Emotional Orientation (EMO) is introduced here for therapeutic work, which provides the therapist as well as the patient/client an inner orientation “in a jungle of emotions and affects” and enables self-perception when it comes to divergent motivations and emotional states. The model should additionally make it possible to assume an independent position in the sense of personal motivation, without ignoring needy or unsettled personality traits.
Keywords: affects, coping reactions, defense mechanisms, emotion, Existential Analyses, feeling, methodology, person, psyche, psychodynamics


The will, the emotions and the self: How does free will work?

Julius Kuhl
It is argued that phenomenological and scientific world views are compatible without resorting to dualistic or reductionistic efforts. The concept of “free will” can be regarded as an example illustrating how phenomenological understanding (first person perspective) and scientific explanation (third person perspective) can be combined. Free will can be considered a special form of (causal) determination. Specifically, the subjective feeling of free will presumably occurs when people are “free” to make their decisions on the basis of all personally relevant (experiential) information, including their (and significant others’) preferences, values, emotions, needs, abilities and relevant experiences (e.g. context-sensitive options for action). The concept “self” is to denote an intuitive (parallel-distributed) experiential network that integrates those personally relevant inputs. Loss of freedom occurs when openness to this extended experiential network (“extension memory”) is impeded by external or internal forces (e.g. external control and conformity pressure or internal impulses like self-incongruent habits, emotional impulses or purely analytical considerations that are dissociated from the self). Experimental and neuro-psychological research is reported supporting this view. This compatibility can also be found at the level of theory-construction as exemplified by PEA (Person-centered Existential Analysis) and PSI theory (The theory of Personality Systems Interactions). It is concluded that phenomenological and psychological approaches are compatible and valuable for interdisciplinary dialog resulting in a deeper understanding of the most complex phenomena associated with human existence.
Keywords: Free Will, Person-Centered Existential Analysis, PSI Theory, Self-Regulation


Is willing masculine and leaving feminine?

Gertrud Nunner-Winkler
In the traditional understanding of gender roles this question is affirmed: Men are considered to be active, rationally determined, rigidly principle-oriented and dominant, and they additionally demonstrate higher rates of violence and crime, whereas women are considered as passive, emotional, flexibly caring and submissive. My aim is to examine this question empirically in reference with moral motivations.
This topic is suitable for many reasons: Willing and leaving do not form strict opposites regarding morality (refraining from delinquencies requires willingness); morality deals with respect for the others limits as well as the limits of permissiveness; the structure of modern moral motivation (self-near second order desire instead of superego dictate or pre-reflexive habitualisation) speaks against excessive determinist theses as advocated by evolutionary biologists or brain researchers.
The thesis is: Gender differences linked to morality result from contents of preferred values which are passed on through the interaction of morality harming gender affiliation. They do not result from differences in cognitive moral understanding and do not indicate (biology based or early childhood shaped) differences in the nature of the sexes concerning personal features or the structure of the will. The data bases on the findings of three extensive studies (one longitudinal study in which the development of morality was observed throughout the ages of 4 to 22 years, one cohort comparison, and one study with 15 to 16 year old pupils).
Identity –as concluded- is established and stabilized by voluntary self-commitment to values. Those must not be moral values, but they factually are often regarded as identity constituting.
Keywords: gender differences, moral motivation, development of morality


Coercive treatment in acute psychiatry

Rainer Gross
For psychotherapists without experience in acute psychiatry, coercive treatment is associated with compulsory medication and inhumane handling of patients. But reality is more complex: Civil rights of patients in Austria are pretty well-protected through the Hospitalization Act, and the implementation of coercive means is very precisely regulated. Thus our unit for instance has 90% voluntarily hospitalized patients, but still 10% remain involuntarily hospitalized – among these approximately one in four (altogether every 25th patient) is subjected to compulsory medication.
Compared to the past there are indeed far less coercive treatments, but still far too many for the desired goal of a nonviolent psychiatry. In my presentation I attempt to outline the legal framework for psychiatric action (Hospitalization Act etc.). Furthermore I would like to describe the difficult balance of psychiatrists within the double mandate (therapeutic duty and supervisory role) and finally say a word about the constellations of transference and counter transference when implementing force during treatment. Aim of this contribution is to enhance understanding of acute psychiatric treatment also for colleagues without experience in psychiatry.
Keywords: counter transference, Hospitalization Act, compulsory hospitalization/coercive treatment in acute psychiatry


The little that we can do is a lot (Albert Schweitzer)
Dementia and its consequences for sickened and caregivers

Eva Liesmann
Willing and accepting basically determine the daily work with dementia patients. Relatives and caregivers are often representatives of the patient`s intentions, and in dealing with them, they often have to let go of familiar and accustomed beliefs. Can the acquaintance with the personal fundamental motivations of Existential Analysis thereby be helpful? This will be outlined by means of case examples.
Keywords: acceptance, dementia, fundamental motivations, volition


I would have liked to want, but I didn’t dare to be allowed (freely adapted from Karl Valentin)

Klaudia Gennermann
In counselling and therapy we often have to do with people who are moved by tensions concerning their own volition, have difficulties approaching their own intentions, and often believe these are inadequate or unsocial. Under these conditions they are not capable to decide upon an act of volition. In the following article we will outline the typical difficulties of these processes. To determine the appropriate intervention we will consult experiences from practice and insights from motivational psychology.
Keywords: conflict, decision, intention, act of Volition, uncertainty, volition


Why legs will not carry – how burnout influences volition

Irina Efimova
The Russian word “will” (volja) has a double sense: Overcoming and freedom. Therefore the will is understood in Russia first of all as an ability to force oneself to do something that is not pleasant (will as an overcoming effort). If it goes together with excessively high-ranked values in profession, this group of people belongs to the risk group of burnouts.
This paper describes a methodology how the influence of burnout on the process of will can be investigated and visualized. The results show that burnout is connected with the special way of dealing with what one likes or does not like in work.
Keywords: burnout, freedom, stages of process of will, will


Experience report – i want to live anyway

Thomas Reichel
We – as a human being – often claim physical integrity into old age. If this is  suddenly in danger, we lose footing, develop fears, deprive us of the life (and other humans) or experience ourselves as less value. Feelings of helplessness and dependence on others makes it more difficult for us to deal with ourselves and our environment. Only too glad we repress the disease and suppress our mourning.
How can I carry my life in my hand and determine freely, what meaning does my life still have, if I am not able to see anymore, can no longer practice my profession and so on? All these thoughts are accompanied by different emotions. It seems impossible to be well versed in, feelings of helplessness and exposure may even join in and paralyze.
This lecture is to show how an existential life was possible despite my visual impairment. I do not want to show how people can be accompanied in such a crisis. Rather, it is to describe about how I as a person concerned have experienced this process and how the existence analysis helped me, to find my will for a meaningful life (again).
Keywords: destiny, letting go, meaning, mourning, self-acceptance


Will you hold me?
Milestones of a child therapy

Barbara Gawel
In child therapy the will and ideas of many people meet. Parents, relatives, nursery and school teachers and most of all, the child, start the therapy process with different demands, needs, hopes and fears. Even contradictions and rejections can occur. The therapist supports the child, becomes its speaker, so that it can grow, mature and find its own way.
By means of a case study, this lecture wants to describe the will of a child, to and through the therapy process, in order to outline the path we went together.
Key words: child therapy, therapy process, way, will


Where there is a will, there is a value

Eva Maria Waibel
Being care providers, we basically are dealing with another person who is not simply under our control. And if strong-willed, this person is apparently even harder to guide. But if it is our aim to make children strong, to give them a high self-esteem and to enable them to lead a meaningful life, the enhancement of will is an important fundament of (existential) education. Self-creation of the person and the development of one`s own potentialities are unthinkable without an own will. Hence, existential education means to support the child wherever it`s genuine will surfaces. Today, the encouragement and strengthening of the will must more than ever be a goal of our upbringing methods, since never before adults and especially children faced so many decisions challenging and necessitating an own will.
Keywords: enhancement of will, existential education


Reflections on lesson organizations that focus on the person on the basis of existential analysis

Hans-Jürgen Strauch
A discussion of the lessons topic that is focused on meaning requires a space where the inner dialogue of the students can take place in a way that the student can realize and feel his / her own dealing with the subject of the lesson and share this discovery in the class. This is possible in classes where the student can come into an emotional contact with the topic and where it is possible to take action in relation to the topic of the lesson. Here the will of every individual person can take shape. To realize such an education based on these existential objectives, the teacher must accept these phases of “letting go” as fundamental for classes that are focused on what the students want.
Keywords: affection, existential lessons, values


Strengthen the will? Leave the will?

Werner Eichinger
Existential analysis understands „will“ as the central power of the human mind and the strengthening of will as one of its tasks. “Gelassenheit”, to let go of one’s own will, is a fundamental motive of Meister Eckhart. This seems contradictory – but considering his reasons and aims one could ask whether both are rather two steps on the same path.
Key words: Gelassenheit, mysticism, will


On free and not free will

Wiebke Dankowski
In existential analysis we presume that the will is a special power of mankind with which he can realize himself as a person by grasping freedom and deciding to act. In the course of doing so, the matured free will makes reference to conscience and basic conditions of existence.
But how can this thesis be reconciled with a theological insight such as formulated in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”
The debate on the question, whether the human will is free or not free, has a long tradition and is far from being finished considering the propositions of science supplying new arguments to talk about the will not being free.
Keywords: free will, theology


Interpretations of spirituality from an existential analytical perspective

Michael Utsch
The meaning oriented approach of Frankl is diversely conceived and implemented in psychotherapy, in psychosocial counseling as well as in pastoral care. Frankl himself made an effort to draw a clear line between psychotherapy and pastoral care. He emphasized, that theology dealt with the revelation of Gods salvific activity, whilst psychology can solely make statements about the human reception of these experiences. The basis of argumentation was his philosophically grounded theory of the person.
More and more frequently misunderstandings occur when handling spirituality in counseling and therapy. This can be prevented by clarifying one’s own conception of man and the world. Some students of Frankl fill central concepts such as intellectuality, self-transcendence, and quest for meaning other than Frankl and hence come to different conclusions concerning spirituality. Two points of view are confronted in this article. While some consider Existential Analysis and Logotherapy as belonging to humanistic psychology, others see Frankl as the founder of a transpersonal psychotherapy (Jung, Assagioli, Wilber). This position is contradicted in the article, since Frankl distanced himself from perceiving the archetypes of the unconscious (Jung) as divine. He assumes that religion would thus lose its freedom of choice character and therefore its dignity as well. To Frankl, the unconscious god is no archetype in the collective unconscious, but a personal, self-near decision. Consequences are pointed out for therapy and counseling.
Keywords: existential meaning, spirituality, Viktor Emil Frankl