Modern life seems to condemn us to live in an awe-depleted, efficiency driven world, where reductionism runs rampant and big questions about life are all but eradicated.
Human beings do not thrive in an environment like this. Human beings do not thrive where they can’t live according to their existential needs and values, or even discover what they are. We’re seeing the consequences all around us.
It matters that people have a way to use the latest findings in psychology beyond buying a pill for depression. It matters that people have a way of looking at their lives that lets them ask the big questions and determine how they want to live – and that this is supported by therapists and mental health professionals.
A new movement in psychology, the New Existentialism, is vital to the transformation of our despairing and violent world.
Existentialism began as a movement among European philosophers, but in America it has best been championed by psychologists. From William James to Rollo May, American existential psychology became its own unique movement in the 20th century.
In the 21st century, the New Existentialists are breaking new ground to humanize the world around us. The New Existentialism differs from traditional existentialism in several way:
- It’s applied: The New Existentialism is applied Existentialism. Grounded in psychology, it doesn’t just point out existential truths, it provides practical ways to use them to make life better and people happier.
- It’s science based: Whereas the old existentialism was indifferent to science, the New Existentialism integrates and redefines modern scientific findings, while putting the human experience back at the center of the scientific endeavor.
- It embraces spirituality: Where much of the old existentialism rejected spiritual sensibilities, The New Existentialism embraces the positive potential of spirituality and spiritual states. The New Existentialists stress that spirituality can imply radical openness and not just oppressive dogma; exhilaration, not merely repulsion (or nihilism), in the face of mystery. The experience of a sense of awe – which combines puzzled apprehension with appreciative wonder – is reflective of this new spiritual existential sensibility.
- It learns from multiple cultures: The New Existentialism uses evidence and perspectives from across global cultures (instead of a narrowly European context) to understand that the human condition is far wider, and the mind far more capable, than the original existentialists knew.
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