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Authentic existence

6 February, 2008

Reading an article by Paul B. Lieberman and Leston L. Havens about Existential Psychotherapy, based upon the ideas of Heidegger, I came across some interesting observations.

“Actions… embody interpretations of self and world. Actions show what matters to us and what we want. It is not only that we betray ourselves by minor movements or habits, as Freud said, but that, most fundamentally, our natures appear through our comportment (actions). This forward-moving, embodied expression of our self-interpretation Heidegger called existence.

“For Freud, … the essence of neurotic functioning is failure to acknowledge and appropriately express one’s feelings, wishes, or impulses… the acknowledgment of one’s constitutional or socially created drives or wishes is the key to psychological health. … For Heidegger, the distinction is not between normal and neurotic, but authentic and inauthentic. Heidegger’s authenticity requires an understanding of what is essential about oneself. … 

because understanding… is shown in our acts and practices (not in having true inner beliefs), authenticity is shown in styles of behavior or comportment in the world. 

authenticity is not acknowledgment of … wishes or drives but an appreciation of being-in-the-world itself, since that is what human nature fundamentally is.

“In other words, authenticity requires understanding of being-in-the-world: its absorption in things that are factical (entities constituted by our culture, which are nevertheless perceived as necessary and universal).
Authenticity is shown by acting with commitment, absorption, and affectedness, despite full awareness of the contingency of the world and our interpretations. … It is part of being-in-the-world that individuals are absorbed in their involvement with people and things.

“But it is always possible for such “thrownness” to lead to inauthentic “falling.” In falling, an individual is so absorbed in particular things or relationships that she loses the appropriate appreciation of human nature as being-in-the-world (as Heidegger defines it, in such terms as skillful absorption and facticity). In falling, an individual becomes overly committed to her current situation without acknowledging its contingency, the possibility of alternatives, the impossibility of proof, and the need for commitment and resolute action, despite these features.

“If authenticity means acting with commitment while also accepting anxiety in the face of human being, falling is trying to avoid anxiety by disregarding what we should appreciate fully, namely, the various aspects of being-in-the-world.

Doesn’t this idea of absorbtion in the world come very close to Csíkszentmihályi ‘s concept of flow?

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