Words, like people, have their own meaning and shades of thought resembling hoards of others but like people remain essentially programmed for specific purposes. Words such as existence, choice, free will, objective, responsibility, authenticity, individuality, explain the principles by which psychotherapists’ approach their work.
To exist is to be living and breathing and if not that, substantive and taking up space. Humans have a choice in this matter, according to existential psychology. They can freely choose their destiny or have it chosen for them by outside influences that may or may not be relative to them or to their particular inheritances.
Free will is not as free as it sounds. It is modified by responsibility and authenticity and it means dealing with society objectively while trying to keep it from invading the privacy of individual souls. Psychotherapists don’t attempt to actually understand their patients, but instead guide them toward better understanding of themselves. They use words as stepping stones to open doors of cognitive –self-knowledge—reasoning to enable them to cope with life’s obstacles.
Existential psychology asks questions such as is there an objective world? Of course there’s an objective world; it’s the world others inhabit but individually it doesn’t exist for the questioner. Viewed in this way, even when walking among the world others live in, the existent person interacts according to their own individual makeup. They see, do, remember, add to, take away from it only to the extent their inner being allows them this freedom.
Those trained in this type of philosophical world are not drifters; they map their own routes they daily traipse through. While this sounds regimental and unwholesome to the spirit, it need not be. Within the confines of their individual natures, there are delights all along the way; it’s only that these must be aligned within the confines their consciences, their schedules, and their ability to adapt.
It seems rather silly, not to mention useless, that philosophers would spend a great part of their studies expounding on the nature of existence, but that sometimes is the nature of academic philosophy. Descartes as an example solved his dilemma of non-existence by declaring “I think, therefore I am.”
How does Descartes relate to existential philosophy? In many ways but none more than in this excerpt taken out of context from his thoughts on morality in Discourse on Method: “The traveler should not wander about or even stand still for then he will never find his way. Instead, he should keep walking in a straight line and should never change his direction for slight reasons. Hence, although the traveler may not end up where he wants, at least he will be better off than in the middle of a forest.”
That is not exactly the philosopher speaking but his biographer explaining his maxim on morality and action. It makes sense and can be condensed to mean think before acting but don’t tarry too long or you’ll get nowhere, or acting without thinking will get you someplace but far from where you want to be. Existential psychotherapists deal with such matters of thought and action in their work.