Existential Psychology

Knowledgeable Guide

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Imagine two scenarios. In the first you’re dropped into the middle of a vast wilderness with no supplies and no idea of where you are. In the second you’re dropped into the middle of that same vast wilderness but you’re accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who might never have been in that particular forest but has spent a lot of time in similar forests.

What becomes immediately obvious is that although you find yourself in the same objectively desperate situation in both scenarios, you’re going to experience a lot less debilitating anxiety in scenario number two. When we remember that basic anxiety is the feeling of helplessness in a world perceived as hostile we realize that anxiety can be diminished through reducing helplessness in the face of hostile conditions, through reducing perceived hostile conditions in the face of feeling helplessness, or ideally through reducing feelings of helplessness and reducing hostile conditions. What having a knowledgable guide around does for you right from the get go is to make objectively hostile conditions seem a little less hostile. And as time goes by a good guide will pass on the necessary set of knowledge and skills to you so that your own efficacy increases, thereby reducing your feelings of helplessness in the face of those same hostile conditions.

What also becomes obvious is that while there’s no guarantee you’re going to make it out of there alive your chances of successfully making it back to civilization increase exponentially in scenario number two. You might make it back all by yourself too. And you might not make it back even with the guide. But any reasonable person will agree that having a knowledgable guide who has your best interests at heart and is prepared to pass on the skills and knowledge you need to survive is preferable to going it alone.