Existential Psychology


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“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Recognition of the countless possibilities for thought and behavior available to you right now, what we would term existential freedom, is unnerving. You could get up from your desk and scream at the top of your lungs, you could go hop on a plane to a foreign country, you could quit your job, you could break up with your significant other, the list is pretty much endless if you are willing to accept the consequences. It’s what Freud termed the super ego, that conglomeration of cultural norms and tabus instilled in us from an early age by authority figures, that keeps us locked in to a crystallized way of thinking and behaving, believing our possibilities are limited or even non-existent.

If you have come to feel trapped in your life, it’s likely that you hold the key to escape from your own prison cell but just don’t realize it. The existential reason we don’t fully recognize more possibilities available to us is because of the vertigo this recognition creates. The more choices we have the more anxiety provoking our situation. Possibilities imply uncertainty. Say what you will against feeling locked in to a way of being, but the benefit is that you feel no anxiety when your path is clearly laid out before you.

When you decide upon a new course of action you trade an outcome that is foreseeable for one that is unknown, you trade a way of being that, however distasteful it may be is at least comfortable. You probably know how things will turn out if you stand pat, but unfortunately there is no way to predict exactly how things will turn out if you change direction. Regardless, the first step if you are unsatisfied is to become consciously aware that more possibilities are available to you right now than you have probably given credence to.