Camus’ Moral Philosophy and Sexual Addiction Recovery

Albert Camus once said, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.” The French philosopher’s words aptly capture the essence of his moral philosophy – a quest for meaning and purpose in life despite the absurdities all around us. But how does this relate to sexual addiction recovery? Here, I explore the intersection between Camus’ existentialist views and the journey towards healing from sexual addiction. I delve into the concepts of freedom, responsibility, authenticity, and morality as they apply to individuals struggling with compulsive sexual behavior. Read on to discover how Camus’ insights can shed light on your path towards recovery.

What is Camus’ Moral Philosophy?

Albert Camus was a French philosopher, writer, and journalist. His moral philosophy is based on the idea of the absurd. The absurd is the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the silence of the universe in response. Camus believed that we must come to terms with the absurd and accept it as part of our human condition. This acceptance allows us to live life fully and authentically.

Camus’ moral philosophy can be helpful in understanding and recovering from sexual addiction. Sexual addiction is often driven by a search for intimacy and connection. However, because sex is an inherently physical act, it can never truly provide the intimacy that we crave. This disconnection can lead to a sense of emptiness and despair. Camus’ philosophy helps us to see that this sense of emptiness is not necessarily bad or wrong; it is simply part of being human. By accepting the absurd, we can learn to find meaning in other aspects of our lives, such as relationships, work, hobbies, etc. We can also learn to find meaning in our own recovery process and in helping others recover from their addiction

How Can Camus’ Moral Philosophy Help with Sexual Addiction Recovery?

It is no secret that addiction recovery is difficult. For some people, it may seem impossible. But hope is not lost. There are many different paths to recovery, and each person must find the one that works best for him or her.

One path that may be helpful for some people is Camus’ moral philosophy. Camus was a French philosopher who believed in living an ethical life. He believed that we should all strive to be good, honest, and just. This philosophy can be applied to recovering from sexual addiction.

Sexual addiction recovery requires facing the truth about our addiction and ourselves. We must accept responsibility for our actions and learn to live with integrity. This can be a difficult task, but it is necessary for recovery. Camus’ philosophy can help us to see the value in doing what is right, even when it is hard.

We also need to learn how to deal with our emotions in a healthy way. Addiction often numbs our emotions or makes us feel things too intensely. This can lead to further addictive behaviors or make it difficult to recover from relapse. Camus believed that we should face our emotions head-on. He believed that they could teach us valuable lessons if we allowed ourselves to feel them fully. This may be easier said than done, but it is an important part of recovery.

There are many other aspects of Camus’ philosophy that could be helpful in sexual addiction recovery, but these are just a few of the most important ones

What Are the Pros and Cons of Camus’ Moral Philosophy?

There are a number of pros and cons to Camus’ moral philosophy. On the pro side, Camus believed that people should be honest with themselves and others, and that they should take responsibility for their own actions. He also believed in living in the present moment and making the most of what life has to offer. On the con side, some people may find Camus’ philosophy too idealistic or unrealistic. Additionally, his focus on individual responsibility may make it difficult for people to forgive themselves for past mistakes.

How to Use Camus’ Moral Philosophy in Sexual Addiction Recovery

First and foremost, it is imperative to realize that you are not alone in your struggle with sexual addiction. Many individuals battle this same issue day in and day out. You can use Camus’ moral philosophy as a guide to help you through the tough times and ultimately achieve recovery. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

1. Acknowledge that you have a problem. This is the first and most important step on the road to recovery. Denial will only keep you stuck in the cycle of addiction.

2. Take responsibility for your actions. This means accepting that you are the one who is responsible for your own behavior. Blaming others will only hinder your progress.

3. Make a commitment to change. This includes setting goals and making a plan to change your behavior for good. It won’t be easy, but it’s worth it!

4. Seek support from others who understand what you’re going through. This could be friends, family, or even a professional therapist or counselor. Talking about your struggles openly can help put things into perspective and make them more manageable.

5. Practice self-compassion . Be gentle with yourself as you navigate this difficult journey . Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that progress is often made one small step at a time .

Albert Camus’ moral philosophy provides an invaluable lens to examine sexual addiction recovery, as it emphasizes the active role of individuals in making and taking responsibility for their choices. Through exploring Camus’ moral philosophy, we can gain insight into the importance of recognizing our personal accountability and responsibility when faced with difficult decisions that are rooted in addiction. Furthermore, this philosophical approach helps us understand why making conscious choices is so critical for lasting success on our paths to recovery.

Husserl’s Understanding of Meaning Making: An Introduction to Healing Trauma

Are you struggling to make sense of your traumatic experiences? Do you feel stuck in a cycle of pain and suffering? If so, you’re not alone. Trauma can be overwhelming, leaving us feeling powerless and disconnected from the world around us. But what if there was a way to heal that didn’t involve suppressing or ignoring our emotions? Enter Husserl’s understanding of meaning making – an approach that offers hope for those seeking healing after trauma.

Introduction to Husserl’s Understanding of Meaning Making

In Husserl’s understanding of meaning making, there is a three-fold structure to every experience: the lived body, the ego, and the world. The lived body is our immediate experience of our physicality; it is pre-reflective and not yet conceptualized. The ego is the center of conscious experience; it is reflective and aware of itself. The world is the totality of all that is experienced by the ego.

When we suffer trauma, it is because something has happened that disrupts this three-fold structure. Trauma shatters our sense of self and our relationship to the world. We may feel disconnected from our bodies and unable to trust our own perceptions. In order to heal from trauma, we must first reconnect with ourselves and then begin to rebuild our sense of meaning in the world.

Husserl’s understanding of meaning making can help us to do this. By attending to our immediate experience in the present moment, we can begin to repair the damage done by trauma and start to create a new narrative for our lives.

The Phenomenological Approach to Healing Trauma

Trauma is an event that causes psychological damage. It can be a single event or repeated exposure to a traumatic situation. The effects of trauma can be short-term or long-term, and can include physical, emotional, and behavioral problems.

The phenomenological approach to healing trauma focuses on the individual’s lived experience of the event or situation. This includes the person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in response to the trauma. The aim is to understand the individual’s subjective experience of the trauma and to help them make meaning of it.

This approach can be helpful in addressing the long-term effects of trauma, as it allows for a deep understanding of the individual’s experience. It can also help address any negative beliefs or assumptions that may have formed as a result of the trauma.

Exploring the Impact of Meaning Making on Recovery

It has long been understood that meaning making is integral to the healing process. In recent years, however, there has been a growing body of research specifically examining the impact of meaning making on recovery from trauma. This research has shown that meaning making is not only important for survivors of traumatic events, but can also be a key factor in predicting post-traumatic growth.

Meaning making refers to the process of understanding and interpreting the events of one’s life in order to make sense of them. This process is often described as constructing a narrative, or story, about one’s life. For survivors of trauma, meaning making can be a way to make sense of their experience and find a new sense of self and purpose.

Research on the impact of meaning making on recovery from trauma has shown that it can play a vital role in both short-term and long-term adjustment. In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, survivors who are able to make meaning out of their experience are more likely to have less post-traumatic stress symptoms and greater psychological well-being than those who cannot make meaning out of their experience. In the long term, survivors who engage in meaningful activities such as writing about their experience or talking with others about what happened are more likely to report positive post-traumatic growth than those who do not engage in these activities.

While there is still much to learn about how best to facilitate meaning making for survivors of trauma, the existing research provides strong evidence for its importance

Developing New Meaning Through Reflection and Reframing

Husserl’s understanding of meaning making is based on the idea that we create meaning in our lives through reflection and reframing. This process of meaning making is what allows us to heal from trauma and move forward in our lives.

When we reflect on our experiences, we are able to see them from a different perspective and learn from them. This new understanding can then be used to reframe our current beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. This process of reflection and reframing allows us to create new meaning in our lives, which can lead to healing from trauma.

Adapting Husserl’s Ideas in Your Own Practice

Edmund Husserl’s work on meaning making is highly influential in the field of trauma studies. His ideas can be adapted to your own practice in a number of ways.

First, Husserl’s work emphasizes the importance of attending to lived experience. This means that in your own practice, you should aim to create a space in which clients can feel safe enough to share their stories. It is only through story-telling that we can begin to make sense of our lives and experiences.

Second, Husserl’s work highlights the role of language in meaning making. He argues that language is not just a tool for communication, but actually shapes the way we think and understand the world. In your own practice, you can create a space for clients to explore the language they use to talk about their experiences. This will help them to become more aware of how their experiences are shaped by language, and may also help them to find new ways of understanding and talking about their trauma.

Third, Husserl’s work emphasizes the importance of relationships in meaning making. He argues that we cannot make sense of our lives without considering our relationships with others. In your own practice, you can create opportunities for clients to reflect on their relationships with others, both past and present. This may help them to understand how their relationships have been affected by trauma, and may also help them to develop new and healthier relationships going forward.


Husserl’s understanding of meaning making is a powerful tool for healing trauma. By recognizing the subjective nature of our experience, we can begin to create new meanings in response to traumatic events, allowing us to move forward with greater resilience and insight. While this process may be difficult and uncomfortable, it provides an opportunity for growth through self-reflection and empowerment. As we embrace Husserl’s insights into meaning making, we open ourselves up to transformative possibilities that lead towards healing and lasting change.

Healing and Coping with Kierkegaard’s Existential Anxiety

Everyone experiences moments of deep existential anxiety, but few of us know how to process and heal from it. Søren Kierkegaard gave us insight into the depths of this feeling and how we can overcome it. So how does one cope using existential anxiety?

Understanding Kierkegaard’s Existential Anxiety

Kierkegaard’s existential anxiety is often attributed to his personal life, as well as his philosophical works. It is seen as a fear of the unknown, a dread of the limitations of being human, and a sense of helplessness in the face of an incomprehensible universe. This mental health condition can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and a sense of hopelessness. Those experiencing existential anxiety may feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and the lack of absolute truth and meaning in life. As a result, they may be unable to cope with the complexities of life and their own finite existence. It is important to understand this mental health condition and practice self-care in order to effectively manage such feelings of fear and helplessness.

This fear can be seen most prominently in his works such as Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death, where he explores concepts like faith, despair, and choice – all which can lead to a heightened sense of existential anxiety for some people Thereafter, the healing of existential anxiety can be seen as the primary objective of Kierkegaard’s works. He actively sought to heal and comfort those who fear and tremble, by giving them an outlet for their despair and encouraging them to make the choices that will give their lives meaning and purpose. In this way, his works serve as a beacon of hope for everyone struggling with existential anxiety.

Healing and Coping Strategies for Existential Anxiety

In order to cope with existential anxiety, it is important to first recognize the underlying cause of our feelings and understand how we can best address them. For example, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard first recognized the concept of existential anxiety and proposed the idea of a ‘leap of faith’. He argued that living authentically in the face of anxiety requires embracing uncertainty, which can be difficult to do in our comfort-seeking society. By cultivating an understanding of Kierkegaard’s work, we can learn how to confront existential angst in a meaningful way.

Once we have identified the source of our anxiety, we can turn to healing and coping strategies such as mindfulness, meditation, journaling and other therapeutic activities to help us manage our emotions and create a sense of calm Thus, it is important to identify the source of our anxiety if we wish to heal and create a sense of calm in our lives. Various coping strategies, such as mindfulness, meditation, and journaling, can be effective in helping us to manage our emotions and heal from our anxieties.

Kierkegaard brought us on a journey through the depths of existential anxiety, but he also gave us a way to heal from it. By understanding that we are more than our thoughts, by striving to live authentically and by using our passions to guide us, we can find peace amidst the chaos. While existential anxiety can be terrifying and overwhelming, it doesn’t have to consume us. We are capable of recognizing and confronting it in a healthy way and we have the power to rise above it.

The Panopticon and Our Society Today: How We Are Under Constant Surveillance

The idea of the panopticon was first proposed by French philosopher Michel Foucault in the late 18th century. Since then, this concept has been widely discussed and debated, especially in relation to our society today. As technology advances, we are increasingly living in a world of constant surveillance, where our every move is tracked and monitored. In this blog post, we will explore how Foucault’s idea of the panopticon applies to our current social landscape, and what implications this has for our lives.

What Is the Panopticon?

The Panopticon: where the powers that be can keep a watchful eye on the population, allowing them to control and monitor every move made. This is the concept put forward by philosopher Michel Foucault in his book Discipline and Punish. In this book, he theorizes that there is a particular structure – the Panopticon – which can be used as a tool of surveillance and control over those within its walls.

The Panopticon is a circular prison building with cells arranged around a central tower. Each cell has one-way glass, so that prisoners cannot see the people in the tower, but the people in the tower can see them. The idea behind this was that inmates would feel constantly watched and monitored, and thus would be more likely to conform to the rules and regulations set forth.

It’s an interesting concept – and one that could be applied to our own lives in many ways. We live in a world where it feels like we’re constantly being watched and judged, whether it’s by our families, friends, or even strangers online. The idea of the Panopticon suggests that we are all under some form of surveillance, which can have an effect on our behavior. Whether it’s consciously or unconsciously, we may be adjusting our behavior to fit into whatever ‘rules’ are set by those in power.

Foucault and the Panopticon

The term “panopticon” was coined by French philosopher, Michel Foucault in his 1975 book Discipline and Punish. He argued that the concept of a “panopticon” – a type of prison or school in which inmates or students are constantly observed – could be used to symbolize modern society, where we are all under constant surveillance.

Foucault argued that by creating the illusion that we are always being watched, the panopticon encourages us to police ourselves and act in a way that is socially acceptable. This has become even more true with the rise of technology and surveillance systems that are being used to monitor us in our everyday lives. It has become virtually impossible to escape the watchful eye of society and be completely anonymous.

In addition to its implications for privacy, Foucault also pointed out the potential social implications of the panopticon. He argued that it perpetuates a power structure in which some people can dominate others. The feeling of being constantly watched can be oppressive and create a sense of insecurity in individuals.

Fun fact: The term “panopticon” comes from the Greek words “pan” (all) and “optikon” (seen). Thus, the literal meaning of “panopticon” is “all seen”.

The Panopticon in Our Society Today

The concept of the Panopticon has been a hotly debated topic in the age of technology and surveillance. Its implications have far-reaching consequences on society and its citizens, including the loss of privacy and autonomy, as well as increased surveillance and control. The Panopticon is increasingly present in our lives today, as digital technologies allow for more efficient tracking and monitoring of individuals’ activity.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to escape surveillance or maintain our privacy in today’s world. Smartphones, security cameras, and even facial recognition software are just a few of the technologies that are used to monitor our behavior. In addition, companies collect massive amounts of data from us on a daily basis, from our search histories to our online purchases. This data can then be used for marketing purposes or even to track our movements.

The Panopticon is not only present in physical form, but also in cyberspace. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer access to a vast array of personal data, and companies can use this data to create profiles of users and monitor their behavior. Additionally, many websites and apps track user activity, such as what pages they visit or how long they spend on a particular site.

It is important to recognize that the effects of the Panopticon reach beyond mere surveillance; it also has implications for our autonomy and self-determination. When we are constantly being watched and monitored, it can inhibit our ability to act freely or think creatively. Furthermore, the power imbalance between those who have access to this data and those who do not is potentially damaging to society.

The presence of the Panopticon in our lives today is undeniable. It is important to consider the implications of these technologies and their effects on our lives. Although there is much debate over the effects of the Panopticon, its potential to cause harm should not be ignored. As we continue to embrace new technologies, it is essential that we remain aware of the dangers that come with them and work to ensure that our right to privacy is respected and protected.

Live the Life You Want to Live


Does your life bring you joy or sorrow?
Have you ever thought, “Why does this stuff always happen to me?”
Have you ever wondered why you attract certain types of people?

Much of the way life goes is in your control…

Martin Heidegger talks about “thrownness” in Being and Time. He explains that all people are “enmeshed in a particular context” (Guignon, 1993, pg. 225). In other words, human beings are “thrown” into a particular context, and automatically engage in that context (Heidegger, 1927/1962). When you were born, the world you entered was storied. You entered this world facing certain rules and/or principles – familial expectations, religious affiliations, certain belief systems about values, etc. The world you entered immediately connected to you – you and the world are inextricably linked. In essence, being does not exist; there is only a being-in-the-world. You are continuously there inside the world and in your conditions of existence. You are being there at all times. This being there concept is what Heidegger calls Dasein, which literally means there-being (Edger & Meyer, 2010).

Dasein is constructed in a particular way as it exists-there-in-the-world, and the part of Dasein I want to focus on here is Dasein’s position of being-toward. What this means is that Dasein is always projected into the future. Everything that you do contributes to making you who you are. Because your thoughts and actions construct who you are as a person, the way that you relate to others is affected by this construction of self. Let me give you an example…

As a mental health counselor, I relate to the people I see in my practice in a particular way, which entails “a commitment toward the future” (Guignon, 1993, pg. 225). Because I construct who I am in a certain way – care-taker, empathic listener, challenger, cheer-leader – I become that person for the people I see. I am viewed in a certain way because of my thoughts and behaviors about what is appropriate. The relationships I build form to this ideal. As long as I keep engaging in this way, I become a certain type of person, and my clients expect certain things of me. The relationship is literally formed by my values, beliefs, and behaviors.
We ARE our values, our stories, our beliefs, our engagements with others. “We … become the kind of people we are – people who, for example, care about children and believe in justice – there is now no way to drop these commitments without ceasing to be who we are” (Guignon, 1993, pg. 233). We are, therefore, imbedded and indebted to our surroundings and a shared culture, we share universal values with others around us. Heidegger calls this kind of sharing and being authentic historicity (Heidegger, 1927/1962). We shape ourselves through how we live our lives. In turn, our surroundings shape who we are. It is truly a circle of life. How you engage with others MAKES you who you are. How powerful! If you are dissatisfied with the life you are living, think about how you engage with others. What do others expect from you? How do they view who you are as a person? Does this make your life a good one? If not, it is time to reassess who you are – Dasein – how are you being-there?



Edger, K. & Meyer, E. (2010). Considerations for Teaching Existential-Phenomenological Counseling Theory. ACES Spectrum, 71(1), 17-29.

Guignon, C. B. (1993). Authenticity, moral values, and psychotherapy. In. C. Guignon (Ed.).The Cambridge companion to Heidegger (pp. 215-239). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. New York: Harper & Row

The Meaning of Life

ImageThe meaning of life starts with the notion of The Absurd. Hang on here and take the philosophical journey with me. It will be well worth it…

Albert Camus talks about the Absurd in his work, The Myth of Sisyphus and notes that the concept of Absurdity is not original to him. What is original to his philosophy is that he considers the Absurd to be the beginning of his philosophy (rather than the end, as in most other philosophies). Also, even though the concept of the Absurd is an idea that is accepted among French philosophers, Camus does not bother to go into an argument about proving it exists. For him, as well as other scholars, it is quite evident that it does. So what is “The Absurd” anyway?

For Camus, the way of the world is not absurd. Camus defines the absurd as the relationship that people have with the world. He believes this relationship is absurd because the world puts out questions in the relationship that have no answers. He states that the absurd relationship between human beings and the world “is that divorce between the mind that desires and the world that disappoints, my nostalgia for unity, this fragmented universe and the contradiction that binds them together” (pg. 37). What he means is that human beings receive a bunch of empty replies from the world about the nature of their existence. He gives the example of people trying to find order in the world and not being able to find any order at all. No answers are provided to us. We ask how to solve the problem of evil in the world, and we find out that goodness in the world isn’t even guaranteed (Denton, 1967). It is in this frustrating relationship that we have with nature that forces us to be tense and, in that, confrontation is a constant theme.

As he ponders the nature of the Absurd, Camus has one question – how do we live within this absurd relationship we have with the world? Once a person becomes aware that this absurd relationship exists, he or she is faced with the quandary – is life worth living? At some point, according to Camus, a person will wake up from day to day life and realize the world provides no answers to the questions he or she has for it. Innocent people continue to suffer. Prayers go unanswered. Except for the present moment, the world guarantees nothing. As people begin to realize this reality, they begin to wonder whether they should live or die. Once they realize they must make a decision about living or dying, people will feel many things – sadness, scorn, and even joy, but most of all, they will feel futility. However, within this quandary, most people will realize that their lives are their own, and they will choose to continue life. When they make this conscious choice, a passion for life will ensue, and the way they experience the world will be richer. For Camus, the most important and enduring emotion from this decision will be joy!

The ultimate point about this realization of the absurd is responsibility, what Camus calls Rebellion. In essence, because people are trapped in this absurd relationship with the world without the desire to escape (die), they must realize that they are called to change the world. In consciously choosing to live life (and, in this realization, living it fully), people have a calling to make life worth living. That’s quite a responsibility, but it makes sense! What is the point of living if you never make a difference? The meaning of life is changing our relationship with the world. So what legacy does your life leave when you are gone? If you choose to live, how will you make it a purposeful life?



Camus, A. (1956). The rebel: An essay on man in revolt. New York: Random House.

Camus, A. (1959). The myth of Sisyphus. New York: Random House.

Camus, A. (1960). Resistance, rebellion, and death. New York: Random House.

Denton, D. E. (1967). The philosophy of Albert Camus: A critical analysis. Boston, MA: Prime Publishers.

Levoy, G. (1997). Callings: Finding and following an authentic life path. New York: Three Rivers Press.


Living and Dying

ImageIn Ethics, Spinoza said that, “a free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is not a meditation upon death but upon life.” He felt that people should not meditate on death if they are truly free because it is inconsequential. God prevents the loss of anything possessing a real existence. Death has no reality and so people should focus on eternal things. Yes, makes sense! By focusing on the eternal, a still confidence embraces us. We are at rest. We are self-assured. We are at one with the eternal. Yes, this kind of diversion of death makes sense as it pushes away the fear of death. The fear of death mirrors the fear of life. People who are scared to live fully are also fearful of death. For existentialists, however, fearing death is not the emphasis. It is important to focus on death rather than fear it. Death brings us into the present moment and the focus on death helps us appreciate fleeting moments. Death is not a negative concept at all. Quite the contrary. The awareness of death gives significance to living.

When my daughter was born, people said, “Enjoy every moment because they grow up so fast!” As a first time mother, I remembered this advice intensely. Death. My newborn will soon die and become a baby, and then my baby will die and become a toddler, and so on. When I took my daughter home from the hospital, she cried most of the day and much of the night. If she was not sleeping or eating, she was crying hysterically. I was tired, achy, cranky, hungry, and lonely. In this time of my life, it was easy to think about the future when this awful phase would be over. It was easy to just press through it, to survive it in hopes of future better cheerier baby times. I didn’t. I remembered the death of this time and that I would never again have these moments with her again. This time when she was only 6 pounds. This time when she had that beautiful newborn face. This time when she was completely defenseless. This time when nothing fit her because she was so tiny. These precious moments would be gone soon enough. Death would come. So I cherished every moment. When she slept, I stared at her tiny little face and marveled at this beautiful little girl I created. When she nursed, I enjoyed the closeness of her on my body. I smelled the top of her tiny head and enjoyed the scent of her. Every minute, I soaked it in. When she cried, I was thankful that I had a healthy baby with strong lungs. Then, 4 months later, it was all gone. I had a new baby. I had a baby that gained some independence as she spent time in her crib amusing herself. A baby that cooed and smiled at me when I changed her. A baby that was interested in the world around her. My newborn was gone and a new stage began.

“It was too bad you didn’t really get to enjoy her when she was so little,” someone told me after I informed them about my colicky newborn experience. Ah, but I did. I can honestly say that enjoyed every precious moment with my beautiful newborn daughter. I enjoyed those beloved moments of stillness and awe because I knew they would be gone. I knew death would come, and so I lived fully at each moment, treasuring this amazing brand new little lady I created. I took nothing for granted.

As I move on with my life as a mother through each stage with my daughter, I remember death. It is my reminder to live fully in each moment. As my daughter grows from baby to toddler, I cherish each day. I cherish her laughs. I treasure the way she looks at me as if there is no one else on this planet she would rather be with. I treasure her amazement and curiosity of the world around her. I treasure it all. Among the teething, the cries, the lack of personal time, the longing for my husband, the lack of sleep, and the amount of time it takes me to get even the simplest tasks done…among all of that, I cherish these times. Because this is the current experience. This is what will soon be gone and I will never be able to get back. This is it.  I focus on death to fully live.


ImageExistentialists concentrate on the topic of human existence, and some of the primary existentialists are Jean-Paul Sartre, Viktor Frankl, and, of course, Søren Kierkegaard. Just as in phenomenology, existential thinkers have differing philosophies, and these variations are largely attributed to opposing personal world-views. Sartre stated that existentialism could be easily defined but problems would inevitably arise because of atheistic and Christian interpretations. This makes sense, and has definitely been the case in existential thought. However, despite these vast disagreements about faith, the fundamental ideas of existentialism remain constant.  In ALL existential inquiry, both atheistic and Christian thinkers believe “that existence precedes essence, or, if you prefer, that subjectivity must be the starting point” (Sartre, 1965/1993, p. 34).

Existentialism is broken down into specific themes:


existential anxiety

death and non-being


personal responsibility

aloneness and relatedness



As mentioned, variations of thought exist among all of these existential themes, but there are still universal agreements. For example, the existential theme of meaning-making varies from one philosopher to another – What is meaning? Is there meaning? How does one make meaning? One philosopher would say that meaning truly exists in life and can best be attained through human suffering (Frankl) while another would say that life is meaningless so we create our own meaning (Sartre). Despite these varying degrees of interpretation, both existentialists would agree with their fellow philosophers that all human beings search for meaning and personal identity in life.

Let me elaborate more on the theme of meaning and how philosophies differ in terms of faith and personal world-views. Let’s start with Jean-Paul Sartre, an atheist…

Sartre believed that human beings try to find meaning in a world that is void of meaning by creating various religions to support the belief of life beyond material existence.  In essence, according to Sartre, human beings create an artificial construct through self-serving illusions, and this created construct is not truly meaningful, since there is no “meaning” in any absolute sense. Sartre believed that it was meaning-less that we live and it is meaning-less that we die because all of life is meaningless. Therefore, people must make meaning by what they choose to do in life, through their intentions and interactions.

Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and man of faith differed substantially from Sartre. He believed that human beings could find meaning through suffering and through life experiences.  By having a will to live through adversity, human beings found meaning in their lives.  Frankl stated that meaning was ever-present in the world and that the quest in life was to find meaning.  This journey required human beings to step outside of themselves – meaning-making, for Frankl, was not introspective; it was transcending.

Søren Kierkegaard was also a man of faith, a devout Christian. He also believed that individuals had to suffer despair throughout their inadequate humanity. However, he emphasized the necessity to move beyond this notion of a deficient human existence in order to find meaning in the world and with God.  Kierkegaard encouraged doubt. He believed that doubt was the rational part of a human being, and, in order for individuals to have faith, they also needed to have doubt because, without doubt, faith has no value.

While Frankl, Sartre, and Kierkegaard emerged from vastly different personal belief systems, all three philosophers represented this theme of meaning-making through their world views and personal beliefs systems. Yet all believed that every human being searches for meaning and personal identity in life. I hope that these descriptions also help illustrate how appropriate it is for counselors to first construct their personal understandings of human development before they can adequately use existential theory in the counseling relationship.

*Sartre, J. P. (1993).  Essays in existentialism.  New York: Carol Publishing Group.


ImagePhenomenology is literally defined as the study of phenomena. Phenomenology is the study of things that appear in experience in a way that they appear as they truly are. In essence, phenomenology is directed at examining things in terms of their meanings. The primary phenomenological concepts are:

(a) intentionality or the “about-ness” of a thing

(b) intuition or knowledge not based on perception

(c) memory or introspection

(d) answering the meaning of “being” (Audi, 1995).         


Let’s backtrack a little and define what a phenomenon actually is. What is phenomenology studying exactly? What IS a phenomenon?

                Heidegger stated that a phenomenon is “that which shows itself from itself” (1927/1962, p. 51).  Phenomena are experienced and are independent of any theories and assumptions. For example, a person experiences a flower as the phenomenon of a flower rather than something that is composed of atoms and particles.  Even though physicists state that flowers are composed of atoms and particles and psychologists try to understand people in terms of their minds, neither atoms, particles, nor minds appear when a person walks through the park and sees a garden of flowers, right? Of course not. The experience of the flower is the phenomenon (Wrathall, 1993). 

                Now it gets more varied…

                Despite the core definitions of a phenomenon and of phenomenology, phenomenological scholars differ in the HOW. How does one make meaning of a phenomenon? Philosophers differ quite substantially on this topic. This does not mean that one scholar is correct while another is incorrect, however. There are multiple ways of finding meaning! You might say that one theory is not better than another but rather, it is the interpretation and usefulness of a theory that will speak to one thinker over another. An example of differing thoughts about a similar concept can be clarified through the philosophies of three primary phenomenological scholars: Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty.

1)      Husserl (1960), the Father of Phenomenology, focused on epistemological differences – what is the nature of knowledge?

2)      Heidegger, Husserl’s pupil, concentrated on ontological differences – what is the nature of being?

3)      Merleau-Ponty, whose philosophy, like Heidegger’s, was also ontological, diverged when he united Husserl’s and Heidegger’s theories and generated a philosophy of the lived body. He contended that all consciousness was created from a pre-reflective bodily existence. In essence, he believed that everything individuals knew of the world (even when that knowledge was based in science) was understood through their personal views and lived experiences (which are fundamentally founded in the body).

                 Again, all branched out to differing thoughts of the HOW of meaning, and all theories shaped the way these thinkers thought about the world and the people around them. Counselors and therapists do this as well. Look at Cognitive Behavioral Therapy when compared to Gestalt Therapy. They inherently differ, but neither is right or wrong. Rather, each theory is shaped by the individual who buys into that theory and helps create a format for helping others.  It is the map one clinician follows versus another – the destination is usually the same!

So…just like phenomenological thought differs among philosophers, so does existential thought.

Stay tuned!


Audi, R. (Ed.). (1995). The Cambridge dictionary of philosophy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Heidegger, M. (1962).  Being and time.  New York: Harper & Row.

Wrathall, M. (1993). How to read Heidegger.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company.


ImageExistential-Phenomenological Theory has been an important model in the field of counseling and therapy for quite some time, and it continues to increase in popularity with new counselors entering the field. The practice of Existential-Phenomenology is a blending of centuries-old wisdom applied to modern day problems. It is foundational to influential therapies used today – like Person-Centered and Gestalt therapies. The goal of an Existential-Phenomenological counselor is to help clients make-meaning of their lives, and so it is reasonable to assume that counselors using this theory must also do the same work. Existential-Phenomenological counselors MUST make their own meanings of this theory and how it applies to their own lives and to their practices so it is essential for counselors who are interested in using this model to learn the philosophical groundwork. Without a philosophical grounding, counselors are simply using techniques – and this is not a technique-heavy model in the least! The importance of this model is the philosophies that substantiate its practice.

Some significant contributors in the development of existentialism and phenomenology include but are not limited to: Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Viktor Frankl,  and, of course, Søren Kierkegaard. These philosophers explained principles from the earlier writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas to name a few. When learning about the philosophical underpinnings of Existential-Phenomenology, it is important to note that counselors  must first study existentialism apart from phenomenology  and gain an understanding of the backgrounds of contributing philosophers in each of these disciplines. Sounds like quite a feat, and it can seem daunting. However, in upcoming posts, I will break down phenomenology and existentialism in terms of what they mean and how to understand their principles. Stay tuned!