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


authenticity - marilyn monroeSimply stated, authenticity means being true to oneself, and while this is easily defined, explaining what it really means and getting there is a bit more difficult. How does one become authentic? What does being true to oneself really look like? How will one know when authenticity has been achieved? These are all common questions about the concept of authenticity.

Authenticity is about one’s relationship with self as well as one’s relationship with the world. To reach authenticity (to be true to oneself), an individual must balance the need to be true to self with the need to compromise and conform to others’ expectations. That is, along with fulfilling needs of self, a person also has to get along with others and manage the limitations that society imposes upon him or her.  Remember that compromises must always be made when making a decision since all people are inextricably linked to the consequences of the choices they make.

Counselors can play a unique role in helping clients to examine their freedom to choose, the limitation of those choices, and the consequences they bring.  Therapeutically, we want to know if individuals have struck enough of a balance between themselves and the limiting world to a point where they are at ease in their current circumstances. Are they at peace with what they are gaining and what they had to give up? Are they accepting the fact that they are limiting other possibilities when they make certain choices? Can they strike the right balance between what they want/need and what they have to give to others? If so, these people can be concretely identified as being positively adjusted in their situations and living more authentically.

In essence, we can say that a person has reached authenticity in a certain situation when he or she has the awareness about the compromises necessitated due to life’s limitations and can accept those limitations and move forward making decisions. We cannot, however say that a person has reached absolute authenticity, that he or she is authentic in every situation of his or her life. This is because authenticity is a process rather than an end result and is situation-specific rather than absolute.