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Chapter 13

Chapter 13 Experience, Existence and the Meaning of Life - Textbook Notes

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McMaster University
Richard B Day

Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee Part V: Experience and Awareness: Humanistic and Cross-Cultural Psychology Chapter 13: Experience, Existence and the Meaning of Life: Humanistic and Positive Psychology  Goal of humanistic psychology – The mind is fundamentally different than other objects o Human mind is aware – has two implications  Psychology needs to address the phenomenon of awareness  Self-awareness brings up many uniquely human phenomena that do not arise when studying other object (molecule, rock etc)  Will power, reflective thinking, imagination introspection, self-criticism, aspirations, creativity, happiness, and free will  Humanists seek to understand awareness, free will, and the aspects of the mind that are uniquely human and give life meaning Phenomenology: Awareness is Everything  Central insight of humanistic psychology – ones phenomenology is psychologically more important than the world itself o Phenomenology – ones conscious experience of the world; only ones present thoughts and feelings matter  Construal – ones particular experience with the world; different from others; form the basis of how one lives life (goals, opportunities you perceive etc) o Choosing your construal of the world (decide how you interpret your experience) is how to achieve free will – leaving this choice to others is how you lose autonomy  Introspection – observe own perceptions and thought processes Existentialism  Began in Europe in the mid 1800s; Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Binswanger, Medard Boss, Jean-Paul Sartre  Arose as a reaction against European rationalism, science and industrial revolution  Purpose of existential philosophy was to regain contact with the experience of being alive and aware  Existential analyses begins with the concrete and specific experience of a human being existing at a particular moment in time and space The Three Parts of Experience  Ludwig Binswager (existential psychologist) – if you look into your own mind, you will find that conscious experience of being alive has three components 1. Biological Experience (Unwelt) – sensations you feel by virtue of being a biological organism o Includes pleasure, pain, heat, cold and all the bodily sensations 2. Social Experience Mitwelt ) – what you think and feel as a social being o Emotions and thoughts about other people and that are directed to you 3. Inner, Psychological Experience (Eigenwelt) – how you feel and think when you try to understand yourself, your own mind and your own existence o Includes experience of introspection “Thrown-ness” and Angst  Thrown-ness – the time, place and circumstance into which you happened to be born o Heidegger referred to it as Geworfenheit  The world seems to have no overarching meaning or purpose in modern society – religion plays a small role compared to the past, and it’s substitutes (Science, art, philosophy( have failed to answer two most important questions o Why am I here? o What should I be doing?  Angst/Existential Anxiety – anxiety caused by contemplating the meaning of life and whether you are spending yours the right way o Can be analyzed into three separate sensations (Sartre, 1965) 1. Anguish – choices are never perfect; inevitable  Eg/ Good choice can lead to bad outcomes in other ways 2. Forlornness – nothing can guide your choices or atone for your decisions; no escape from existential solitude 3. Despair – many outcomes are beyond control  Eg/ fate  Redoubles your responsibility to affect those aspects of the world that you can influence Bad Faith 1 Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee  Existential Responsibility – it is a moral imperative to face Angst, your own morality and the apparently meaningless of life directly and to seek purpose for your existence nonetheless – requires optimistic toughness (existential courage)  Living in Bad Faith – strategy of ignoring existential issues o Eg/ avoid problems, stop worrying about what life means, get a job, advance social status, do as you are told by society and peers  Bad Faith has three problems 1. Ignoring existential facts is a cowardly lie; immoral and amounts to selling your soul for comfort – giving up the one short life you life if you refuse to examine the substance and meaning of your experience; might as well not be alive 2. Even if you manage to ignore troubling existential issues by surrounding yourself with material comforts, you will not be happy – most people value a meaningful life more than being wealthy, and that experiences affect peoples happiness more than possessions 3. Impossible; choosing not to worry about the meaning of life and surrendering your choice to external authorities is still a choice Authentic Existence  Authentic Existence – courageously come to terms with existence; face that you are mortal, life is short and you master your own destiny; entails being honest, insightful and morally correct  Will not relieve you from loneliness and unhappiness; life has no meaning beyond what you give it  Takes moral courage to cast aside defense mechanisms and the veneer of culture and peer into the void of mortality and meaninglessness  Friedrich Nietzsche – decided that the most honorable response was to rise above and become a superman – person who sought to triumph over the apparent meaningless ness of life by developing the existential strength to face what must be faced  Jean-Paul Sartre – through existential analysis, people can regain awareness of their freedom o Existential theory – the only one which gives man dignity and does not reduce him to an object o Existential Challenge – do all you can to better the human condition, even in the face of life’s uncertainties  Viktor Frankl – advise that you become stronger in the face of difficult circumstances if you ask “what does life want from me” as opposed to “what I want from life” The Eastern Alternative (Buddhism)  Perspective of Eastern religions that influence most of the people on earth (China, India, Japan etc) – often associated with collectivist cultures 1. Anatta – “non-self”; independent, singular self you sense inside your mind is merely an illusion  Counter; Rene Descartes – believed that existence of own singular self was the one thing he could be sure of 2. Buddhism – what feels like “self” is a temporary composite of many things (physiology, environment, social setting, society etc) that are constantly changing – there is no unchanging soul at the center; just momentary coming together of influences that are gone and replaced in the next moment 3. Anicca – nothing lasts forever  Illusion of having a separate and independent self is harmful – leads to feelings of isolation and excessive concern with “me” and that which is “mine”  True nature of reality is that everything and everyone is interconnected now and across time  All consciousness and all time have equal claim to existence and are equally important; time flows from present to present to present, not past to present to future  Ones existence is no more/less real than another person  Implies that instead of being forever alone and powerless, you are an integral and interconnected part of the universe and its part of you; you are apart of something larger than yourself that is immortal  Enlightenment – if you achieve understanding; manifested by caring for others the same as for yourself; leads to universal compassion; leads to nirvana  Nirvana – serene, selfless state Optimistic Humanism: Rogers and Maslow  Early 1950’s; Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow developed related approaches to humanistic psychology o Standard existential assumption that phenomenology is central and people have free will o Assumption that people are basically good; they seek to relate closely with one another, they have an innate need to improve themselves and the world Self-Actualization: Rogers  The organism (any person) has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism (itself) 2 Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee  Phenomenal field – the entire panorama of conscious experience; where mental experiences come together (unconscious conflicts, environmental influences, memories, hopes etc) – combine in different ways to give rise to persons ongoing conscious experience  A person can be understood only from the perspective of her phenomenal field  People have a basic need to actualize – maintain and enhance life; the goal of existence is to satisfy this need The Hierarchy of Needs: Maslow  A persons ultimate need or motive is to self-actualize o Motive becomes active only if the persons more basic needs are met first  Human motivation is characterized by a hierarchy of needs  Often applied to issues of employment o Managers understand 2 things:  Employees will not show initiative and imagination unless the feel secure  Employees who feel secure want something besides more money – they want to express themselves through their work by identifying with the organizations goals and contributing to them o 2 Models  Southwest Airlines – never laid off an employee  Does not pay as much as some of its competitors, it goes to lengths to make each employee feel important  Most companies  When in doubt, lay off more people  If employees feel overworks and underappreciated, pay them more  Explain how different cultures have different bases of happiness o In poorer nations – life happiness = financial status o In richer nations – life happiness = home life The Fully Functioning Person  Best way to live is to become more clearly aware of yourself and reality (Maslow)  Perceive the world accurately and without neurotic distortion, take responsibility for your choices – become fully functioning person who lives a happy authentic existence (Rogers)  Fully functioning person faces the world without fear, self-doubt or neurotic defenses  Can become fully functioning if you have experiences unconditional positive regard from the important people in your life (Rogers)  Anyone from any background can become fully functioning (Maslow)  If you feel that other people value you only if you’re smart, successful, attractive – you develop conditions of worth (Rogers)  Conditions of worth – limit freedom to act and think; distort perception of reality to believe that you’re only valuable if certain things about you are true o Lose your ability to choose what to do Psychotherapy  Goal of Rogerian psychotherapy and humanistic psychotherapy – to help client become a fully functioning person  Therapist develops a genuine and caring relationship with the client and provides unconditional positive regard 1. Help the client perceive own thoughts and feelings without therapist seeking o change them in any way 2. Make the client feel appreciated no matter what he says, thinks or does o Allows insight and the removal of conditions of worth – helps client become fully functioning  Requires time and patience from the therapist  Study – each individual in a group of people about to begin psychotherapy and in a group of people uninterested in therapy was asked to describe him/herself then an ideal person o Two descriptions diverged more among those who felt they needed therapy o When individuals repeated this procedure after completing Rogerian therapy, their real and ideal selves aligned more closely (not as closely as those people who did not seek therapy)  Problems o Results seem to be about equally due to changes in clients ideal views, as to changes in their self-views o Describing oneself as highly similar to ones idea of a perfect person is not always a good measure of psychological adjustment  Study – found that people afflicted with paranoid-schizophrenia considered themselves close to ideal Personal Constructs: Kelly  George Kelly – thought that a persons individual experience of the world is the most important part of her psychology 3 Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee o Personal Construct Theory o Emphasized how ones cognitive (thinking) system assembles ones various construals of the world into personal constructs (individually held theories) that help determine how new experiences are construed Sources of Constructs  Constructs viewed as bipolar dimensions o Bipolar dimensions – scales ranging between one concept and its opposite  Eg/ Construct is weak vs. strong; tend to see everything in terms of individual strength o Each persons cognitive system consists of a unique set of constructs  Role Construct Repertory Test (Rep Test) – assess individuals personal construct system o Asks you to identify three people who are/have been important in your life o Describe how any two of them seem similar to each other and different from the third o Follow same process with three important ideas, three traits you admire etc o Main Question – how are two of these similar to each other and different from the third  Chronically Accessible Constructs – particular constructs that are more readily brought to mind o Eg/ Idea of devastating failure – in everything he undertakes/considers undertaking; the idea that it will turn into a catastrophe is in the back of his mind  Constructs come from (but are not determined by) past experience  Metaphor – every person is a scientist; obtains data and devise a theory to explain the data o Data doesn’t determine the scientists theory; any data could fit into many theories – scientist always chooses which theory to use  Principle of Parsimony (Occam’s Razor) – idea that all things being equal, the simplest theory is the best  Does n
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