The Timeliness and Timelessness of Existential Concerns

MSP Core Faculty member Lee Bach, PhD wrote this Anti-racism statement to read in her Existential class in the MA program. Dr. Bach agreed to share her message with the wider community.

In light of current events that painfully illustrate horrific abuses of power against people of color, unprecedented abuses of power by the president of the United States, as well as beautiful demonstrations of courage, support, and love by citizens of all races, cultures, and ages, I am reminded of the timelessness and timelines of existential themes and poignancy of phenomenological understanding. 

We have learned that existential guilt arises when we are aware that we are not living up to our potential.  I believe that as citizens of the world, and certainly as psychologists, that fulfilling our potential includes exercising the goodness of our humanity to support our fellow humans who are suffering and to stand up to those who abuse their power.

We have learned we must create or find meaning.  The world does not come with a ready-made formula for meaning.  Is it possible that we can find meaning in caring for those who are suffering and speaking out against abuses of power?

We have learned that the awareness of our death can have a significant impact on the way that we live our lives.  Consider how you want to think back on your life when the end is near.  How do you want to be remembered?  I want to be remembered as someone who showed kindness, respect, support, and love to all of my fellow humans regardless of their skin color, cultural background, sexual orientation, abilities, or socioeconomic status. 

We have learned that the human condition is one of thrownness.  We have all been thrown recently, and especially our black sisters and brothers, by the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd as yet another account of injustice against a person of color. 

We have learned that an Existential-Humanistic approach to psychotherapy emphasizes the significance of the relationship which is comprised of genuineness, positive regard, and respect for the autonomy of our clients.  We have also learned about the modes of world (the worlds of self, our relationships, how we view the world at large, and our spiritual beliefs) that we, as humans, live in simultaneously.  This is to say that we know that our clients and our fellow humans are complex individuals.  Our aim as therapists is to understand our clients from their perspective.  I ask that we practice this phenomenological understanding with each person we encounter.  Let’s consider what it is like to walk in the other person’s shoes.

We have learned that our dreams, both our sleeping dreams as well as our hopes and aspirations have meaning.  Let’s honor these in ourselves and support each other in by providing words and deeds that demonstrate hopefulness.  Let’s support our fellow humans in reaching for their dreams.

We have learned that existential concerns are present for all human beings no matter their culture, race, age, abilities, belief systems, health or socioeconomic status.  We have learned that there are more differences within a group than between groups.  Let’s celebrate our differences and our commonalities.  Both are beautiful and add to the richness of humankind and to life itself.

Lee Bach, PhD is a Core Faculty member in the MA program at MSP. Dr. Bach is an alum of the MA and PsyS program at MSP.