Rollo May’s Existential Approach

Spoken by his client as reported in “The Discovery of Being”:

I Remember walking that day under the elevated tracks in a slum area, feeling the thought, “I am an illegitimate child.” I recall the sweat pouring forth in my anguish in trying to accept that fact. Then I understood what it must feel like to accept, “I am a Negro in the midst of privileged whites,” or “I am blind in the midst of people who see.” Later on that night I woke up and it came to me this way: “I accept that I am an illegitimate child.” But, “I am not a child anymore.” So it is, “I am illegitimate.” That is not so either. “I was born illegitimate.” Then what is left? What is left is this, “I Am.” This act of contact and acceptance with “I am,” once gotten hold of, gave me (what I think was for me for the first time) the experience of “Since I Am, I have the right to be.” p 99)

On p 162 May writes, “The aim of therapy is that the patient experience his existence as real. The purpose is that he become aware of his existence as fully as possible, which includes his becoming aware of his potentialities and becoming able to act on the basis of them.”

May quotes a student who said, “I know only two things–one, that I will be dead someday, two, that I am not dead now. The only question is what shall we do between those two points.” P 169.

About Nan Mykel

I used to think I would be a child prodigy, but then I got old. Formerly I had fantasies of rubbing elbows with cultural and academic leaders but that did not come to pass because I did not become a cultural or academic leader or any other kind of leader, for that matter. I am not even an "Alpha Dog," a term learned from a friend who had to become "Alpha Dog" in order to influence her own pet. (When gazes lock, she never looks away.) For years I expected to become a published author, but in passing I could not avoid the fact that I had little to contribute to the world's bulging dumpsters. I'm embarrassed to report that I also considered my primary process artistic productions powerful, rather than mildly neurotic. Which is not to say that I disrespect myself, only that I am beginning to doubt my potential for making a mark on the world. If I focus on strict self discipline I may be able to keep my garbage removed on a weekly basis, to keep the kitty box changed, the clothes cleaned, the dog watered, fed and walked, but that just catches me up to the starting mark again. When writing I physically grapple with words, wrestling them from their indifference into attempted chunks of awareness. I sit heavily on my chair; I breathe in artificially cooled air; my ear drums note the tap tap of the keyboard and the steady uninterrupted sound of the air conditioner, What is that sound? The roar of the ocean from 30 yards away...Inside, my thoughts are are balls in an electronic game machine, bouncing hither and yon from lever to lever. I am a little grim and intent until I recall a dream related by a black man in the prison where I once worked. He said that when he was a small boy, back home, he dreamed he was standing on his front porch pissing, and that he suddenly found himself pissing stars...
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