An existential crisis is a situation in which our entire existence and everything we used to take for granted is in the balance, so that we feel insecure and threatened. This affects all dimensions of life, at the physical, social, personal and spiritual levels. It means that our bodies are challenged, our relationships are changed, our sense of our self is altered, and our beliefs and values are shaken up. For most people this is a very difficult experience to encompass as it leads to a total revolution of our established patterns, routines and habits. It always involves a lot of loss and therefore leads to feelings of bereavement and sorrow as well as to experiences of confusion, fear, anger, doubt and panic.

In this presentation, we shall consider how existential philosophers and therapists are able to make sense of such situations, be they caused by politics, society, personal choices or natural catastrophes. We shall explore the relationship between the shattering of our most reliable connections to the world and the loss of meaning. Then we shall consider how we can rise to such limit situations and personal challenges, finding ways to thrive instead of being destroyed by radical change, transforming and transcending our previous existence.

Reading Recommendations:

  • Deurzen, E. van with Craig, E., Schneider K. Längle, A., Tantam, D. and du Plock, S. (2019) Wiley World Handbook for Existential Therapy, London: Wiley.
  • Deurzen, E. van and Arnold-Baker, C (2018) Existential Therapy: Distinctive Features, London: Routledge.
  • Deurzen, E. van and Adams, M. (2016) Skills in Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy, second edition, London: Sage. [2011]
  • Deurzen, E. van (2015) Paradox and Passion in Psychotherapy, second edition, London: Wiley [1998]
  • Deurzen, E. van and Iacovou, S. (2013) Existential Perspectives on Relationship Therapy, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Deurzen, E. van (2012) Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy in Practice, third edition, London: Sage [1988]
  • Deurzen, E. van and Hanaway, M. (2012) Existential Perspectives on Coaching, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Deurzen, E. van (2010) Everyday Mysteries: A Handbook of Existential Psychotherapy, second edition, London: Routledge. [1997]
  • Deurzen, E. van (2009) Psychotherapy and the Quest for Happiness, London: Sage.
  • Deurzen, E. van and Arnold-Baker, C. (2005) Existential Perspectives on Human Issues, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Emmy van Deurzen - The Weekend University

Emmy van Deurzen is a philosopher, counselling psychologist and existential psychotherapist. She has founded and directed a number of training organizations and continues to be the Principal of the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling at the Existential Academy in London. She is a visiting professor with Middlesex University.

Amongst her 17 books are the bestsellers Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling in Practice (3d edition 2012), Psychotherapy and the Quest for Happiness (Sage, 2009) and Everyday Mysteries (2nd edition Routledge, 2010). She is currently completing her eighteenth book, entitled Rising from Existential Crisis for PCCS books. Follow Emmy on Twitter @emmyzen.

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