10 June 2017

The phrase ‘authentic self’ did not appear in the English language before 1835, and the term ‘existential’  did not appear before 1850.  This means that previous ages did not have these terms or these ideas.  So the existential concept of the authentic self was not known in antiquity, nor in the Middle Ages – nor does it occur in any religion.  For Buddhism,  for example, which postulates the existence of nine different levels of consciousness, all the lower non-mystical states of consciousness are lumped together as ‘the gross’.  Now in existential psychotherapy we are often, implicitly or explicitly, helping people to move in such a way as to become more authentic.  In a way, that is our trademark.  It  therefore behoves us to understand this concept more deeply and more fully than any other therapeutic discipline bothers to do.  We are helped in this by the work of James Bugental, who had the unique distinction of being on the editorial boards of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology and of the journal Existential Analysis – two of his books were about authenticity.

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Dr John Rowan
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