Existentialism is a broad philosophical, psychological, and literary movement that focuses on the authenticity, freedom, responsibility, and choice of the individual confronted with the threat of meaninglessness and non-existence.

The first philosopher to use the term was Soren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855), who reacted against systematic rational philosophy, specially Hegel, and grasped the notion of a truth inside of the evolving self. Moreover, Existentialism is a philosophical view that emphasizes the importance of existence, including one’s responsibility for one’s own psychological existence. Related themes include living and dying, freedom, responsibility to self and others, meaningfulness in life, and authenticity. In the mid to late 1800s, philosophers Kierkegaard and Nietzsche described the basic issues affecting the human condition. People exist in their awareness of themselves as unique beings, within the natural world, in relation to others, and alert to spiritual issues. Life has no predetermined universal meaning and yet people yearn to have purpose. Each individual has the freedom and responsibility to construct the meaning of his or her life and to choose values that determine important choices. To live without considering life’s pur­pose, and to simply follow impulsive desires, denies personal responsibility and causes psychic pain. Ultimately each person is alone, though temporary meaning can be gained through transcendent intimacy with another person. Essential isolation requires each person to learn to depend on their own inner resources and to understand what cannot be gained from relationships. Life must also be understood as time limited. Anxiety related to death can be overcome through the meaning individuals create in the time they have. Rollo May and Yalom extended the philosophy into an existential therapy designed to support clients in making sense out of their lives through their own interpretations of life’s meaning.

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