Art Therapist in Training, Existentialism, Graduate School, Theory

What is the meaning of life? Is it bacon?

What is the meaning of life? Each one of us define this in a different way. Perhaps this is why Existential therapy can make an impact for clients who are struggling with what they are doing in life. No, not the “doings” and many people get caught up in all the go-go-go, but lose sight of what they really want to do.

As we discussed Existentialism in class and then we made a responsive art work, I felt like existentialism is the type of philosophy that could be discussed for days. I felt a longing to know what is the real impact? Why should I care, and can I see myself using this concept and type of therapy in my future practice? Of course, in order to answer these questions for myself (and this paper); I had to do some further studying in the reading and my own self-reflection.

In the preface of the chapter, there is a section on Rollo May. His main premise is diving into the human experience and a client’s own identity. For any of us to venture to what is our purpose, we need to define our identity first. It really does come down to what is important to me, you, the client, and all of us. I even wrote “BINGO!” next to the section that shined light on Emmy van Deurzen. She was able to help her clients through a self-discovery process, discover their own paradoxes in life; and face their troubles and problem solve. “They also discover what is most important to them.” To me, that is the true essence of Existentialism – discovering the most important things in life.

For me, this topic can get somewhat hairy. I grew up Southern Baptist and at some point in my high school years – I was either at home, at school or band room, or at Church. In the Christian doctrine, we are told that we must follow God’s path. Each of us are born with a purpose from God. Well, um, I need that sign now. I’m sure most folks who follow a religious faith and leader, probably go through a similar paradox. This can toy with the inner compass. Of course, I would never question a client’s faith or why they believe one philosophy over the other. I would definitely keep it mind if I were helping a client discover their identity, and how to progress in life.

Today, as I write this, it is interesting and somewhat fitting that I consider Existentialism and Existential Therapy. Today, I turn 33 years old. It is common to take a light inventory of life. Yesterday, my mom text messaged me and said “This is your last day to be 32, never to be 32 again.” Well, is there something I am suppose to be doing or feeling at 32, versus 33 years old? I try not to get wrapped up in the “supposed tos” of life. Now, I am only hoping that I am living up to my own personal reasons for the meaning of life – to give uplifting joy, to serve, and to be needed.

To end on a light and fun note, over the weekend, I watched the movie “A Dog’s Purpose.” It shows a dog, even as a puppy, asking “What is the meaning of life? Is it bacon?” In every scene, the dog Buddy re-evaluates what he is doing and what his purpose is. At the end of the dock by the water, he came to the epiphany that “My name is Buddy and I am a good dog.” There is that identity thing again! He realized that his purpose is to love his owner, make sure they are happy, and to save them.

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