The Existentialist Essay

3607 Words Oct 15th, 2010 15 Pages
May’s Existentialism and the Epistemic Inventory 2
Rollo May was one of the leading existentialist psychologists in the twentieth century. His writings have shaped contemporary discussions of man’s struggle with
“being in the world,” and the difficulty inherent in such a task.
A brief review of May’s biography is useful in understanding the philosophical path which he chose. May was born in Ada, Ohio, the first of six children born to parents who had great difficulty in their marriage. His mother and sister both suffered from mental illness, and their instability caused May to spend much of his internal life in an introspective solitude produced by psychic pain.
After briefly attending Michigan State University and
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A full review of May’s prolific work is beyond the scope of this paper, but selected passages will be quoted to underscore the meaning of the different sections of this paper.
Interspersed with the examination of May’s theory will be my own analysis and thoughts regarding his writings. Though my reading of May is limited, there are still portions of his theory which seem to present cohesively, and others which do not.
Underlying Premise about Reality
May’s existentialist psychology views reality as constructed by man himself.
That is, man is ultimately responsible for the quality of his own existence, which takes precedence over merely living in the world. There is no split between the subject and the object in existentialist psychology, but rather an attempt to view man as able to control his own destiny. This “cutting below the cleavage of subject and object” has implications for the psychotherapist as well, which will be discussed later in this text.
Additionally, May wrote that reality is a continually evolving entity. Each individual’s reality is somewhat different from another’s, and this difference is crucial in understanding the “potentiality” of each person. This readily transmits into existentialist psychotherapy, which May said, “ . . . does not deny the validity of dynamism and the study of specific behavior patterns . .

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