The Existential Moment: E-H Therapy is experiential and relational

Can we be present with it? It’s beyond difficult.

The news and social media teem with stories of the Israel-Hamas War. Parents talking about the horrific murder of their children or burning of their families or video of glazed-eyed parents walking down streets carrying the limp, shrouded bodies of young kids. The stories and images are shocking, enraging, and, maybe most of all, soul-crushing.

Detachment and denial are one response. Rage and despair are another. Real fear another still. In many cases, they all mix and mingle and arise in moments. We polarize and split into groups, camps, or, to use thelanguage of President Biden, “teams.” Our better angels fly to heaven. Intractible patterns of blame, contempt, and violence define interaction. Add in a backdrop of war in Ukraine, and it’s all somewhat beyond words. It feels hopeless.

The work of this blog is instruction. Yet, that task seems misattuned, even inappropriate in a way, in the current context. Still, many of us or our patients seek healing and meaning in times like these. Few to no words seem sufficient. Worse, words seem utterly fraught. Anything said comes with a risk of “missing the mark,” offending one side or the other. Even not explicitly and unequivocally picking a side is risky and can land you in a quagmire.

Challenging issues permeate the field: the elusiveness of nuance in polarized times, the conflation (projection) of intensions in a world needing clear communication, paradoxes like the power yet peril of thecollective, pervasive ambiguity in a situation crying for clarity, the retreat to the safety of certainty when doubt inescapably looms, the embrace of uncompromising close-mindedness in a context begging for flexibility and problem-solving, unwavering hostility and deceit with no clear path to a much needed goodwill and good faith, and so on.

What are we to do?

E-H Therapy is experiential and relational. The experiential stands on presence, being present with what is for our clients, ourselves, and between the two, while the relational begins with radical acceptance, non-judgment, and openness. The last few weeks’ events, in a context marred by a century of hostility and suffering (itself enduring in the echos of a human history of bigotry and violence), bring these pillars of therapy to mind: their challenges and strengths, limitations and possibilities. In a time of trial and tribulation, when words escape, maybe it’s best to turn back to these basics—simply and humbly.

Links to Related Blog Posts:

Read more posts about relational and the experiential in E-H therapy on EHI’s blog. 

Read more posts about presence on EHI’s blog.

Read all the Existential Moment series posts on EHI’s blog.

Existential Moment Author: Scott Gibbs, LMFT, EHI Board Member-at-Large | Website: | Twitter: @Novum_Organum

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