the Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment: Existential Givens—Freedom

9 connect the dot puzzle

Test: connect all nine dots with no more than four lines without lifting your pencil from the paper (a solution below).

This problem shows the power of a mental set, an unconscious predisposition to approach a problem in a particular way based on experience and habit. A mental set exemplifies the limitations experience puts on choice. However, the past is simply one of several limitations placed on our freedom.

Freedom is the beating heart of Existential philosophy, a critical wellspring of E-H Therapy. On the one hand, we are free, able to pause, deliberate, and decide. Yet freedom is not self-sufficient and unlimited. It is at once grounded in and constrained by finitude, by our facticity (Sartre, Heidegger) or destiny (Tillich). Shorthand, destiny is “myself as given, formed by nature, history, and myself.” (Tillich, 1951, p. 185) Biology, laws of nature, culture, conscience, and so on are elements of our destiny.

E-H Therapy theory holds that four existential givens (also called paradoxical polarities) pervade The Cosmological Dimension of the Therapeutic Encounter. The second polarity is the wish for freedom and the reality of limitation.

Finite freedom is present in therapy in any number of guises. It appears, for example, in self-restriction based on fear, guilt, or shame and in despair over dashed hopes or unrealizable expectations. Alternatively, it can occur in self-expansion manifest as aggrandizement, the unbridled pursuit of power or money, and so on. Our task as therapists is to help clients acknowledge and accept the realities and understand the influences of finite freedom. In so doing, we hope to help them move beyond their own mental set toward greater possibility, toward the expansion of freedom.

A Solution:

solution to 9-dot connect the dot with one line puzzle

Tillich, P. (1951). Systematic theology: Volume one. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Links to Related Resources and Blog Posts:

The Existential Moment: The Cosmological Dimension

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

Share this post

Related Posts:

The Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment: Acknowledge Death

“…it is he who is dead and not I.” 

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy is a powerful exploration of mortality. Through the story of Ivan Ilyich, a successful and respected lawyer, Tolstoy portrays the tragedy of a life lived without acknowledging the certainty of one’s own death. Instead, as articulated in the quote, denial is a staunch ally in the process: others die, not me.

Read More »
The Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment: On Dreamwork

Questions endure about the origin or meaning of dreams, from unconscious, repressed desires and archetypal symbols of the collective unconscious to modern theories about memory consolidation, emotional processing, and problem-solving. Regardless, dreams are one thing most surely: an opportunity. Take it!

Existential-Humanistic therapy draws its way of working with dreams from its humanistic heritage. Notably, it approaches dreamwork with the same emphasis on presence and experience as therapy. Furthermore, it avoids one-sized fits all dream interpretations.

Read More »
  • Search EHI

    Upcoming Events

    Get Updates

    Join our mailing list and get the latest in news and events.

    Blog Archives