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The Existential Moment: Supporting and Celebrating Freedom

“The road to freedom is a difficult, hard road.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

These words resonate deeply as we reflect on the significance of Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of their emancipation, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. This day, now celebrated as a national holiday, Juneteenth, symbolizes the long and arduous journey toward freedom for African Americans and the ongoing struggle for equality and justice.

Juneteenth is more than just a historical milestone; it is a celebration of freedom and a reminder of the resilience and strength of those who fought tirelessly for their liberation. As we observe Juneteenth this month, we are called to recognize the importance of meeting our past and embracing the present in our journey toward freedom.

E-H Therapy theory holds that four existential givens (or paradoxical polarities) permeate the therapeutic space.  Freedom stands center stage.

Freedom means first the absence of constraints (e.g., slavery). It’s what we celebrate on Juneteenth (or the Fourth of July). Critically, however, it also means the capacity to choose—to weigh choices and pick one, thus cutting off others. Our capacity to choose, to determine ourselves, stands in tension, paradoxically, with our finitude. It is constrained by our biology, past experiences and choices, cultural context, present realities, etc. Together we are “finite freedom” (Tillich, 1952). 

Pain, suffering, and fear, in particular, cause us to develop protective patterns that can maladaptively constrain our freedom, metaphorically enslaving us. Those protective patterns are often central to what brought us to therapy. Our choices in the present are constrained and channeled by our finitude.

As therapists, we play a significant role in helping our clients expand their freedom and increase their presence with what is and what might be. Our challenge is accompanying and supporting them as they grapple with two critical questions: “How am I presently living,” and “How am I willing to live?” The journey to greater freedom is often difficult as Dr. King knew too well. Even if the payoff isn’t guaranteed, the effort is undeniably worth it.


Tillich, P. (1952).  The Courage to Be. Yale University Press.

Links to Related Blog Posts:

Read more posts about the existential givens in E-H therapy.

Read more posts about freedom and protective patterns in E-H therapy 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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