The Existential Moment: The Cosmological

As the legend goes, young Isaac Newton sat beneath a tree when suddenly, an apple fell and struck him on the head.  “Aha!”  And the rest is history – gravity.

We all heard that story at some point in our childhood.  Newton “discovered” gravity, a bit trivialized by a schoolyard tale. 

Yet, Sir Isaac Newton indeed changed the world beyond measure, unleashing an unprecedented level of power and possibility.  In the Principia, Newton outlined the now-famous Universal Law of Gravity and his three laws of motion.  He also verified the power of inductive reasoning.  In one fell swoop, Newton brought down the traditional view of the universe (i.e., the Great Chain of Being) and, with it, conventional beliefs about human nature, social hierarchy, and the organization and purpose of social institutions, to name a few revolutionary changes. 

As the poet Alexander Pope wrote, “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said, Let Newton be – And all was light.”

According to Existential-Humanistic Therapy theory, the fourth and final element of the Four Dimensions of Therapeutic Encounter is The Cosmological.  Like Newton’s description of the universe, there are inescapable realities, “existential givens” that shape our existence.  How we relate to and engage with those realities influences our way of being.

In particular, four paradoxical givens comprise the Cosmological:  the wish to live and the inevitability of death; the wish to connect and the fear of loss, rejection, and abandonment; the wish for freedom and the terror of responsibility; the longing for meaning and the awareness of potential meaninglessness.

The Cosmological affects therapist and client alike; we are fellow travelers on a therapeutic journey.  The way a client copes with these paradoxes and consequent desires and threats (e.g., incomprehensibility, unpredictability, self-condemnation, etc.) influences health and flourishing, while the way the therapist manages them impacts the ability to help.

Will we “lay hid in night”?  Or are we willing to face the inescapable on a quest for the possibility of the light?

Links to Related Resources and Blog Posts:

The Four Dimensions of the Therapeutic Encounter [PDF] by Orah Krug, PhD, LMFT

The Four Dimensions of the Therapeutic Encounter Existential Moment posts on the EHI Blog.

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

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