“And Jesus answering said, a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him….” (Luke 10: 30-34)
The standard interpretation of this parable is about having compassion and charity for those in need, without expectation of reward. But what if we think about it slightly differently?
The Priest and Levite “passed by on the other side.” They are inattentive, representing absence, separation from now, being there but not. Alternatively, the Samaritan “came where he was.” He was attentive, signifying presence. And its healing power in an “I-Thou,” “love thy neighbor” relation.
That message, the healing power of presence in relation, is a core pillar of E-H theory. Presence comes from the Latin prae (before) and esse (to be). It means “to be before.” It includes awareness, acceptance, availability, and expressiveness (Krug, 2019).
The why of presence is healing and growth. Presence opens a clearing for grasping, a gathering place for recognition and realization (contrasted with an abstract understanding).
In being before, the therapist enters, participates in, and grasps the client’s world (e.g., self-world constructs, protective patterns, core wounds, etc.). The therapist then potentially holds a powerful mirror of disclosive possibility. Focus in the room is first on the “here and now” and primary process rather than secondary meaning-making or content.
In presence, likewise, the client sees and knows. Whether self-discovered on the therapeutic journey or grasped in a relational mirror, the answer becomes clear: “How am I currently living?” It paves a path to the question and a subsequent answer of possibility: “How am I willing to live?”
Krug, O. (2019). Existential-Humanistic and Existential-Integrative Therapy: Method and Practice. In E. van Deurzen (Ed.), The Wiley World Handbook of Existential Therapy (pp. 257-265). Wiley Blackwell.
Links to Related Blog Posts:
Read all The Existential Moment posts about “presence” on EHI’s blog.
Read all the Existential Moment series posts on EHI’s blog.