I think I could be forgiven for thinking on a day like today with the spring sunshine streaming in through the window, that all is well with the world.

I might also be forgiven for thinking that there is a deep existential crisis occurring in the world just now.

The US is embroiled in arguments over a border wall with Mexico; the UK is in political crisis over Brexit; New Zealand is reeling from the shootings at Christchurch mosques; and Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been deluged, quite literally, with death and disease in recent floods.

For me, it all connects me with an acute awareness of the fragility of life; a sense of powerlessness, freedom and responsibility; a feeling of isolation whilst at the same time, being surrounded by a sea of others; and a question of meaning – that “what’s this all about?” element; “what’s happening to me, our world?”

Existential theory focuses on Four Ultimate Concerns ie: death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness, and the online Certificate in Humanistic Counselling includes a number of exercises focussing on these concepts as part of a theoretical base.

Now, I think it’s fair to say that few clients, if any, will sit down in your therapy room and state that they have an existential crisis of meaninglessness or death.

But, if we hold those four Ultimate Concerns in mind, I also think it’s highly likely that many clients’ issues are connected with one or more of those concerns.

They’re not comfortable elements to think about are they?  They are also difficult to write about.

But, anyone who experiences the death of a close friend or relative is likely to connect with a sense of their own mortality.

A personal crisis or trauma can raise issues of meaninglessness.

We may be hugely connected to the world via online platforms, but have an inner, gnawing sense of utter isolation.

And with freedom comes responsibility – we yearn for the former and baulk at the latter.

Existentialism itself is a philosophy and a lifetime’s worth of study.  But if we hold those four Ultimate Concerns in mind, much of what we experience within the therapeutic space becomes understandable and recognisable.

It’s profound work exhibited in human relationships, responses, physical, mental and emotional expression.

It’s a challenge to sit with those concepts and we may try to push our feelings away or “move the client on” to something more positive.

But those concepts are absolutely a part of our lives.
And, therapy is exactly that.

So will you stay or walk away?