The Society for Humanistic Psychology is convening this weekend at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Hundreds of people are gathering to learn about the latest research, share their findings, reconnect with old friends, and make new connections. As with many conferences, there will be a buzz generated, excitement will flow, and for many, a new sense of purpose will unfold. The challenge will be for each of us to carry the enthusiasm we hold when surrounded by other like-minded individuals into our daily lives and circles of influence.
Many of us believe to the core of our being that existential-humanistic psychology is the path that will lead our hurting world to a more vivified existence. We believe that our brand of psychotherapy is the most effective and transformative way of practicing. We are not afraid to face the challenges life presents head on and we encourage others to do the same. We grapple with our own mortality and the mortality of those we love and believe that doing so “saves us” (Yalom, 1980). We advocate for an equal balance of freedom and responsibility, believing that either out of balance is restrictive. We read and study philosophy and literature, hoping to deepen our knowledge and engagement with the world. We are often rejected by mainstream psychology, facing ridicule and having our ideas dismissed.
Why do we do this? Because we believe. We truly believe in what we are doing and we should. The way that we practice psychotherapy is life-changing. The way that we practice engaging existence is not only liberating for us, but for the people we influence. Like our forbearers, we know that therapy is literally a matter of life and death and we don’t take the process or our clients lightly.
When the DSM-5 controversy was raging, there was a surge of solidarity and a united purpose. Jason Dias asked us “what do you stand for” and caused many of us to reflect on our values. When the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting happened and the national spotlight turned to the mental health system, we spoke up. Now, without a controversy or an issue to be addressed, the voices have quieted down, and we are back to maintaining status quo. That ought not to be the case.
If we are to change the face of psychology, we cannot treat our purpose, values and mission as a hobby. We have to make a dedicated, purposeful effort individually and collectively to keep the momentum. Your contribution may be as simple as contributing to a blog regularly, participating in a book group, leading a consultation group, reviewing a colleague’s book or teaching a class. The way in which you contribute is not important but your contribution is. We need you. Existential Psychology needs your voice. The world needs your voice.
A friend and colleague commented recently “the world responds to action. The world does not respond to need or desire, but action.” We can argue the merits of our philosophy, but without taking tangible action to get our message out the world, we are conducting an exercise in futility. It is time for our message to be delivered to the world, and if each of us takes a small piece, we will get further than a handful of leaders carrying the load. Let us each take up the mantle and carry the work to a desperate and dying world.
— Lisa Vallejos
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