Existence is transcendence : a dream, a reality in the field of mental health in Belgium The Event as the existential disruption of daily life

Existence is seldom but we are constantly.
We exist only sometimes just when an event transforms us.


Everyday Life and its disruptions from a Daseinsanalytic perspective

I’m quite sure any Daseinsanalyst knows how important it is that the person discovers his being, his Dasein, how important the existential approach is, the therapist’s central task and responsibility it is to seek to understand the patient as a being and as a being-in-his world, to help him to accept, to let him go at this single decisive moment we open ourselves to the “full human presence”.

We know this but what does “Daseinsanalyse” mean for the common human being crossing the street in Belgium? Almost nothing! There is such a gap between Heidegger’s “Dasein” and the “streetwalker” that nobody can expect what could happen if he was a little bit more aware of his manifold potentiality of being, aware of his possibility to shape his world through his personal experience of time, space, causality, materiality…

In the first five years of our foundation, we had just to share the basic meaning of Daseinsanalyse before any further deepening of this unthinkable thought peculiar to the human being: existence understood as a process of self-transcending, of his capacity for transcending the immediate situation because he has the capacity for “Sorge”, for care or, more accurately, for understanding his being and taking responsibility for it. It’s really a pity how one misunderstands “being-in-the-world”, hoping to catch it like an object in some new-age training. How can we explain how often therapists, nowadays, turn away from an existential way, preferring a cognitive method? More than ever, the “question of being” is forgotten or, even, burned.

Last may, at the defence of my thesis, Professor Maldiney, my mentor; remembered us how the mental field doesn’t question anymore the ground, the essence of the human being whereas it becomes more and more important. One of the reasons could be that the belief in the therapeutic effect of “presence” implies that the therapist has to risk himself because, as the relation deepens, as both open themselves to each other, something very powerful can happen, tearing apart daily life. Another reason could be that this way of being-together probing the essence of human being can not become a concept but has to stay an existential, something you experience without any mental process.

First of all, let us remember that, before we meet someone asking for psychotherapy or starting a psychotherapeutic training, we have to deal with a human being in search of the meaning of life, trying to express his potentialities and fighting against his tendency to become absorbed in the Mitwelt, to slip into das Man, the one, the anonymous mass; his tendency to renounce the particular unique and original potentiality which is his.

As Heidegger thought, I think that the manner of considering our death, our being-towards-death, gives the tone of our life. We have to be aware that we are mortal. Since we were born, we have to be ready to die. Moreover, we have to feel this dreadful presence which brings everything to nought without letting ourselves go into a nihilistic tendency. On the contrary, through this feeling, we can question truly our own being and go on with our aim: being acting in the light of the possible. Let us not forget that, if we can realize the Dasein in ourselves, if we have the capacity of “Gestaltung” of “shaping”, we can also lose our own being by our own choices, whereas a stone or a fish cannot, we have also the capacity of destruction and self-destruction.

Confronted with this feeling of “nothingness”, we can choose between a kind of fatality which means that there is nothing to be done or, on the contrary, tear off this nothingness the ripping of which will unfold “an open field” of “understanding”, a lighting. Whatever happens, anxiety can freeze our potentialities. We have always to deal with this anxiety to surpass it. Instead of this dialogue, our first tendency is to run away from this feeling in entertainment, in chatter, in curiosity. We are sinking more and more deeply into a daily life where “ I “ is disappearing in the anonymous mass of one -“ man”.

Even if „one“ may hear a call – The call does not report events ; it calls without uttering anything. The call discourses in the uncanny mode of keeping silent. And it does this only because, in calling the one to whom the appeal is made, it does this only because, in calling the one to whom the appeal is made, it does not call him into the public idle task of the “they”, but calls him back from this into the reticence of his existent potentiality-for-being.” – , to avoid any sensation of anxiety, the first and continuous tendency of falling, failing, what Heidegger calls “Vervallung“, “fallenness” urges us to turn away from the question of the essence of our being – Dasein is a entity which does not just occur among other entities. Rather it is ontically distinguished by the fact that, in its very Being that being is an issue for it.”

What are we waiting for to finally grasp how much we are loosing ourselves? Precisely what couldn’t be awaited: a real meeting, an encounter which tears apart daily life, all our markers and puts us out of ourselves, out of our beliefs in the light of the being. This disruption shows us what “existence” as the essence of Dasein means.

If I could just read Heidegger, my encounter with my mentor Maldiney meant a lightning of Being. From this experience on, I didn’t talk or teach Daseinsanalyse anymore but started to live it . “Erlebnis als Ereignis “ !

I would like to stress this possibility of Encounter as the most important event which could happen to a human being because it opens “the opening” - “Nirgends ohne Nicht : das Reine, Unüberwachte, das man atmet und unendlich weiss und nich begehrt.”, because it reveals the mystery of Mitdasein, to be-together. The core of every real relationship understood as an Encounter reveals a existential risk that both persons are taking, a risk of collapsing if both can’t improve – owing to this Encounter – the fundamental transformation of their world. Most of them don’t dare and have to stay alone or to confine themselves into the Mitsein where the other is not taken as a person but as an instrument.

Every patient suffers from this feeling of absence, of emptiness, of incapacity to enter in a real relationship, a suffering of distance without any proximity. That’s the reason why some try a call, a timorous attempt toward psychotherapy.

In view of the large field of psychotherapeutic possibilities, what will be the characteristic of “Daseinsanalyse” ?

The first one and, perhaps, the most important is that the Daseinsanalyst, the existential analyst never forgets that the main dimension in psychotherapy - as obvious as withdrawn- is the opening for an encounter ; a free, unfolding atmosphere in which therapist and patient can attune to each other as human beings. It means “ a emphasis on presence : the relationship of the therapist and patient is taken as a real one…this presence does not at all mean the therapist imposes himself or his ideas or feelings on the patient. This presence is no to be confused with a sentimental attitude toward the patient but depends firmly and consistently on how the therapist conceives human beings”

Through these feelings which proceed from the possibility to be together (Mitdasein), the patient can believe again in what has gone: closeness, sharing. We can expect that the Uncanny mood is sometimes but more and more, suspended. The main dimension of Daseinsanalyse is so simple, so obvious for everybody but, in the same time, so absent, far beyond the care of most therapists : the Dasein himself, the essence of a human being as existence, as transcendence.

As Jaspers had remarked “What opportunities of understanding we let pass by because at a single moment we were with our knowledge, lacking in the simple virtue of a full human presence.”

Boss remembers Heidegger’s profound meaning of existence in this terms : “existence is essentially an openness to perceiving whatever enters the realm of this openness, shines forth within it, and so comes to be present as a being with its own meaningfulness. The “pre” of “present” presupposes an open realm. Into this a being can shine forth as “phenomemon” which means “a being’s revealing itself” Without this realm of perspective openness – as which human is engaged – nothing at all could be, neither a world nor anything in a world. Being as presence is not possible except into a realm that is perceptively open, clear, and free.

Because human existence is by nature an open and clear realm of understanding, it is inherently attuned in some way or other.” Boss continues as follows : “ The fundamental traits of a human being are not just so many bricks with which Da-sein is put together. All are human being-in-the-world, and whenever the fulfilment of any one essential trait is disturbed, every other trait as well is affected to some extent.

Conversely, no matter how severe the illness, as long as a person still exists, it is impossible for even one of these traits to disappear altogether.

Making the most of the English summary of Pr.Condrau, we can remember that “besides the primary openness of understanding, the main other existentials, or essentially human traits, equally primordial, identified an interpreted by Heidegger are :
• Spatiality
• Temporality
• Historicity
• Mood or attunement
• Being-with
• Bodihood
• Thrownness ( being cast, without choice, into a world which is also not of our own choosing)
• Fallenness ( our tendency to fall prey to the dictates of social value and will, as opposed to following the call our own conscience, of our authentic self)
• Mortality , being-towards-death
and what Boss adds
• The unfolding of inherent potentialities into existential freedom

It’s not a matter of an intellectual discussion or a pure philosophical approach but a real improved attuned-understanding “Verstehen is immer gestimmtes”.” “Logos must be made flesh of the world”. That might be the second characteristic less deepened : the existential opening of the therapist to the world, his own progress, his presence which has not only to support his thought and words but also has to become the witness of his own questioning of the being.

Existence must be understood by the patient not through words, as a concept but through the attunement with a different atmosphere, an other Stimmung as his, which is most of the time restricted, confined, unknown, strange, unfamiliar, uncanny… An attunement with a open atmosphere where the patient can feel in his flesh what Heidegger wrote : “ “Dasein transcends” is shaping a world (Weltbildend), allowing being-as presence to come into view. Not subject-object, Dasein-world, but Dasein as being… the human being is the guardian of the clearing, of the disclosive appropriating Event (of being).”

In spite of this fundamental philosophical approach, we have always to remember that we are also “organic”. On the one hand, never forget that “just when a human being is existing in the most highly characteristic human way, he is totally unaware of his body as such. The human being completely loses his awareness of his bodihood as a physical body just when he is acting most genuinely human (though) there is no manifestation of human existence which is not bodily.”

On the other hand, let us remain aware that there are organic diseases, physiological dysfunctions which we have to treat. Psychotherapy implies also this kind of opening: to be careful of those organics symptoms sometimes withdrawn in a diagnose like depression witch require the competence of medical care. Nevertheless, we also have to be watchful not to reinforce the famous Cartesian splitting.

Daseinsanalyse through his existential understanding of bodyhood might claim: “Dasein exists his body which means that proceeding from the pivot of his body through significance-creating relationships, a human being transcends the body to arrive at the things of his world.”

Neither “streetwalkers” nor “Scientifics” could give sense to such assertion, to any existential assertion. The most difficult challenge for a Daseinsanalyst is to really engage himself in a relation, to dare open himself to meet someone who could be closing. The belief of the streetwalker is most of the time gloomy, too heavy, too grave or too light, too flighty, more or less at a distance for any hold, any impact on the world, on reality, on his present, in the absence of in the illusion of any feeling of transcendence, lost in his past or flying above his future. He is getting stuck in his daily life. He “is” like he “was” without any evolution. No feeling of happening.

A “Scientific” as we usually call him, is stuck in his belief that everything real is under his control, even if “the real thing to understand” is a human being. As a therapist, he can not believe – and doesn’t want to – that his personal experiences, his way of improving them, his mental representations could have any influence on the therapeutic process, all the more so, imagine that his “life’s history” (lebengeschikte) could be one of the vault key of the therapeutic relation as Howard Buten wrote in his last book about autism. “The therapist is (of course) presumably an expert. The technical view of the other person is perhaps the therapist’s most handy anxiety-reducing device. This has its legitimate place. But technique must not be used as a way of blocking presence.” Buten believes that he looks after his patients, first of all, with his own personality and humanity, whatever the chosen therapeutic method. Buten practises this idea through sharing with autistic children his own ground. His first step in the relation is a opening to the other what we could call empathy. “Any notion of empathy, of ability to feel one’s way into another, tacitly assumes that an understanding of that other is already there. The precondition of empathy is the prior, primordial, and immediate understanding of the other as the being he is.”

Buten’s empathy is not “one’s way” but implies a detour: a kind of “motorist resonance” which begins to be understood for instance by Rizzolatti in Parma. Buten takes the position and imitates the movements of his young patients which involve a feeling of to be-one, “einfuhlung”, to be-one-together, a feeling of understanding.

I remember how, without knowing Buten’s behaviour, I had in the years 79-80 the same intuition with a young autistic boy. In this particular presence where, in the same position, in the same immobility, I experienced vividly what “presence” meant – to be out of yourself – I could feel a new space emerging between the two of us where, in silence, we could be together.

Day after day, little by little, about nothing happened. But I’ve never forgotten it, whereas I’ve never viewed it as a therapeutic strategy. I just saw him, always alone immobile on his chair. One morning, I sat down near him, not too close, not too far, neither invading physically nor spiritually. It’s not belonging to a cognitive dimension but more to a receptive, sensitive part of your self. Years later, my training in haptonomy enlightened me about it.

I don’t’ know if I could help him to trust a little bit more the world but he let me touch “une signifiance insignifiable” : something making sense which couldn’t be turned into words, tearing apart my daily life for ever. Unthinkable for a scientific! Or, at least, not enough!

Let me be clear. There is neither a good nor a bad position. What I want to insist on is the link between your way of living, thinking, believing and your belonging to any therapeutic school. No therapist from any school can claim the truth but just look forward to some harmony between the unfolding of his own being and his therapeutic movement.

As Maldiney, Kimura … wrote, the unfolding of the therapist’s being can unfold the being of his patient. As Daseinsanalyst, it becomes fundamental to be in resonance with your belief, to be, as Rogers claims it too, congruent or authentic. You don’t have to explain your belief to your patient but he has to feel – even through his own closedness – your “being transcendent”. Let me remember you this important quote of Tellenbach : “ There are always beings who are lucky to enlighten and to open the atmosphere and on the other hand some which unfortunately might disturb it or even destroy it.” Don’t you agree that the therapist has to enlighten the atmosphere? It’s not a matter of knowledge or learning but depends more how you probe the mystery of life, how you let unfold what is most of the time hidden in the core of the beings; it depends of “the co penetration of your gradient of openness and your quotient of deepness ” , or, in other words, it depends of your capacity to meditate, for some, the clearing of the being, for others, the source of emptiness. Isn’t it the same?

This practice reinforces your self-consciousness and allows you to break up your “self-constructions”, your evidences, all kind of self-protections, allows you to be outside of yourself in full presence and to take the risk to be with someone else who would not become your tool or your instrument but a person. This human-beings dialogue helps you to break free of daily life with less anxiety. In the first moments, the patient will try to avoid this anxiety, escaping himself in entertainment and chattering but slowly “the existential therapist can aid the patient in absorbing the real impact of such experiences by helping him develop the capacity for silence (which is another form of communication) and thus avoid using chatter to break the shocking power of the encounter with the insight.”

“Daily life” is how your live daily is, most of the time , repeating schedules from day to day, without any surprise, without any commitment, lost in the realm of the “one”, in the realm of the beings, living in a time without instant (Augenblick – moment of vision) – that present which is held in authentic temporality and which thus is authentic itself, we call the “moment of vision” , these daily life, requiring any existential decision, sinking into the human tendency of the fallenness.

It’s a very anaesthetic, inauthentic but reassuring way of living. Don’t misunderstand me! It’s not a negative dimension of your life to avoid. You have to live such a daily life while remaining open, receptive to any event even the most unforeseeablewhich could bring you out of this kind of sleep by tearing down this comfortable but in a certain way unbearable framework.

Every real encounter throws you again in the open field of the being which demands from you a complete transformation of your self, of your evidences, of your beliefs. If you can not, overwhelmed by one event, like for instance psychotics are, your life’s opening becomes completed obliterated. Can you imagine how much this disruption can induce anxiety? Without trust in yourself, in the world, you don’t dare to exist your life, like most of the neurotic symptoms confirm it. To understand what Binswanger would let know to every psychotherapist : “the far more fundamental failure (for a psychotherapist) consists of an impotence to wake or rekindle (the) divine “spark” in the patient which only true communication from existence to existence can bring forth and which alone possesses, with its light and warmth, also the fundamental power that makes any therapy work – the power to liberate a person from his blind isolation, from a mere vegetating in his body, his dreams, his private wishes and to ready him for a life of genuine community,” your life’s experience has to bring you, as it brought me, to consider pathology first of all as an incapacity to exist our life, to transform the crisis caused by any disruptions of our daily live because something weakened the possibility of being-together. For these ones, beyond any strategy or theoretical background, Daseinsanalyse becomes a founder’s ground. This authentic being-together needs, beyond years of training and a strong knowledge, humility, “Selbstbesinnung » , self’s meditation which on ethical point of view becomes « menschheitliche Selbstbesinnung », self’s meditation on a human level and, last but not least, this awareness of transpassibility – to be able to be passed by something impossible before your experience it… as for instance the powerful presence of a masterpiece. Art is an unbelievable way to give movement again where almost everything was stuck.

“Although the painter denies objectivity in terms of picturing an object since “the human being cannot picture anything” and although the traditional conflict in philosophy between subject and object means nothing to him, it is still the case that all is one, that if there is nothing outside, then nothing is what is. It is this nothing that Malevich’s Suprematism wants to release from the weight of the figurative. This is precisely the crux of the painter’s philosophical thought : the impossibility of being able to picture, to picture oneself, to represent, to represent oneself. The suprematism mirror is the zero, “the zero as the ring of transfiguration of all that is with-object into objectless. “It is from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being begins”.”

Dr. Ado Huygens, Doctor of psychology & clinical phenomenology
President of the Centre and Belgian School of Daseinsanalyse
Vice-President of the International Federation of Daseinsanalyse

: We have to insist on the suffix “ing” as the translation of the German one “ung” which means that we are still shaping, that the form that we give, coming out from nothing, is never accomplished. For more information : Hans PRINZHORN, Expressions de la folie, Gallimard, 1922 –1984 ; Henri MALDINEY, Penser l’homme et la folie, 1991, Millon, page 320 or L’art, éclair de l’être, 1993, Comp’Act, page 320.
: Martin HEIDEGGER, Being and Time, Blackwell, 1985, page 392 “Der ruf berichtet keine Begebenheiten, er ruft auch ohne jede Verlautbarung. Der Ruf redet im unheimlichen Modus des Schweigens. Und dergestalt nur darum, weil deer Ruf den Angerufenen nicht in die Verschwiegenheit des existenten Seinkönnens.”Sein und Zeit , 1927, M. Niemeyer, 1993, p.277
: Ibidem, page “Das Dasein ist ein Seiendes, das nicht nur unter anderem Seienden vorkommt. Es ist vielmehr dadurch ontisch ausgezeichnet, das es diesem Seienden in seinem Sein um dieses Sein selbst geht.”Ibidem, page 12
:Rainer Maria RILKE, Die achte Elegie, 1929 Points 1972, page 74
: Rollo MAY, Contribution of Existential Psychotherapy, Existence 1958, Jason Aronson Inc. 1994, page 80-83
: Karl JASPERS, quoted by Rollo May, op.cit., page 80-81
: Medard BOSS, Existential Foundations of Medecine & Psychology, Jason Aronson Inc., 1079-94, page 109
: Ibidem, page 199
: Gion CONDRAU, Martin Heidegger’s impact on Psychotherapy, Mosaic, 1998, page 29
: Medard BOSS, Op.Cit., page 199
: Martin HEIDEGGER, Sein und Zeit , 1927, M. Niemeyer p. 187
: Martin HEIDEGGER, Zollikon Seminars, Northwestern University Press, 1987 – 2002, page 192…178
: Medard BOSS, Op. Cit., page 101
: Ibidem, page 128
: Howard BUTEN , Il y a quelqu’un là-dedans. Des autismes, Odile Jacob, 2003, personal translation
: Rollo MAY, Op.Cit., page 85
: Medard BOSS, Op.Cit. page 148
: Giacomo RIZZOLATI and Co : Cognitive Brain Research 3,131, 1996
: Hugo von HOFMANNSTHAL quoted by Henri MALDINEY, Ouvrir le rien, l'Art nu, Encre Marine, 2000, page 20
: Researches of Kolevson (1989) or Vasco & Dryden ( 1994)
: «Chacun apparaît, a son épiphanie, dans le regard de l'autre pour autant que celui-ci s'y apparaît à lui-même en son autophanie toujours en ouverture et dont la signifiance n'est pas monnayable en significations. » Henri MALDINEY, propos recueillis par Ado Huygens et reproduits dans « La rencontre existe le fond », in Henri Maldiney, une phénoménologie à l’impossible, L’art du comprendre,Collection Phénoménologie, 2002. page 34
: Ibid., page 50, Personal translation
: Henri MALDINEY, Existence, Crise, Création , Encre Marine, 2001 page 211, Personal translation
: Rollo MAY, Op.Cit., page 89
: Martin HEIDEGGER, Op.Cit. page 386”Die in der eigentlichen Zeitlichkeit gehaltene, mithin eigenliche Gegenwart nennen wir den Augenblick”, Op.Cit. page 338
: Here we introduce Maldiney’s fundamental french notion of « transpassibilité » which I propose to merely translate by « transpassibility » in Penser l’homme et la folie, Op.Cit. : « à n'être passible de rien qui puisse se faire annoncer comme réel ou possible » ? (p. 421) « to be receptive by nothing which could be announced as real or possible » ; « L'absolument impossible exprime, au plan de l'étant, la transpossibilité de l'être-là" (p.394) ; « What is absolutely impossible to express, on the level of the beings, the transpossibility of the Dasein, the being-there » ; "L'événement se fait jour à travers un état critique existential qui n'est pas celui d'un être fini mis en demeure d'assurer sa continuité à travers une faille, mais celui d'un existant contraint à l'impossible, c'est-à-dire d'exister à partir de rien. La transpassibilité à l'égard de l'événement hors d'attente est une transpassibilité à l'égard du Rien d'où l'événement surgit avant que d'être possible. " (p.422) « Any event is coming out through a critical existential state which is not this of a finite being forced to insure his continuity through a fault (weakness) but this of a existent compelled to the impossible, what it means to exist from nothing. The transpassibility towards this unexpected event is a transpassibility towards nothingness which from the event is coming out so to become possible. ”
: To avoid any confusion, I don’t dare to write my hypothesis that the opening on a ontic level has to be focused; this focus is jammed most of the time in the opening for psychotics and in the closing for neurotics but this demands more development and meditation before to be wrote.
: Ludwig BINSWANGER, Introduction à l’analyse existentielle, 1947 , Minuit 1971, page 131
: Jean-Claude Marcade Malevich, painting, and writing : on the developpement of a suprematism philosophy, in Kazimir Malevich, suprematism , Deutshe Gugenheim, 2003, page 40