From the philosophical focus of the therapeutic being

It is the dimension of one-with-the-other that
results in psychotherapy, and this is based on the
constitution of man as being-in-the-world [1]


What happens to psychotherapy in these moments when, while fading itself into all the methods and styles, it undergoes the pitiless assault of the monolithic perspective of positivism?

Can we still hope psychotherapy listens to the being, psychotherapy opens a door, a beginning, a “ be-wëgung ”? Would it have become obsolete this psychotherapy which “provides the region of paths,”[2] that awakens the patient on a creative call can transform the gap ?

These last twenty-five years of practicing psychotherapy can only confirm this intuition, never denied, that therapy remains an existential commitment. Time has allowed me to become less of a therapist and more of an analyst: “The most ancient usage of the word “analysis” can be found in Homer, the second book of the Odyssey. It is used there for what Penelope did, night after night, namely, unravel the fabric she had woven during the day. Here, Analuein, means the unravelling of a woven fabric into its component parts. In Greek, it also means to liberate someone from their chains or to free someone from captivity… “ [3]

Today, I fully experience the direction I am going: to follow this way of being which gives rise to the Daseinsanalytic thought:

* To listen to existential dimensions according to which ones a man exists;
* To feel the missed parts of human presence;
* To dismantle the web of the patient’s history which has been tangled up because of his past, his beliefs, his representations, because the helplessness is part of the other elements which are tangled up.
* To go back to the breaking (weak) points which fail (destroy) the presence through the crystallisation of traumatizing events.
* To share the relevant moments of existences unfolding the “Macht der Vereinigung”
* To provide a welcoming space and time of serenity and silence where reconstruction can begin, one which is existential that can each day and at each event become undone in order to be rebuilt again and again.
* No longer think of a thought or an idea as a apodictic true but dismantle and experience it in order to reveal « in (this) transcendental search what stays hidden in my humanity » [4].
* Not to judge or stick to my beliefs.
* Hang up the thesis of the world, the natural attitude for “observing” just up to the point where it makes sense, while knowing that in the act of perceiving, I can feel myself in an immediate relationship with myself.
* Go back to the origins, to the universal ground of all experiences that constitute a world before logical operations, free from themes.
* Be aware of the fact:
o that objects are not perceived as they are but from my experience which establishes a personal relationship which precedes reflexivity, all positional and objective consciousness.
o that living is also acting on a ground that escapes my control, from my consciousness but I can suffer that.
o that if a life-experience disappears to free another one, what it is composed of, is still there.
* Never forget that living, every act, every truth of conscious, every decision, every recognition is only possible on a passive ground, at the same time original (those of which the intentions precede all activity of reason) and secondly, (those which come after the production of reason). Passivity “is neither the quality of the object, nor the property of the subject, but a relationship of sense between the subject and the object, that’s to say, an intentional way of conscious, a way of being present in the world : there is only the passivity of the act, this passivity may precede, accompany or follow the act” [5]

I must point out that none of these approaches are natural or obvious, that not one of them is never totally achieved but they always demand attention. The Dr. Roland Kuhn, who died last October, to whom this conference is dedicated to, reminds us that: there is nothing less obvious that the phenomenogical glimpse, that this attitude which suspends the natural attitude and our tendency to judge from our beliefs.

How do we see, describe, explain [6] and accompany the movement of the life of a patient without betraying him or her?

Heidegger’s answer is based on the thoughts of Blaise Pascal « When everything is equally disturbed, nothing stirs on the face of it, like on a ship. When everything looks like its going to overflow, nothing seems to do. The one, which stops, points out the behaviour of the others, right away.” Commenting on this thought, Heidegger points out that the simple participation of ‘Co-natural’ behaviour of life prevents the work of understanding, that is to say the categoral interpretation. The problem is to find an attitude in front of life which does not immediately betray his sense of being. This attitude is a “hermeneutic” attitude. This is certainly one of the roles which philosophy plays in a clinical approach : it allows the clinician not to be carried off by the flow of the world for, at the moment when the being is covered, when the meaning escapes, to return constantly to the thing itself. “Understanding is not only, to dominate, master or produce “results” which can be checked and are independent of the observer, but rather be questioned and engage in a dialogue”[7].

For Heidegger, hermeneutic is not a theoretic subject, a general theory of the interpretation, but an internal factious dimension. It means that the “understanding” is an intrinsic dimension of the factious life, not a cognitive type of behaviour. Understanding is a way of being of the Dasein himself. “His hermeneutic is to be in the service of the awaking of oneself of the Dasein” [8]

Following the example of Gadamer, the clinician becomes aware that art, human sciences, the clinical practice don’t reveal themselves “with an objective distance” but to the contrary, through a “being-taken by the sense, a questioning or a calling” [9].

Day after day, the meaning of “the therapeutic being”, of the therapeutic space becomes clearer:

* Isn’t therapeutic space above all a welcoming space ? “A thoughtful listening” of the profound difference of the other-being-in-the-world raising in my space.? “A opening which respects the being of the other of which he himself is not conscious. An opening which reveals (reveals what it doesn’t show but essentially remains the same..?).

o The tensors of this Welcoming space are:

+ Ethic, understanding as an attitude which favours the presence and consciousness of a relationship between two subjects and that implies the understanding of what “being a man means” and

+ Hermeneutic. While respecting the relationship and staying oneself in the humility of the “presence-in the world”, we have to decode the logical structures, understand how our joint existential gives meaning to the world and to the words in order that a dialogue can establish a common world, a world in the company of others, an environment which opens the space to meet.

* The relationship between the psychotherapeutic and the patient is built on by a liberal, open-minded solicitude. “This kind of solicitude pertains essentially to authentic care – that is, to the existence of the Other, not to a “what” with which he is concerned; it helps the Other to become transparent to himself in his care and to become free for it.” [10] It opens a space of presence where the patient can prove to himself and to the world again.

* Isn’t psychotherapy, when it realizes all its possibilities, a meeting which transcends the existential commitment which links two presences-in- the-world, which both suffer deficiencies but one of them continues to experience the fundamental existentials?

* Psychotherapy awaits that the psychotherapist still explores himself, that he questions his being in order not to congeal in his beliefs, in a doctrine or a Doxa. He doesn’t show the patient the way but is a witness of it.

* The therapeutic space lives also a daily life where nothing which is visible or touchable can go. The literal therapeutic time which “ignites the spark of life” is an event. It is never intentionally provoked. It surprises as much the patient as the therapist and transcends both. It implies a real transformation, metamorphosis.

* The therapeutic space is a sharing moment of two personal paths which don’t impose on each other. Neither is built on truth, nor on a model. They are simple witnesses of a horizon of possibilities, of a “there” where man becomes what he has to be : always be open to an incredible happening.

* The therapeutic space welcomes the interlacing of verbal and body language like a unit of meaning which doesn’t stop to dismantle and rebuild the semantic constructions in view of a logoV which makes obvious what the word has to say : unveil the true.

* The therapeutic space is also an opening of a temporality where the present, articulates past and future to rewrite the patient in his life experiences and his history without being locked up.

* My own story, being always engraved in an artistic strata, I could never dissociate it with a therapeutic process. Both have inevitably been always interlaced. Psychotherapy and more particularly the existential analysis, the Daseinanalysis is, to me, an intelligence to the service of an art of being-in-the-world, of a working which reveals the event of an understanding. It isn’t about “making it visible but making visible”[11]. My work on the clinician is related to that of a painter who «makes visible the invisible as invisible, that’s to say, keeping its enigma».

* Psychotherapy like painting unfolds ‘a space which is not the focal point of the conscious subject but is a vibrant space which the thing itself surrounds to meet the other thing, like an eclipse.

* Finally, through time and my encounters, an irreducible has been revealed: philosophy. I could never have continued to respond to the harrowing call of the patient without the resource of the philosophical thought, a thought which lives, which will never be theoretical but fed by dialogue, by listening and by the presence of my master and friend: Professor Maldiney. The writings of Henri Maldiney unfold the curled wrinkles of thought and silently call the being-in-the-world to exist.

The thoughts of Henri Maldiney aren’t reduced to the concepts that it generated. He writes “as a witness of the significance of the being who sweepingly crosses and wraps around it” [12]. This significance disrupts his conscious and pulsates his thoughts in order to work as close as possible with this “presence which is mad with feelings”. His writing “puts the world in motion or in tension, in a space always ready to tremble when the Other looms up out of his own field of presence”. The opening of his work makes it very moving . Writing without having determined the ground on which the scriptural phenomenality put ours in despair.

Educationalist and teacher, he has always succeeded the difficult bet of harmonising the exterior and interior, content and what it contains. The strained basis of his writing tirelessly summons us to the present in effect “I can” “I exist”. One of these crucial tensors of this focus and his thoughts is the dialectic of the unavoidable presence of “the emptiness” of our lives, up hills and down hills of all the task and tearing open of which the occurrence of events is “to loom up”. To be a witness of this “looming up” underpins the withdrawal of ourselves. It’s not about abusing the essence of the “loom up” to appear.

The greatness of Henri Maldiney is to offer the ineffable the horizon of the word, a free expanse of significance which dwells in “a non-place of the beings”. It seems to me that this way of thinking can only save the psychiatry from the worst dangers that it threatens and of which Binswanger made clear and watchful: a psychiatry which ostracizes the thought of man and the thought itself.

This decisive meeting with Henri Maldiney and the readings such of Husserl and that of Heidegger or Merleau-Ponty have contributed, have allowed me to be aware and “to think that life is a task in which it is impossible to conceal” [13] ?

While thinking about life, we use and abuse so much the words that we can realise the easiness with which we pronounce them wrongly and run the risk of distorting them.

Everybody still understands them but nobody can define them. They feed the chatting and hawk the rumour, ending up deprived of all credibility. Nevertheless, they stay as they were: fundamental expressions of human existence waiting for a space, for a time to unfold again silence and true.

Shouldn’t psychotherapy be a restoration place where words can take a breather?

What do we call psychotherapy today? All sorts of help, no matter what it may be?
From not questioning the Being of things, public opinion gets stuck in what today has become an economic lobbying because to question psychotherapy ? “We are careful because we already have an answer to the question, and an answer such as it is implies at the same time that it is completely forbidden to question.” [14]

Listen to this patient “It’s unbearable, I’ve always got the impression that I’m going to fall. Everything becomes blurred. I’m not balanced any more. I can hardly stand up. I’m driven towards emptiness. It’s horrible, this continuous vertigo”. [15]

These simple words, combined into short sentences, make the recurrent complaint of one of my patients. What does it tell us ? How do you take it? What answers can we draw ?
Speaking expresses a feeling which forms in me a contact with the world; talking together smothers this meaning in enhancing the Other. If the words allow us to act on the representation and the mental world of others, allow us even to awake a conscious, they deny another. Speaking opens a field of awareness while reducing its horizon.

Just as Olivier chooses his words to focus our attention on how he sees the world, he points us to his own significability, to the way in which he gives a meaning to his life, to his world. But the meaning of his words display only a part of themselves. They dive into the history of those which hear and configure them by means of their own experiences. That’s why, a philosophical training and more particularly phenomenological becomes essential for the hermeneutic clinician. Let’s not forget that “every word, as befall of his own instant, also gives a presence of not saying what it brings, in answering and signalling.” [16] Remaining present to these interlacings of saying and not saying underpins “a forgetfulness of self and a mediation of oneself”, a crossing of ones own life in overflowing of oneself-to-the-other. The hermeneutic quality of the listener depends as much on the wealth of his experiences as on his capacity to abstract them.

Husserl has made us more aware : “not holding on to the ground” is not an anodic feeling. When the ground no longer plays its “archi-matrical” role where I can stay and relax, all my bearings disappear, all my being sways.

What can we oppose to this powerful nothingness which weighs down the patient but our solicitude, our openness? This underpins as much a presence as an existential commitment that a phenomenogical reduction that allows the therapist to be “there”. Where? Precisely where something unfolds while withdrawing.
Choosing the path of psychotherapy implies from that time, going beyond knowledge, an experienced awareness which looms up :

* A daring capacity-to-be-with-the-other, at the peril of oneself
* An understanding hermeneutic (Verstehen)

o from oneself
o from otherness and
o from the relationships which have sprung up between Selbstwelt and Mitwelt.

* A possibility to “awake” and “thrive” atmospheric (Tellenbach)

So many therapeutic foundings could not have been revealed without the coming enlightment of Philosophy.

Yes, dear Colleagues, let’s not forget that we are also responsible for what we haven’t yet opened: the clearing of the Being.

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

French-English translator : Sarah Walters []

1: Henri MALDINEY, Penser l’homme et la folie, 1991, Millon, p.85
2 : Martin HEIDEGGER, Acheminement vers la parole 1959, Gallimard Tel 1976, p. 182
3 : Martin HEIDEGGER, Zollikoner Seminare, 1959-69,V. Klosterman, 1987 , ( propos rassemblés par Médard Boss), p.114-115, traduction personnelle
4: Edmund HUSSERL cité par Arion L. KELKEL, Le legs de la phénoménologie, Ed. Kimé, 2002 p. 33.
5: Anne MONTAVONT, De la passivité dans la phénoménologie de Husserl, PUF, 1999,
6 : « Husserl distingue une phénoménologie descriptive d’une phénoménologie explicative. La phénoménologie statique ou descriptive décrit l’acte, la phénoménologie génétique ou explicative explique sa naissance en remontant jusqu’aux couches les plus élémentaires de la constitution, en descendant en deçà de l’œuvre de la constitution active vers les couches les plus profondes de la passivité. La statique s’occupe du monde, la génétique s’occupe de cet être qui précède le monde, c’est-à-dire la subjectivité transcendantale. » Anne Montavont
« Husserl distinguishes a descriptive phenomenology from a genetic phenomenology where he explains its birth going from one side of the most elementary layers of its active composition towards the deepest layers of passivity. The static takes care of the world, the genetic takes care of this being who precedes the world, that’s to say the transcendental subjectivity. » Anne Montavont
7 : Jean GRONDIN, Le tournant herméneutique de la phénoménologie, PUF, 2003 p.83
8 : Jean GREISCH, Ontologie et Temporalité, P.U.F., 1994, p. 37
9 : Jean GRONDIN, Op.Cit., p. 93
10 : Martin HEIDEGGER, Being and Time, Blackwell, 1927 – 1962, p.159
11 : Paul KLEE cité par Henri Maldiney, Regard, Parole, Espace 1973, Âge d’homme p.115
12 : The italics show the passages that have been borrowed from the works of Henri Maldiney or transcribed during our interviews of which the last theme was done this summer, in August 2005. The complete bibliography of Henri Maldiney can be found at:
13 : Jean GREISCH, Op.Cit., p.30
14 : Martin HEIDEGGER, Questions I ,Gallimard, 1968, p.156
15: OLIVIER, extrait d’un ses nombreux textes reçus lors d’une consultation ou envoyé. Au total, 162 pages.
16 : H.G. GADAMER, Vérité et Méthode, Seuil, 1996, p.483