The transitory nature of our existence in no way makes it meaningless. But it does constitute our responsibility; for everything hinges upon our realizing the essentially transitory possibilities
– Viktor Frankl
Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we think, how we put life together. My specific emphasis is how to better survive a depressive episode or rather how to divert one in its early stages, but through self-management. One of the models I’ve considered a lot is from existential psychotherapy (Deurzen & Arnold-Baker, 2005), influenced of course by the great Viktor Frankl (1992).
We exist in the private world (Eigenwelt) inside our head, the social world (Mitwelt) in which we exist in relation to other people, the physical world (Umwelt) in which we and others live, and the deal world (Uberwelt), which paradoxically reflects our private view of how the worlds we live in should be. This latter world is a strange loop in that it takes us back to where we start from (our private world), and is similar with a view onto the world.
These provide a framework for exploring human development and thinking across all dimensions.
Understanding this model explains a lot of the self-referential conversations that we all have. I often talk to myself in the supermarket about what I want and the quality of the produce. On occasion, I’ve been interrupted; on one occasion the woman who asked me “are you talking to yourself?” agreed with me when I replied: “it’s how I get good answers”. It’s how I write too: cycling in and out of the worlds, looking at the relative views.
More seriously, when the black dog bites (in my private world), I strive to ‘escape’ into one or many of the other worlds. Why so? I deliberately quote Viktor Frankl at the head of this piece. He used our innate ability to distinguish between different worlds as one of his counselling instruments: self-distancing. When you’re troubled, the idea is to step out of yourself and take a ‘distant’ view on your situation, with one of the worlds as your reference point. Often as not we can find a solution that way.
Deliberately transitioning between worlds helps us to stay balanced, and helps us to take new perspectives on all sorts of issues as we wade through life. The different worldviews provide differential lenses through which we can develop.
Deurzen, E. V., & Arnold-Baker, C. (Eds.). (2005).Existential Perspectives on Human Issues: A Handbook for Therapeutic Practice London: Palgrave Macmillan
Frankl, V. E. (1992). Man’s Search for Meaning. An Introduction to Logotherapy(4th ed.). Boston, MA: Beacon.