Rollo May Part 1
The work of Rollo May respects the contributions of noted European existentialistÂ thinkers, such as Binswanger and Boss. He is generally credited with importing andÂ integrating such philosophical issues into American psychology. May maintains theÂ fundamental existentialist proposition that human beings can develop in threeÂ domains or modes.
â¢ Umwelt or, literally, the âworld aroundâ: our inner physiological and outerÂ physical environment. As objective, many aspects of Umwelt are not within ourÂ locus of control, a scenario to which the existentialist terms facticity orÂ thrownness typically refer.
â¢ Mitwelt or, literally, the âwith worldâ: the social milieu, comprising ourÂ interpersonal relationships. Ideally, social relationships should be developed forÂ their own sake, rather than as a Freudian means for sublimating an instinctualÂ drive. Isolation, furthermore, does not achieve a meaningful existence,Â according to May. The core of Mitwelt interrelationships is that âin the encounterÂ both persons are changedâ (May, Angel & Ellenberger, 1958: 63).
â¢ Eigenwelt or, literally, the âown worldâ: the subjective psychological realm ofÂ both our relationship with ourselves and our reactions to Umwelt and Mitwelt.Â Self-awareness is considered to be an almost uniquely human trait. Feelings ofÂ emptiness and self-estrangement reflect disruptions of Eigenwelt.Â May states that optimal human development must address all three, interrelated,
Another key existentialist concept integrated into Mayâs work is Dasein, usuallyÂ translated as âbeing-in-the-worldâ and also conveying notions of life-force andÂ self-responsibility. In similar vein to the Rogerian actualising tendency,Â it is thought to circumscribe, if notÂ subjugate, all other drives, including sexuality and aggression. May consideredÂ Dasein to be a highly subjective and personal matter: no credible objectiveÂ adjudications can exist concerning how or what a person is to be-in-the-world.Â Existentialists further contend that there is no âwhyâ – that we are thrust into anÂ essentially meaningless world – and each person must discover his own potentialÂ and values, in the process developing both a conscious and unconscious sense ofÂ self as a discrete and autonomous entity. Dynamism is also intrinsic to Dasein: theÂ notion of the person becoming something not yet realised. May adopts theseÂ ideas to extend standard psychoanalytic formulations.
The âunconsciousâ, then, is not to be thought of as a reservoir ofÂ impulses, thoughts, wishes which are culturally unacceptable; I define itÂ rather as those potentialities for knowing and experiencing which theÂ individual cannot or will not actualise. (May, 1983: 17)