Rollo May Part 2
The strength of Dasein within a person is construed as a barometer of healthyÂ development. In line with Mayâs thinking, a highly significant aspect ofÂ psychological health is the individualâs ability to imagine a desirable future stateÂ and orientate himself in such a direction through intentionality – both consciousÂ (when it tends to be termed will) and unconscious – so as to live purposefully in all
three domains cited above. May values intentionality as bridging the objectiveÂ and subjective:Â [Intentionality] is the structure of meaning which makes it possible for us,Â subjects that we are, to see and understand the outside world, objectiveÂ as it is. In intentionality, the dichotomy between subject and object isÂ practically overcome. (May, 1969: 225)
Love is seen as a particularly constructive way of celebrating Dasein; and itsÂ congruent experiencing and communication represents a desired goal of humanÂ development. May describes love as âa delight in the presence of the otherÂ person, and an affirming of his value and development as much as oneâs ownâÂ (1953: 241). It integrates elements of sex (physical release), Eros (yearning), philia
(friendship) and agapÃ© (non-possessive devotion). Love similarly encompassesÂ Unwelt, Mitwelt and Eigenwelt, but may easily be denied, repressed or trivialisedÂ within contemporary society. Psychological disturbance is proposed by May to represent constricted Dasein and to reflect a loss of intentionality and associated sense of personal significance.
Everyone has a need for . . . significance; and if we canât make thatÂ possible, or even probable, in our society, then it will be obtained inÂ destructive ways. The challenge before us is to find ways that peopleÂ can achieve significance and recognition . . . For no human being canÂ stand the perpetually numbing experience of his own powerlessness.Â (May, 1972: 179)Â It might also be described as unbalanced commitment to – or, conversely, neglectÂ of – one of the three modes of being-in-the-world. Development can beÂ particularly impeded by various pathogenic, if sometimes well-intentioned,
parental behaviours. Rejection can easily lead to the childâs social discomfort,Â shying away from others and, generally, a denial of Mitwelt. Stifling the naturalÂ expressions of the child may well generate a neurotic quest for safety, DaseinÂ becoming a casualty of social obedience. Pampering, similarly, discourages theÂ child from establishing her individuality and may hasten a sense of alienation inÂ Eigenwelt.
Anxiety (or, more correctly, the stronger German word Angst) is conceptualised asÂ a threat to Dasein. With death the one absolute fact of existence, awareness ofÂ such ânonbeingâ – which, again, feasibly only human beings are truly capable ofÂ envisaging – can generate considerable anxiety. May himself became convincedÂ of this following a brush with death due to suffering tuberculosis during his lateÂ thirties, encouraging him to modify his previously psychoanalytic views.Â Contemplation of death can, however, present an excellent opportunity to assertÂ Dasein:
. . . with the confrontation of nonbeing, existence takes on vitality andÂ immediacy, and the individual experiences a heightened consciousnessÂ of himself, his world, and others around him. . . . the confronting of deathÂ gives the most positive reality to life itself. (May, Angel & Ellenberger,Â 1958: 49)
May also distinguishes normal anxiety from neurotic anxiety, the former beingÂ proportional to the threat and fully conscious. Confrontation of normal anxiety isÂ part of healthy human psychological development. Neurotic anxiety isÂ disproportional and involves repression and conflict. It can result in the personÂ failing to exert Dasein in new situations and the blockage of personal growth.Â May advocates that guilt equates to not dealing with – especially retreating from -Â the three modes of being-in-the-world: sins of omission or commission arising fromÂ the impossibility of permanently valuing our connection with nature (a denial ofÂ Umwelt), of relating perfectly to and completely understanding others (a denial ofÂ Mitwelt) and of realising all innate potentials (a denial of Eigenwelt). The best wayÂ to manage guilt, according to May, is to develop a healthy humility about oneâsÂ own and othersâ fallibility (akin to the emphasis in Rational-Emotive BehaviourÂ Therapy, and several other orientations, upon unconditional self- and otheracceptance).Â This precludes symptom formation and facilitates adaptive humanÂ psychological development.
Regarding innate aspects of the person, May invoked the ancient Greek term forÂ both good and evil, for both the divine and the diabolic – the daimonic. LikeÂ Freud, May believed that we all have inbuilt constructive and destructiveÂ tendencies. Constructive drives centre around creativity and self-affirmation;Â destructive drives around hostility, domination and death. Similar to JungianÂ complexes (see Section 1.6), either tendency can overwhelm a person. AsÂ endorsed by additional parallels to the Jungian advice to âtameâ the shadow,Â psychological health can only be attained by the acceptance and integrationÂ into consciousness of the daimonic.Â In existentialist terms, the objective meaningless of the universe condemns theÂ person to be free. This is not to say that there are no constraints, as many do existÂ through heredity, culture, human-driven circumstances and âacts of Godâ. SuchÂ deterministic factors, often operating dialectically with freedom, May labelsÂ destiny. Were there no limitations on our existence, he argues, no sense ofÂ freedom would or could evolve.
Freedom and determinism give birth to each other. Every advance inÂ freedom gives birth to a new determinism, and every advance inÂ determinism gives birth to a new freedom. Freedom is a circle within aÂ larger circle of determinism, which is, in turn, surrounded by a largerÂ circle of freedom. And so on ad infinitum. (May, 1981: 84)Â May goes on to highlight several directions in which a personâs psychologicalÂ development can evolve in relationship to her destiny: co-operate with destiny,Â acknowledge it, engage it (through establishing and attempting to overcome itsÂ limits), confront and challenge it (by cultivating positive aspects of the daimonicÂ and harnessing the destructive aspects) or rebel against it (by refusing toÂ collaborate with or accept it).