I came across an incredible children’s book called, What Do You Do With A Problem. I found it to be one of the best explanations of the existential approach to problems in life. It takes about five minutes to read, or you can listen to the video above. The story touches on some existential themes such as anxiety, depression, isolation, freedom, and responsibility. For the existentialist, life is no picnic and is full of problems. When dealing with the vicissitudes of life, we can ignore our problems, medicalized them, or hope they go away; or we can take a different approach. We can listen to our feelings and ask what our feelings are telling us about ourselves and our problems. We can push life problems away or use our problems as an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. By taking responsibility for our problems in living, we can often find greater freedom and perhaps even learn something along the way.
The book, Existential Therapy: Distinctive Features by Emmy van Deurzen is a good reminder to view each person as a free individual, responsible for their life. But, on another level, the is a book about how to push a particular set of belief on another person.
The aim of the book is to introduce readers to the key concepts of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). REBT is a type of therapy developed by Albert Ellis, a 20th-century psychologist. Ellis maintained that we disturb ourselves and make ourselves angry, anxious and depressed about external events. He claimed that by understanding our underlying philosophy behind why we become upset, we can choose a new philosophy that is more helpful and realistic, which in turn will allow us to navigate life’s difficulties with more ease.
Below you can read an excerpt from the book:
Existentialism (as I see it) is the idea that we can explain human behavior according to reasons (choices), not causes. To this end, I have been interested to read how existentialism is used as a practical tool to help people understand themselves and their lives. I picked up the book, Existential Perspectives On Coaching, edited by Emmy van Deurzen, to see if I could gain insight into how coaches use the existential approach to help people with problems in living.
Thomas Szasz’s book of witty aphorisms, The Untamed Tongue: A Dissenting Dictionary, is both insightful and hilarious. If you are just starting out with Szasz, and want to understand his views, I suggest one of his books of aphorisms, such as The Untamed Tongue as a place to start.
If you are interested in writing, podcasting, or discussing the ideas of Thomas Szasz, please get in touch with me by using the contact page or leaving a comment below.
In a debate, recorded in 1977, Thomas Szasz and Albert Ellis argue over the concept of mental illness. Szasz argues forcefully and humorously for his position that mental illness is a sort of metaphor for problems in life. Albert Ellis maintains that mental illness is a useful concept that should not be dismissed.