Success...But HOW?!? The Existential Approach...


In the last blog I decided to look at failures and successes, distinguish between the two, and then figure out whether "failures" are, indeed, failures.  Since it isn't difficult to spot a "success," or accept one for that matter, I believe the topic of how to approach challenges and obstacles, delays and disappointments is a far more useful and practical endeavor.

The first approach I would like to dive into and that I personally favor and find very useful and practical is the existential approach.  It is an approach that I believe guided me on my own journey out of a very challenging upbringing and, as some would label, a "dysfunctional home life."  From the time I could recollect my earliest memories, I was confronted with a lot of challenges.  By the age of 8, I had already been facing sexual abuse, substance and drug use in the family, various mental health issues and even incapacitation of a main family member, the death of my younger half brother, Haim, at the age of 19 in a drug and violence related incidence on the streets of Brooklyn, and my family had multiple relocations under its belt, of which one involved moving from Israel to New York.  I was a bubbly, happy and loving kid at heart, but my childhood had left me feeling lost, unsure of how the future were to look, feeling abandoned and desperately seeking to find a way to a life that would be healthy and happy.  I, like many children in my shoes, had the opportunity to believe that my family determined my prospects and that I would also follow in the steps of substance use and mental disorder, struggling to find happiness in all the wrong places.  Yet, I was fortunate and in many ways blessed to come to the belief that I was capable of more.  Capable of being sober and happy.  Capable of following my heart's desires and fulfilling the greatest purpose for my life.  My past did not have to destroy me - it could play a role in creating me!  Creating a resilient me, a victorious me, a strong-willed, courageous me.  And, that is the crux of the existential approach.

Existentialism is actually a philosophy of life which has many founding faces - from philosophers, theologians, writers, and doctors such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Soren Kierkegaard, Frederich Nietzsche, and Vickor E. Frankl - and which is now being used as a basis for much counseling and psychotherapy.

Existentialism, akin to the views of Buddhism, posits, primarily, that humans have inherent freedom - ONLY in how they choose to perceive their world and everything in it.  We humans understand that there is an inherent lack of control over what life presents us, which are called "existential anxieties" - like the economy, natural disasters, the environmental effects of pollution, the job market, or the reality of aging - though, we have just enough power that we are considered co-authors in our unfolding destiny: "the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way" (Corey, 2017).  With this freedom, we have a built-in responsibility to make choices, and when we refuse to reflect and make these choices, according to existentialism, we experience a "neurotic anxiety," or simply put, we lack a sense of fulfillment and meaning in our lives.  Its in these moments that we feel a need to define our purpose and meaning in life, and feel a longing for deeper introspection.

The next closely linked tenet of existentialism is that humans have the power of self-awareness and reflection. (Corey, 2017)  What this means for us is that we have the ability to not just sit back and "let life happen to us," but to introduce an awareness and, through reflection, to choose how to respond.  In fact, existentialism states that we must decide on our value systems and makes choices from there if we are to feel congruent and consistent, empowered, and joyful.  And so, the more we become aware of our value systems and live "authentically," the freer we are from anxiety and the burdens that come from giving the power of choice over to others who we otherwise would allow to define us, like our family, friends, teachers, bosses, religious leaders, or society.   In his book, "Code of the Extraordinary Mind," author, revolutionary thinker and founder of MindValley, Vishen Lakhiani, calls this the "culturescape."

Another very fascinating tenet of existentialism has some basis in Kierkegaard's view of human development that "becoming human is a project."  I love that! There is so much freedom in knowing that we are able to participate in the creation of our person.  This frees us from the false belief that humans are fixed beings that are pre-destined to live like their parents, their leaders, their friends and instead posits that we are meant to live and uncover ourselves and life is vehicle in which we become ourselves, create ourselves.  So, we aren't fully human until we have taken the journey and actively become the person we have decided we can and will become - which, again, places a great deal of power in our hands, along with some responsibility.  Sure, its oftentimes easier to allow others to define us, this way we don't have to feel the pain of making mistakes, or facing disappointments, but when we invest less in our personal masterpiece of "creation," which is the equivalent of living "inauthentically," we experience suffering.  In Nietzsche's words: "he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."

Now let's tackle the steps that existentialists, or Logotherapists, explain are necessary to living authentically, based on personal value systems, following a path that is leading us to the ultimate identity creation - OURSELVES:

PHASE I - OBSERVE: we need to examine our current belief systems, assumptions, and values. 

Marisa Peer, the founder of RTT Hypnotherapy, tells us that our thoughts become our beliefs, our beliefs become our habits, and our habits determine the life we will lead.  Maris says: "we play the only part we've ever known, until that part becomes our own."  For some people, their thoughts, or the opinions of others (family, friends, the media, teachers, etc...) aren't ever really examined, or evaluated for their desirability, or validity, and so, we follow them to wherever they lead us - to the beliefs and habits that then dictate our experiences.  That's wonderful when the thoughts are telling us that we have amazing potential, that we are competent, overcomers, victors and not victims, that we are smart and beautiful, and more than enough.  They are awesome, when they are in line with what our Creator, our God, Who says about us in the Book of Psalms: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:14)  Or, as the Prophet Isaiah reveals to us that our Creator to us, "I am He who formed you.  Fear not, for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name, you are Mine; you are precious in My sight, and honourable, and I love you; fear not, for I am with you." (Isaiah 43:1,4-5) in the New Testament, we are told that "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." (Phillippians 4:13)

Oftentimes though, the thoughts we harbor and meditate on are just the opposite.  They are debilitating, they rob us of our self-esteem, and sense of self-worth.  They tell us that the divorce is the end of us, that this financial challenge is too difficult to bear, that we deserve the pain we're experiencing, that we can't achieve more than our parents did, that we may never be a good parent or a great partner, that we won't ever break the addiction, that we aren't smart enough or capable enough.  According to Marisa Peer, somewhere along the continuum of our lives, we go from being joyful, confident, self-assured Divine creations, to adopting false beliefs about ourselves that cause us to believe the lies that tell us that we aren't enough.  These false beliefs are the real root of our suffering and struggles.  It isn't the divorce, or the layoff, or the loss that does us in, but what we believe about these things.  And, more so, what we believe about ourselves as we go through these challenges.

If you would like to the take the first step on this journey and do so on your own, my recommendation is to begin by entering a state of peaceful meditation.  The best and most simple form of meditation is the "black and white meditation." (a link to a video demonstration of this powerful, though simple technique will be provided soon)  After entering a state of meditation, bring to mind the area of your life that you would like to examine and see what thoughts, feelings, or beliefs arise.  At this phase, there is no need to do anything in particular with these thoughts, or beliefs - just OBSERVE THEM!  

So, what after phase i?

PHASE II - QUESTION: we need to decide for ourselves whether these beliefs are desirable and valid for the person we are striving to become, or whether they are just outdated, inapplicable to our higher purpose, adopted though not a genuine expression of ourselves.

In this phase, we BEGIN TO QUESTION these beliefs.  Where did I get the belief that women should be quiet, submissive housewives? Who ever told me that my grades wouldn't allow me to succeed in life? When was I told I was worthless and I began to believe them? When was I disrespected and belittled and I began to believe that was what I was worthy of?

In most cases, we don't come to the Universe with destructive, debilitating, and self-defeating beliefs,  We have a built-in belief in our self-worth, a sense of joy, and a faith that we deserve happiness and that our needs and desires will be met.  The false beliefs are just acquired contaminants in the hardware of our mind, as pastor Joel Osteen explains in his book "Think Better, Live Better."  The good news is, as I tell my daughter, we don't have to accept gifts that do not resonate with our soul, our purpose, or our intentions, and we can choose to, instead, kindly say "no thank you," and choose to create and receive what is in-line with our values and dreams for our life and our future.  That's what this phase revolves around. 

My personal recommendation for how best to tackle Phase II is either in further meditation, or prayer, or by relying on a therapeutic relationship with a counselor - in my case, I rely on a Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) approach and the potent RTT technique.  RTT hypnotherapy is like a concentrated form of meditation which allows access to the subconscious brain and the beliefs it is harboring - beliefs that are not so readily accessible to the conscious brain, though they guide our everyday lives, and determine our actions and our choices.  And SFBT allows for the conscious brain to turn on it's solution-oriented focus, which then allows the conscious mind to provide additional power, intention, and motivation towards the change from the old to the new beliefs.  RTT allows people to rapidly and with precision tackle unwanted, "hidden" beliefs, and revise, eliminate, or replace them with new, helpful beliefs.  

For those of you who have an interest in getting a guiding hand through counseling and chose to take, or retake, the RTT Hypnotherapy approach, to solidify the changes made during the session, this is the phase where we rely on a recording, called the "cure," for 21 days (and sometimes beyond), as we assume new ways of thinking and believing.

PHASE III - APPLY: we are to take what we learned about ourselves and our revised or revamped belief systems, and gradually, moment by moment, choice after choice, strive to walk and talk and act in alignment with our desired future selves.  

This can prove a bit challenging, at first, and for some time afterwards because, as Marisa explains, our mind prefers what is familiar and so we need to make what is unfamiliar familiar through practice and repetition  However, this is also the EXCITING phase where we begin to see changes in ourselves and in how we approach circumstances.  This is the phase that motivates us to continue on making conscious efforts at becoming the person we desire to become and the phase that reveals to us, moment-by-moment, how fulfilling and joyful living a conscious life can be!!! I encourage you to follow your heart, have faith in your ability to bring about positive, lasting changes into your life, and live a life full of inner peace, happiness, and deep meaning!

Hope you find this information helpful and useful!

Yours in prayer & transformation,

Bracha Oriana Fishman, RN, RTT Hypnotherapist

My next blog will go into detail about another approach to Living a Successful Life, and it involves Bibliotherapy. 

For those of you seeking guidance and support on your path to transformation, freedom, or healing, and would like to experience a counseling and RTT session firsthand, feel free to contact me. All new clients receive a free 15-minute phone consult and returning clients are offered additional incentives, including discounts.

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