The Human and the Hidden: Existential Wonderings about Depth, Soul, and the Unconscious

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This article presents an existential psychotherapist's examination of foundational concerns in depth psychology and psychotherapy. Following a phenomenological, hermeneutic approach to inquiry, it begins by tracing the historical origins of the term depth psychology (Tiefenpsychologie) as well as the meaning of the concepts of the soul (Seele) and the life of the soul (Seelenleben) as these latter terms are used in the works of Sigmund Freud. Drawing on the evidence of immediate experience as well as the daseinsanalytic thought of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and the Swiss psychiatrist Medard Boss, the article then presents an understanding of human existence as Being-in-the-world or Da-sein, that kind of being whose essence is described, first, as existing as such (i.e., rather than not existing) and, second, as being-there (Dasein). The article goes on to unfold an existential understanding of the meaning of soul (Seele) as the individual human being's very own situated gathering of lived-experience. Grounded in this ontological analysis, the article considers Freud's descriptive understanding of the unconscious before offering an existential view of being conscious or not as two basic ways of relating to one's own existence. Finally, the article proposes that the human being's ontological constitution as finite, fallen, forgetful, and fleeing as well as the world's own ontological concealment make possible these two basic ontical ways human beings relate to their own existence. Throughout the article, a steady dialectic is developed between the author's own everyday and clinical experience and psychoanalytic, existential, phenomenological, and humanistic thought.

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