Irvan Yalom is a renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has made significant contributions to the field of existential psychology. One of his most influential concepts is that of the "existential givens," which refers to the fundamental aspects of the human experience that we all must confront at some point in our lives.
According to Yalom, there are four main existential givens:
These givens are not just abstract concepts, but fundamental experiences of humanity.
Death, perhaps the most obvious of the givens, is the ultimate inevitability that we must all confront. It is a reminder of our own mortality and the temporary nature of our existence.
Freedom is another key aspect of the human experience, as it is our ability to make choices and act on them. However, with freedom comes responsibility, and the realization that we are ultimately responsible for the choices we make and the consequences that follow.
Isolation is another existential given that we must confront, as we are all ultimately alone in our own experiences. No matter how close we are to others, we are still separate individuals with our own thoughts and feelings.
Meaninglessness is the final given, and it refers to the idea that life does not have inherent meaning. It is up to each individual to create their own meaning and purpose in life.
These givens are fundamental aspects of the human experience that we must all confront. By acknowledging and coming to terms with these givens, we can better understand ourselves and our place in the world. While these don't seem like the most everyday, common, topics, they are the things that we all know that we have in common which makes them really valuable as we interact with others. While they might not be our favorite topics to discuss, they are some of the most pedestrian, everyday concerns of your neighbors. Hope this is sobering and helpful. Until next time, be pedestrian.