Existential Analysis Theory

The Swiss psychiatrist/existentialist Ludwig Binswanger (1881-1966) developed this theoretical form of psychoanalysis in the 1930s that is based on the philosophical/phenomen-ological movement called existentialism -advanced by the Danish philosopher Soren A. Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), and the French philosopher/writers Albert Camus (1913-1960), Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), and Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) - which emphasizes the existence of the individual as a free entity burdened with personal responsibility (cf., the existentialist notion of bad faith - a form of self-deception in which individuals refuse to accept responsibility for their own freely chosen actions and depict themselves as the passive victims of worldly circumstance).

Philosophical existentialism is an approach holding that one's existence cannot be studied objectively, but is revealed via reflection on existence in space and time; it tends, also, to reject objective values and to discredit scientific knowledge and methodology. Psychoanalytical existentialism ("daseinsanalysis") seeks to reconstruct the inner experience of patients, not necessarily to cure symptoms; the goal of this therapeutic approach is to get patients to confront their existence and to exercise their personal freedom and autonomy. Binswanger's case study of "Ellen West" - the pseudonym of a young woman patient with anorexia nervosa who experienced extreme mental distress, ending in her tragic death - is one of the most disturbing, and celebrated, case studies in the literature of existential analysis and psychiatry. See also FREUD'S THEORY OF PERSONALITY; MEANING, THEORY AND ASSESSMENT OF. REFERENCES

Binswanger, L. (1942/1953). Grundformen und erkenntnis menschlichen daseins. Zurich: Niehaus. Binswanger, L. (1958). The existential analysis school of thought. In R. May, E. Angel, & H. F. Ellenberger (Eds.), Existence. New York: Basic Books. Binswanger, L. (1973). Being-in-the-world: Selected papers of Ludwig Bins-wanger. New York: Basic Books. Vandereycken, W. (2003). New documentation on the famous case of Ellen West. History of Psychiatry, 14, 133.

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