Existential Study Notes: Spinelli

Drawn while reading Ernesto Spinelli (2015) Practising Existential Therapy: The Relational World, Second Edition

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Sound Bites

Sartre’s (in)famous summary of existential thought, ‘existence precedes essence’ (Sartre, 1991: 28), has been derived from a sentence in Heidegger’s Being and Time: ‘the “essence” of dasein lies in its existence’ (Heidegger, 1962: 67) (Spinelli, 2015: 33).

All instances of meaning reveal themselves to be ‘captured’, essentialised moments of meaninglessness. (Spinelli, 2015: 37).

Wrapped in paradox as it is, existential phenomenology argues that the enterprise of making oneself authentic is itself a statement of inauthenticity. (Spinelli, 2015: 47).

My awareness of my experiential isolation requires a prior awareness of the existence of others whose experience differs from my own. And even then, it must be asked: Why should these isolating differences matter to us at all, other than because our awareness of the gulf dividing our experiences is equally an awareness of that shared foundational relatedness through with an isolationist divide arose? (Spinelli, 2015: 50).

Although change also creates a new way of reflectively experiencing relational being, who this new being will be and what will be his or her experience of relational being, remains uncertain and unknowable. Our experience of change rests upon the existential death of the being-who-was. Repeated over and over again, throughout our lives, our experience of existence is shown to be in a perpetual dance with death anxiety. (Spinelli, 2015: 52).

Clearly, the remembered past makes up a minute percentage of the totality of sensory-derived events that we have perceived over the course of our lives. In addition, it is also evident that what we attend to or what stands out for us as being relevant, meaningful or significant within any memory of a past event is itself a highly limited selection of all the variables and constituents contained within that remembered event. Thus, we are left with the conclusion that the remembered past – even at the level of its content alone – is a ‘plastic’, selective (and, hence, incomplete) interpretation of the totality of any lived past event. (Spinelli, 2015: 54).