curiosity towards Yalom’s ultimate concerns. For Kierkegaard, in being consciously aware of our fundamental despairing state we effectively pave way towards freedom and selfhood. Yalom however, was not concerned with spiritless despair, but only conscious states of despair. This is where demonic despair (and in fact, all forms of conscious despair) becomes most relevant to existential psychotherapy – it is all to do with spiritual consciousness. Indeed, Yalom writes, ‘Despair is the price one pays for self-awareness. Look deeply into life, and you’ll always find despair.’ 71 People suffering from anxiety often have thoughts that naturally erupt into deep philosophical spirals, and the inability to settle somewhere makes believing in 70 SUD p.26 71 Yalom, Irvin D. When Nietzsche Wept: A Novel of Obsession Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reprint edition (2011)
anything extraordinarily difficult. 72 If we look back at Kierkegaard’s CA we can perhaps empathize with the demonic man, who faces an extraordinarily difficult challenge with regards to settling his beliefs in God. What is interesting is that, just as Lucifer was depicted as one of the most beautiful angels, being closest to God in Dante’s Inferno, and just as Kierkegaard’s demonic man is situated on the uppermost rung on the ladder of despair and spiritual awareness, Webb also draws a connection between existential depression and persons of greater intellect. ‘Although an episode of existential depression may be precipitated in anyone by a major loss or the threat of a loss which highlights the transient nature of life, persons of higher intellectual ability are more prone to experience existential depression spontaneously.’ 73 For more secular reference we might compare this facet of demonic character with the narrator, otherwise known as the Underground Man from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground 74 , widely considered the first existentialist novel ever published . At the beginning of the book the Underground Man states that he is aware of his sickness, but refuses to see a doctor out of spite, despite knowing that in pursuing this spiteful behaviour he does the doctors themselves no harm. The Underground 72 This problem is addressed in Webb (1982) 73 Webb (1982) 74 Dostoevsky, Fyodor Notes from Underground trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky, Vintage Classics (2006) Hereafter, Notes from Underground
Man expresses conflicting impulses of wickedness, sentimentality, self-loathing and contempt for others; it is apparent that contradictions and indecisions are key elements of his character. Eventually, the Underground Man’s intense consciousness of his internal conflicts proves to be debilitating. This inability results from various important factors – Firstly, the Underground Man is fundamentally nihilistic, meaning that he finds traditional social values lacking in objective foundation, and that existence is ultimately meaningless. Afflicted by his intense self-consciousness, he is portrayed as an outcast who despises society. Although the Underground Man is
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 64 pages?
- Fall '19
- Existentialism, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard