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Yalom's diluted existentialism
am 19. August 1999
Yalom is a fine writer, but his encounter with existentialism is piecemeal and often un-understanding. He seems to think that just dealing with certain *themes*- death, meaninglessness, etc. makes him existential. It doesn't. Existentialism is not just a school of thought that looks at these things, but it also includes a very special *way* of looking at them called *phenomenology.* Phenomenology is a research method and way of understanding human beings that is indispensible for true existential thought. It is phenomenology that makes existential psychology *better* at understanding human beings than other psychologies, and without phenomenology, "existential psychology" is nothing more than, as Yalom himself suggests, a psychodynamic theory with a different clinical focus. This is pretty watered-down stuff, and readers would be better off reading true existential psychologists like Medard Boss, and, more recently, Louis Sass.