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‘I am large, I contain multitudes’

Ambivalence and existential strength in psychotherapy from an experiential-existential perspective

ARTICLETrees Depoorter - 60–1 (2022)

SUMMARY

Psychotherapists are constantly confronted with contradictions in clients and within themselves. This article argues that ambivalence is an uncomfortable yet meaningful experience, responding to the ambiguity of existence. It is argued that dealing with ambivalence requires and also increases ‘existential strength’, and that enhancing this existential carrying capacity can be both a consequence and objective of psychotherapy. A number of psychotherapeutic techniques (existential confrontation, demon work, symbolization) are briefly discussed from this perspective. Concepts such as ambivalence and existential strength can provide psychotherapists with a framework to deal with the complexity within the therapy room as well as with changing social realities.

KEYWORDS

ambivalence, existential strength, experiential-existential, confrontation, symbolization