The Discovery Of Being

The Discovery Of Being :  Writings in Existential Psychology (pdf)  by ROLLO MAY

WE IN OUR AGE are faced with a strange paradox. Never before have we had so much information in bits and pieces flooded upon us by radio and television and satellite, yet never before have we had so little inner certainty about our own being. The more objective truth increases, the more our inner certitude decreases. Our fantastically increased technical power has conferred upon us no means of controlling that power, and each forward step in technology is experienced by many as a new push toward our possible annihilation. Nietzsche was strangely prophetic when he said,
We live in a period of atomic chaos . . . the terrible apparition . . . the Nation State . . . and the hunt for happiness will never be greater than when it must be caught between today and tomorrow; because the day after tomorrow all hunting time may have come to an end altogether.

Sensing this, and despairing of ever finding meaning in life, people these days seize on the many ways of dulling their awareness of being by apathy, by psychic numbing, or by hedonism. Others, especially young people, elect in alarming and increasing numbers to escape their own being by suicide.

No wonder people, plagued by the question of whether life has any meaning at all, flock to therapists. But therapy itself is often an expression of the fragmentation of our age rather than an enterprise for overcoming it. Often these persons, seeking release from their feelings of emptiness on the couch or in the client’s chair, surrender their being to the therapist—which can only lead to a submerged despair, a burrowing resentment that will later burst out in self-destructiveness. For history’ proclaims again and again that sooner or later the individual’s need to be free will assert itself.

I believe it is by discovering and affirming the being in ourselves that some inner certainty will become possible. In contrast to the psychologies that conclude with theories about conditioning, mechanisms of behavior, and instinctual drives, I maintain that we must go below these theories and discover the person, the being to whom these things happen.
True, we all seem in our culture to be hesitant to talk of being. Is it too revealing, too intimate, too profound? In covering up being we lose just those things we most cherish in life. For the sense of being is bound up with the questions that are deepest and most fundamental—questions of love, death, anxiety, caring.

The writings in this book have grown out of my’ passion to find the being in my fellow persons and myself. This always involves the search for our values and purposes. In the experience of normal anxiety, for example, if the person did not have anxiety, he or she would also not have freedom. Anxiety demonstrates that values, no matter how beclouded, do exist in the person. Without values there would be only barren despair.

As we face the severest threat in history to human survival, I find the possibilities of being made more prominent by their contrast with our possible annihilation. The individual human is still the creature who can wonder, who can be enchanted by a sonata, who can place symbols together to make poetry to gladden our hearts, who can view a sunrise with a sense of majesty and awe.

All of these are characteristic of being, and they set the challenge for the pages that follow.




  • ONE Bases of Psychotherapy
  • TWO The Case of Mrs. Hutchens


  • THREE Origins and Significance of Existential Psychology
  • FOUR How Existentialism and Psychoanalysis Arose Out of the Same Cultural Situation
  • FIVE Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Freud


  • SIX To Be and Not to Be
  • SEVEN Anxiety and Guilt as Ontological
  • EIGHT Being in the World
  • NINE The Three Modes of World
  • TEN Of Time and History
  • ELEVEN Transcending the Immediate Situation
  • TWELVE Concerning Therapeutic Technique


Language: English
Format: pdf
Pages: 188
Size: 7.54 Mb
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