Anxiety and “The Gap”

Most of what brings people into psychotherapy is the discomfort one experiences in the gap between who we are and who we would like to be, or who we imagine we should be. When we imagine that we should be someone, or some-thing that we are not, it usually is experienced with great urgency

It would then follow that what leads most people to seeking psychotherapy is a crisis of identity. It does not matter if the identity crisis is related to profession, career, gender, sexual orientation, relational issues, or spiritual. What matters is the discomfort experienced in the gap.

One way to view differences between approaches to psychotherapy is in the way each approach understands the “gap”. This gap, or space between identities can be viewed as a disturbance leading to discomfort, decreased functioning, and decreased productivity. In contrast it can also be viewed as the beginning of the process of relinquishing constricting identities. The discomfort is the discomfort of moving into the unknown. This is the discomfort of freedom, otherwise known as existential anxiety.

An existential therapist will usually view anxiety as something other than pathological. While anxiety is always uncomfortable, it is not necessarily a symptom of illness. Anxiety can be experienced when moving into the unknown, (existential anxiety), or when we begin the process recognizing the gap between who we are and who we imagine ourselves to be, (neurotic anxiety). Either way, therapy can be about moving into a deeper understanding of the process as opposed to simply eliminating anxiety. This understanding leads to a richer, fuller experience of life.


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