“Existence precedes essence”

Posted on: 11 Jun 2018

“Existence precedes essence” is an existential phrase first coined by Sartre (1945) (although the idea can be seen both in Kierkegaard’s and Heidegger’s writings). This concept is now backed by science, and our increasing understanding of the brain as being meaningfully and biologically changeable by experience throughout life – Neuroplasticity.

This is great news. Whilst a medical model to mental distress takes away responsibility for the person being “ill”, it also removes autonomy for improving one’s situation. Understanding how we can change our ways (emotions, how we respond to situations, patterns of relating, etc etc) on a biological level, really shows how it’s absolutely worth the effort of working to improve yourself and your situation. The first step is always to better understand yourself, with which a little therapy can go a long way.

There’s also a bit mentioned on Epigenetics which is how life experiences can make changes in gene expression (e.g. turn up or down the threshold to stress response, which could be intergenerational).

Neuroplasticity: A new paradigm for understanding and treating mental health issues