Healing the Sick Person: an Existential Approach to the Art and Science of Psychiatry: The Person and the Anxiety of Death

Because we are expressions of and centred on the eternal Now of Being with which we unconsciously identify, we have a sense that time passes while we remain still. You may look at the clock and find that you’ve spent the last hour or so reading. There is a sense that the time has gone while you were sitting taking in and thinking about these words. Time is not really external to us however. The person is a historic being; she exists at a particular time. In fact the person or collection of persons is the actual time in history. Our actions, our being at a certain moment in the context of the past and future defines that historic moment.The person is a condition of transformation, of becoming. Nonbeing then is withus not only in projected form as an everpresent and unavoidable possibility, but in every act and in the surrender of each moment to the next.

Though the person makes himself whom he becomes, he does so only in a finite way; he does not generate himself in relation to the larger whole on which he continues to depend for both physical and emotional nurturance. Necessity makes us eternal children, dependent on family, friends, society, and the larger universe. The anxiety of dearh would include not only theeventual demise which our aging process relentlessly pursues, but also the weak and dependent position that we are in and which puts us at the mercy of the fates and other people.

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