Reviewing ‘Emotions’ by Freddie Strasser

I have such warm memories of Freddie Strasser, and feel fortunate I had him as a teacher, supervisor and therapist during his final years ..

He explores throughout his book his and his client’s feelings as part of their world and self views. It is a clearly experientially oriented book but he started by looking into some basic assumptions that he took on board. As he reminds us, existential philosophy proposes a set of initial features of what it is to be a human being. Looking at the very word existence, with its roots from the Latin existere, which can be translated as ‘to stand out’, to go beyond ourselves and create our world and our life between our birth and death, in a continuous process and in the face of inevitable limitations. Basic, main emotions are explored in the book: anger, fear and anxiety, guilt, sadness, shame, and hate.]

We stand out by creating our subjective meanings and by always being in a certain meaningful or meaningless mood, when we just feel something or when we have feelings about other feelings [guilty when angry, excited when afraid], or even when it feels that we don’t feel anything [as in depressive or dissosiative states]. To get closer to the existential meaning of feelings we could say to ourselves that we are feelings rather than we have feelings] As Heidegger said, ‘when we master a mood, we do so by way of a counter-mood; we are never free of moods.’

Freddie Strasser [quoting Rolo May] describes existential therapy as the endeavour to understand the client, and one’s self being a therapist as well as the in-betweeness, the process of their relatedness, by cutting below the cleavage between subject and object – experts and patients -that has dominated western thought. And such an attitude from my experience as a therapist – in as much I can put it in words – has felt gratifying, scary, stimulating and confusing but above all real and honest.

to be cont..