Rollo May

By Serlin, Ilene A. | Tikkun, January 1995 | Go to article overview

Rollo May


Serlin, Ilene A., Tikkun


Rollo Meese May died on October 22, 1994. With his death came the loss of one of the great psychotherapists, teachers, and theoreticians of the twentieth century. Rollo May is probably remembered best by many people as the founder of existential psychotherapy in the United States. I first read his Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology in Ann Arbor in the late 1960s. Reading the existentialists Camus and Sartre and being active in the student demonstrations all mixed into a heady brew. My friends and I felt like we were creating a new society, based in part on the existentialists' mandate to act. Claiming that the prevailing Freudian and behavioral psychologies were all based on an essentially passive model of the human being, in which childhood events or conditioning shaped behavior, the existential psychologists instead posited an active model. Although acknowledging that much of human life is indeed determined, the existentialists stressed the possibility of freedom and responsibility. Each individual, in the face of determinism, despair, meaninglessness, or death, has the responsibility to create a meaningful life.

This new perspective on human nature demanded a new therapy. An existential psychotherapist, rather than interpreting psychological content symbolically and maintaining a blank facade with the patient, would focus on challenging the patient to make responsible decisions and to live as fully and deeply as possible.

Rollo May was also a leader of humanistic psychology, an outgrowth of existential psychology. Sex, aggression, power drives, and religion were the traditional areas of psychology; humanistic psychology added studies of creativity, love, and altered states of consciousness. As a reaction to the existential despair of post-World War II culture, humanistic psychology in the United States tended to stress peak experiences, joy, and the lighter sides of human existence. Furthermore, in its experiential focus it sometimes blended with Fritz Perls's Gestalt therapy, body therapies, and the counterculture of the 1960s, leading critics to fault humanistic psychology as anti-intellectual and overly subjective.

Rollo May's own work, however, maintained the balance between darkness and light, between the experiential and the intellectual. In his books, he considered fundamental questions of human existence such as the nature of evil, love and will, the meaning of anxiety, and the importance of myth. In fact, Rollo's inspiration to me and many others came from his ability to name the void but to create in its face, to name evil but to work toward the good, to see meaninglessness but to discover meaning, and to face death but to create life. He was active in the antiwar movement and many other social causes, taught and mentored countless students, and called himself a "gentle rebel" in the face of an increasingly dehumanized world. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Rollo May
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.