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Suggestions for an Existential-Phenomenological Understanding of Erikson's Concept of Basic Trust

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This article is meant to be suggestive, not thorough, in the themes presented. It is suggestive of the ways in which an existential-phenomenological approach may contribute to an understanding of a fundamental therapeutic and lived issue. Beginning with a very brief description of what is experienced as fundamental in therapy, the ground on which all other issues depend, the developmental framework of Erikson was consulted since it was assumed that therapy was a reflection of life. The most fundamental issue for Erikson was the crisis of basic trust versus basic mistrust. Trust was understood and revealed by him in terms of bodily trust, ego predictability and its social aspects. Using Heidegger's Care Structure as a framework, the absence of the existential, future-oriented characteristic of trust became apparent and the contribution of a phenomenological approach became visible. In using Erikson's word "hope" for this characteristic, it became apparent that not only was the future characteristic added but that within it the bodily and ego aspects could be integrated. Some phenomenological research was referred to which demonstrated that this integration was a fuller and more accurate reflection of human experience than the more specialized psychoanalytic understanding of Erikson. Marcel's description of hope was then consulted for a further understanding of this characteristic and finally the fundamental issue in therapy was identified as a crisis of hope. We use the word hope often in our daily experience. What this article points to as a research topic which would be central to therapy and to the lived world is what we mean when we say, "I hope." The structure of the experience of hoping would reveal much of what is central to both the world of therapy and the lived world.


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