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Garret B. Wyner is a 2012 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

In modern history, no event has more profoundly symbolized suffering than the Holocaust. This novel “Husserlian-realist” phenomenological dissertation elucidates the meaning of existential trauma through an interdisciplinary and psychologically integrative vantage point. I use the testimony of a select group of Holocaust witnesses who committed suicide decades after that event as a lens to examine what their despair may reveal about an unprecedented existential, moral, and spiritual crisis of humanity that threatens to undermine our faith in human history and reality itself. By distinguishing what they actually saw about our condition from what they merely believed about reality, I show there is a reliable hope that can fulfill the highest reaches of human nature in the worst conditions. This I call a Psychotherapy of Hope. To this end, I provide a broad overview of the four main forces of psychotherapy to evaluate the role each plays in healing this crisis. I then provide an elucidation of empathic understanding within an “I/Thou” altruistic relationship having power to transform human personality. The primary barrier to personal transformation is shown to be no mere value-neutral indifference, but “cold” indifference or opposition to an objective good. No one can avoid a faith commitment, and the only solution to this crisis is our love or reliance on a self-transcendent good or benevolent super-ego worthy of our trust. By means of this love we can find meaning in our suffering to become more than we are, better than we are, and even transform human life as we know it. By love we may heal our wounds.

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