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What Is Existentialism?

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Existentialism is a philosophical outlook that stresses the importance of free will, freedom of choice, and personal responsibility. This perspective emphasizes the unique experiences of each individual and the responsibility of each person for their choices and what they make of themselves.

In psychotherapy, existential approaches urge patients to use anxiety to make positive life changes. Rather than repress this anxiety, patients are encouraged to use it constructively to transform undesirable situations or other aspects of their life.

Major existentialist thinkers include Jean-Paul Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In literature, writers including Feodor Dostoevsky, Jack Kerouac, and Ralph Ellison were influence by existentialist ideas. Films such as American Beauty, I Heart Huckabees, and the The Seventh Seal all convey existential themes.

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