Meaningless Life: The Role of Clinical Phenomenology in Understanding the “Being in the World” of Psychiatric Patients
The paper focuses on the use of phenomenological psychiatry in researching the life-world of psychiatric patients. Although the subjective experiences of patients can be fundamental for understanding the inner life crisis and revealing a meaning that could make these experiences understandable, they are often undervalued in clinical psychiatry for their not being considered useful for diagnosis.
The personal attitude of people affected by schizophrenia is often considered as simply a manifestation of psychosis, the epiphenomena of the mental illness. However, as we can see in the work of Minkowski and Binswanger, the behaviour of patients is the result of an inner struggle with the external world. Patients try to make coherent constructions compatible with their criteria of sense and meaning. These attempts often lead to spurning actions based on “common sense,” to isolation from society, and to avoiding the influence of external reality.
Phenomenological method applied to psychiatry allows concentrating attention on subjectivity by investigating the role of values and emotions in the mental illnesses. The explanations made by patients could be seen as a peculiar way of defining oneself, one’s own “being in the world.” Inquiry into patients’ narratives could open valuable views on the concepts surrounding the ideas of Being and life.
KeywordsPhenomenology Meaningless life Philosophy Psychiatry Schizophrenia Mental disturbance
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