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Rolo May’s 1952 book “We must rediscover the sources of strength and integrity within ourselves” is an honest enquiry into who we are and is still valid today. The psychotherapist has no magic answers to the questions of how to attain inner integration in a disintegrated world and how to undertake the long development toward self-realization in a time when practically nothing is certain. The psychotherapist gains wisdom from working with people who are striving to overcome their problems and has the privilege of accompanying them through their struggles to gain new integration. Alfred Adler once said that the pupils teach the teachers, and the therapist is deeply grateful for what he is daily taught about the issues and dignity of life by those who are struggling to find their own values and goals. This book is not a substitute for psychotherapy, but it is a self-help book that helps the reader gain new light on his own problems of personal integration. It looks to the new insights of psychology and the wisdom of those in literature, philosophy, and ethics to understand how man can best meet his insecurity and personal crises and turn them to constructive uses. The aim is to find ways to stand against the insecurity of our time, to find a center of strength within ourselves, and to point the way toward achieving values and goals.
The underlying causes of people’s disturbances, such as unhappiness, inability to decide about marriage, despair, and meaninglessness. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the most common cause of such problems was difficulty in accepting the instinctual, sexual side of life. In the 1920s, Otto Rank wrote that the underlying roots of people’s psychological problems were feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and guilt. In the 1930s, the focus shifted to hostility between individuals and groups, often connected with competitive feelings of who gets ahead of whom. The Hollow People is the chief problem of people in the middle decade of the 20th century, as they do not know what they want or have any clear idea of what they feel.The people often have no experience of their own desires or wants, leading to feelings of powerlessness and anxiety. They can talk fluently about what they should want, but it is soon evident that they are describing what others, parents, professors, employers, expect of them rather than what they themselves want. They realize that their parents and society do not make all these requirements of them, and that it will not help them to make decisions for themselves. The most common problem now is not social taboos on sexual activity, but the lack of conviction or sense of the reality of one’s own goals. In previous decades, sexual taboos were weaker and opportunities for sexual gratification could be found. Today, the most common problem is the lack of potency or the capacity to have strong feelings in responding to the sexual partner.
Loneliness is a major characteristic of modern people, often described as feeling “on the outside,” isolated, or alienated. It is such an omnipotent and painful threat to many that they have little conception of the positive values of solitude, and even at times are frightened at the prospect of being alone. The feelings of emptiness and loneliness go together, and the reasons for the close relation between loneliness and emptiness are not difficult to discover. Norman Cousins’ essay Modern Man Is Obsolete expresses the deepest feelings of intelligent people at the time of the first atom bomb explosion over Hiroshima, when they sensed their grave danger but did not know which direction to turn. He argues that loneliness occurs when one feels empty and afraid, and that all man’s history is an endeavor to shatter his loneliness.The loneliness is caused by the need for human companionship, the fear of losing this experience of being a self, and the emphasis on being socially accepted. In our society, being socially accepted is seen as the chief way of allaying anxiety and the chief mark of prestige. The fear of being alone is also a way of admitting that it is not good to be alone, as exemplified by the melancholy romantic songs.It is permissible to want to be alone temporarily to “get away from it all,” but if one does so for its own joys, it can create a sense of untouchability or sickness.
Western society is in a state of transition, with one of the two central beliefs in the modern period since the Renaissance being the value of individual competition. This belief was that the more a man worked to further his own economic self-interest and to become wealthy, the more he would contribute to the material progress of the community. However, in our present day of giant business and monopoly capitalism, few people can become successful as individual competitors, and few groups still have the luxury of being their own.The individualism must be rediscovered and used as a basis for work that contributes to the good of the community, rather than melting down in the collectivist pot of conformity. This is especially important in the twentieth century, when scientific and other advances have made us more closely interdependent and individualism must become a different thing from “each man for himself and the devil take the hindmost”. Competitive individualism no longer brings good to the community, and it can lead to psychological problems such as interpersonal hostility and resentment. We have tried to cover this up by becoming “joiners” of service organizations, but the conflicts eventually burst into the open. This is exemplified by Willie Loman, the chief character in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
The loss of the sense of the worth and dignity of the human being has been predicted by Nietzsche, Marx, Kafka, and others. Those of us who lived in the 1920’s can recall the growing tendency to think of the self in superficial and oversimplified terms. To “be yourself” was seen as an excuse for relaxing into the lowest common denominator of inclination, and the problems of personality could be solved by better “adjustment”. This was furthered by oversimplified psychology like John B. Watson’s behaviorism.The oversimplified view of the human being, which was furthered by the belief in automatic economic progress and a religious moralism that smacked more of Couéism and Pollyannaism than of the profound insights of historical ethical and religious leaders. In the two decades since the disbelief in the power and dignity of the person became more openly accepted, leading to a feeling that the individual self was insignificant and that one’s personal choices didn’t matter.
This book emphasizes the importance of cultivating one’s highest self to integrate into the world and connect with others. It is heavy on the cultivation of self and authoring our lives meaningfully, but also emphasizes how virtues like honesty, integrity, courage, and love transcend the era we belong in.Rollo May’s Man’s Search for Himself reveals the core of man’s value and provides guidance on how to choose, judge, and act in times of anxiety.This book by Rollo May is an important reminder of the importance of becoming our own person and finding meaning within ourselves, as well as the struggle against dependency and taking responsibility for our own lives. It has changed how I look at myself and how I do therapy.This book is timeless and resonates with modern times, making it a great choice for those at a crossroads in their life. The book is a benchmark in its field, but lacks psychological references and is poorly valued by science. Man’s Search for Himself eBook Free PDF Download.
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