5 Fundamental Facts You Need To Know About The Human Condition. By Dr Linda Berman.

49764022402_a56e28cecf_oRené Magritte – The Human Condition [1935]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Any great art is meant to illuminate the human condition.”

Sterling K. Brown

1. We Are All Part Of One World

The Human Condition is a term that encompasses the common needs, experiences and essentials of existence of every one of us.

It refers to a state that universally affects all human beings on the planet.

We may be diverse in many ways, and our differences are highly important in society. At the same time, we are all deeply connected.

“Every man bears the whole stamp of the human condition.”

Michel de Montaigne

For example, we are all born and we are all going to die. We will, every one of us, age, and we will all struggle with the limitations of our biology.

We are also the only animals on earth who reflect upon and question our own existence, as conscious and sentient beings.

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

William Shakespeare.

We all need to relate, have intimacy, rest, sleep, eat, drink, secrete, breathe….

“There is no human deed or thought that lies fully outside the experience of other people.”

Irvin D. Yalom

8585643352_38a0a39d2f_oVincent Desiderio – Sleeping Family [1990]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“If you don’t know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he’s just like you. He has the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It’s one world, pal. We’re all neighbors.”

Frank Sinatra

Each of us needs community; even if we are not individually very sociable, there will always be times when we require the help of others.

2. “Whistling In The Dark”: We All Face Uncertainty And Lack Of Control Over Our World.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lamberto Melina – Humana XXII [2009] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to him from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it’s true of everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace.”

James Baldwin

We are, all of us, beset by uncertainties in life.

The pandemic has, undoubtedly, exacerbated these. We are alert to daily media information about the state of the virus in our country, the number of cases, deaths, vaccinations.

We do not know with real certainty when life will begin to open out again, when we will be able to hug our loved ones, celebrate important occasions together, or meet family and friends indoors.

The uncertainty that generally besets us all has been brought home to us in full colour during this crisis.

51048633667_14605f235f_oRichard Maury – Untitled (Woman Sitting on Bed) [1978]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“I think the uncertainty of our lives is one such commonality that unites us all despite our varied difference.”
Aman Tiwari

3. We Share Universal Emotions.

27897706966_ed5036c179_oD*Face – High School Hell Cats 2015. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

James Baldwin

The emotions of humanity are indeed universal. For example, we all feel love, hate, anger, envy, fear, joy, pain and suffering.

“The bounds of a personality are not reproducible by a sharp black line, but…each of us flows imperceptibly into adjacent people and things.”

Edith Wharton

Here are some artworks that powerfully illustrate the breadth of our shared human feelings. I think we can all identify in some way with the moods and emotions depicted:

Rage:

24952278343_e9e4e245ac_oJeff Hein – Facing the Mob [2006]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“One thing I can be sure of, every person is capable of great kindness. And the dark opposite is also true. This is the human condition.”
Charles F Glassman

Love And Desire:

4176813792_b30795a94f_oGustav Klimt – The Kiss [1907-08]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love.”
Max Muller

Sadness, Grief, Sorrow, Desperation….

12065803954_a8139fdaa9_oVincent van Gogh – Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate) [1890]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Anxiety:

Edvard_Munch_-_Anxiety_-_Google_Art_ProjectEdvard Munch – Anxiety. Wikimedia Commons

“My anxiety doesn’t come from thinking about the future but from wanting to control it.”
Hugh Prather

Happiness and Joy:

49072893752_404e7f8850_oMachiko Edmondson – Untitled [1994]. Oil on canvas. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thoughtfulness, Reflection, Reverie…

Heinrich_Vogeler_Sehnsucht_(Träumerei)_c1900Johann Heinrich Vogeler. Reverie. Wikimedia Commons.

“Unconscious insights or answers to problems that come in reverie do not come hit or miss… they pertain to those areas in which the person consciously has worked laboriously and with dedication.”

Rollo May

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have an internal world, an unconscious. Some of us are aware of this, and can feel a little more in control of their own lives, as a result.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

C.G. Jung

4. We All Have To Face Existential Issues.

We are all, ultimately, alone in this world. We enter it alone and we leave it alone.

“One third, more or less, of all the sorrow that the person I think I am must endure is unavoidable. It is the sorrow inherent in the human condition, the price we must pay for being sentient and self-conscious organisms, aspirants to liberation, but subject to the laws of nature and under orders to keep on marching, through irreversible time, through a world wholly indifferent to our well-being, toward decrepitude and the certainty of death. The remaining two thirds of all sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary.”

Aldous Huxley

6132037623_bb32d359b6_oRichard Baxter – Unseen Flame [2009]. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?”
Thomas Wolfe

“To hold two ideas that contradict each other is to flirt with absurdity, and humans are creatures who spend their lives trying to convince themselves that their existence is not absurd.”
Albert Camus

The Psychotherapist Yalom and Existentialism.

Yalom was a pioneer in terms of existentialist psychotherapy.

His work highlights the way we all grapple with the problems of existence, and how fears in this area constantly underlie the presenting problems of psychotherapy patients.

“Everyone – and that includes therapists as well as patients – is destined to experience not only the exhilaration of life, but also its inevitable darkness: Disillusionment, aging, illness, isolation, loss, meaninglessness, painful choices, and death.”

Irvin D. Yalom

“Four givens are particularly relevant for psycho-therapy: the inevitability of death for each of us and for those we love; the freedom to make our lives as we will; our ultimate aloneness; and, finally, the absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life.”
Irvin D. Yalom

There are some people who come to therapy wanting to be cured of the human condition They hope to banish pain, grief, the past, forever..

Yet every one of us, therapists and all, are in the same boat, the boat called the human condition. 

We know it in other people because we know it in ourselves. There is no cure for the human condition.

“Sign above a drugstore counter: No Prescriptions For Life.”
Marty Rubin

The pandemic has strongly highlighted the fact that therapists, too, share the human condition with their patients. People coming to therapy with pandemic-related fears are, inevitably, going to be echoing those fears of their therapist, too. This is the human condition.

Psychotherapy can have a powerful role now, helping people to cope with isolation, loss and fear.

“Regardless of the approach used, therapists should adopt a supportive and humanistic stance, given this time of shared suffering. Recognizing that there are few among us who are unaffected by these extraordinary events, we can communicate that working together will help all of us optimally manage this crisis.”

Holly A Swartz M.D.

“Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time.”

James Baldwin

The pandemic has brought home to us just how fragile are all our lives.

All of us have had to try and protect ourselves from a potentially killer disease that knows no boundaries and will attack any of us indiscriminately, regardless of age, class, nationality, race, colour, or gender.

The_Prince_and_The_Pauper_-_22-276

Illustration from The Prince And The Pauper. 1882. Frank T. Merrill, L.S. Ipsen, John Harley

6781810980_318b2564a5_oBernard Perlin – The Bar [1957]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

5. This Is What Makes Life Worth Living For All Of Us Trapped In The Human Condition…

6924143862_e4c95e0129_oOskar Kokoschka – The Power of the Music [1920] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

Despite the uncertainty and lack of control, we all know that life can be full of interest and excitement:

“I think what makes people fascinating is conflict, it’s drama, it’s the human condition. Nobody wants to watch perfection.”

Nicolas Cage

We may be powerless to direct the universe, yet accepting this is somehow freeing. If we stop trying to control things, we will discover that we are more able to live and enjoy life.    

It is through this acceptance of the human condition, that we are, paradoxically, freer to change ourselves and to have some impact on the world around us.

Life is an unpredictable blend of happiness and sadness, conflict and peace.

With this awareness, that despite tragedy, life can still hold beauty for us, we are helped to be strong and resilient and to have the courage to face the limitations of our human condition:

The Thing Is
BY ELLEN BASS


to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

*******************

If you have valued this post, please follow my blog. It is entirely non profit-making and has been written in the hope of sharing some of my experience, thoughts and feelings with those others who share the human condition with me!

Thank you.

© Linda Berman

14 comments

  1. What a wonderful post Linda. It really resonated with me, not particularly because of the pandemic, but in general, as I get older. For me, the human condition is terrifying, and always in my thoughts. The uncertainty of it all really frightens me.
    The news and images on the television are often unbearable, and I have to turn it off. I don’t think there is any solution to these thoughts, the only thing that helps is distraction – reading something light, creating something beautiful, a nice meal, my cat, a good film …
    No other human being can help, because, as you say, even the therapist has the same problem.
    Your quotations are so appropriate. Camus says it all so well, as do others. When I was a lot younger, I went to the States, and saw a young man with a tee shirt which said , on the front, “Life is hard”. He turned round and on the back it said “…and then you die ” . I had never seen this before, and I laughed. Now it just makes me cry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pauline, I so appreciate your perceptive thoughts and comments here. The human condition can be frightening to contemplate, and, as I’ve said in the post, there can be no cure for any of us. I agree about the TV – sometimes it gets too much, especially during lockdown.
      What you mention as distractions, however, are not really just distractions- they are life! Living life, and appreciating the good parts, as you have found, is partly the antidote to fearing the human condition.
      No psychotherapist can cure it, but they can help manage the associated fear and grief, etc.
      Life is hard. But it can also be beautiful. I wish you some beautiful moments ahead. 🙏🤗💐

      Like

  2. Great stuff, Linda. Oh, and how true. I enjoyed those very suitable quotes and all the images. I was pleased to see a painting by Vincent Desiderio, since most people don’t know who he is, and that convinced me to read the full post.

    Those Baldwin quotes were rich.

    And, if you follow contemporary art world shenanigans, it’s the work that doesn’t address the human condition in any meaningful or apparent way that tends to ascend to the heights of the auction sale. And so it was refreshing just to encounter someone saying art is about illuminating the human condition — though that was a Sternling K. Brown quote, and not your words. But I tend to agree. Art does all sorts of things, but addressing the human condition is one of the best things it does.

    Cheers,

    Eric Wayne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your helpful comments,Eric.
      I really do agree with you that any(worthwhile) art illuminates the human condition. I think it’s the same with psychotherapy. Any art or therapy that doesn’t address this is dodging the main issue.
      Both these need to be addressing life on a deeper and more meaningful level, but, as you say, in order to be ‘popular,’ this can be avoided and denied.
      So glad you liked my post, quotes and images. I spend a good deal of my time searching out images that illustrate my theme.
      Best wishes,
      Linda. 🙏🤗

      Liked by 1 person

      • I looked at some of your other content, and it’s really promising. Obviously I couldn’t take it all in. It’s a day later and I’m still thinking about some of those great quotes, and the general ideas. This morning I told my wife about your blog, because it seems right up her alley.

        When I visit your blog, it places your earliest post at the top of the page. You might consider reversing that so it is your newest that visitors with first see. Unless you want us to read it sequentially, like a book. It just occurs to me that more people might discover your blog if the content at the top changes, and it is the most current. Or, out of selfish self-interest, I just want your blog to prosper enough that you keep churning out more uplifting, or grounding, or otherwise psychologically and humanly bolstering content.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Eric
        Glad you’re spreading the word about my blog!
        I’m concerned about the fact that you find the oldest posts at the top of the page on my blog. I can’t understand it, as on my PC and mobile, the newest appear first.
        Could you let me know how you get to my blog, eg through Twitter or Google or whatever? I’ll then contact my helpline on WordPress to discover what might be happening.
        In early May, I’m going to consult with a technical person I know to help me do a blog index, to make it easier for people.
        Now that I’ve been writing it for 3 years, I can see that the posts need some kind of organisation. I’m not terribly technical so will need help.
        I’m encouraged that you want my blog to prosper! It is doing well, and I get a lot of views, but I always like new followers and readers, of course.
        I’m very committed to the blog. I write most days, and love to combine words and images. The blog reflects the uni studies I have done through my working life – fine arts, English and psychotherapy. It seemed like the obvious step for me to combine them in this way now that I’m retired.
        I do so appreciate your interest and support.

        Like

      • Hello again Eric
        I’ve now solved the issue. For some reason, WordPress was leading you – and others- onto an old site, which I thought had been deleted. I have now deleted it with help from the weirdly named ‘happiness engineers’ on WordPress. However, I do feel happier now that I’ve done it!
        The new site is waysofthinking.co.uk with no long number after it. My posts on that start with the newest. Do let me know if you can now see that. Thanks so much for alerting me to this issue. 🙏 Linda.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, hmmm, maybe it’s your avatar link that shows up next to your comment in my notification bar (if you know what I mean) that linkes to the old site. Now it just says, ”
        waysofthinking229034210.wordpress.com is no longer available.

        The authors have deleted this site.”

        You might try updating your gravatar profile?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hope it’s ok now, Eric. Tried to update Gravatar and think I’ve done it. But I can never be sure, so if you try it again and it’s no good, please could you alert me? Thanks. 🙏 Linda.

        Like

  3. What a wonderful piece of work Linda. They say a picture paints a thousand words, and I guess we can all see our own script in any image, but your thoughtful scripts that flow through the pictures lead my mind along the paths I’ve recently been contemplating.

    As a therapist, one of my greatest learnings was our shared humanity. If we can learn to love, accept and hold hope for ourselves despite our human condition, we can love, accept and hold hope for our clients too despite theirs. And our clients facing us will see in our reflecting all the reasons they can in turn love, accept and hold hope for themselves.

    A flight of fancy, say the unruly mob, imaged above, was flipped to a mob of loving, accepting, hope brandishing peoples, tapping on the door of the individuals in the worst of times, therapeutic dog and all. But maybe that was something that used to happen more, an aspect of shared humanity that’s being lost along the way.

    Many thanks

    Lois
    https://thetrustyteapot.org

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lois, thanks so much for your great feedback. I do agree with what you say about holding hope for the client, despite everything.
      I also hope that our shared humanity may have been somewhat rekindled during the pandemic.
      We shall see.
      Thanks again- I do appreciate your thoughtful comments.
      Best wishes
      Linda.

      Like

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