Mindfulness is the big “in vogue” idea in health; and, particularly, in Mental Health. I have already written about Mindfulness twice on Blasting News: “Mindfulness: Panacea or Fad? cure-all or impermanent vogue?” and “Mindfulness and the 'promiscuity' of Buddhist thought”. I have also written a lot about existentialism, most recently: “Life after existentialism: living in post-exisential times”. I now what to bring these two topics together.

While Mindfulness has been in the ascendance in the last few years, Existentialism has slipped out of favour. Existentialism was “a big thing” in post-war France, but whilst the term is still floated about, the existential moment has passed. Psychology mirrors philosophy’s relationship with existentialism.

Frankl developed a specific form of psychotherapy, which he called “Logotherapy”. This was unique because it was explicit in its basis in existentialism. This came to prominence (you guessed it!), just after World War 2.

Health systems don’t like this kind of existential psychology because it is “does not have measureable outcomes and is not cost-effective”. Psychology kind of divides into two types: one is “exploratory” therapy; and this is not good, because it does not have clear goals, with recognisable outcomes, and is a long-term and expensive option. The other form of therapy is a kind of “intervention”. This does not deal with the person, per se; but with their specific thoughts, behaviours; and is good because it is short-term, goal-focused, measureable and cost-effective.

Exploratory and existential therapies delve deeper, and thus require the patient being in therapy for a long-time. “Intervention” therapies aim to “equip the patient with tools” – teach them how to deal with situations etc.

So, back to Mindfulness…. Mindfulness is an “intervention” therapy that “seeks to teach the patient the skills of Mindfulness”. So, no, Mindfulness does not, and cannot, respond to existential angst. Mindfulness is a discrete "skill" or "intervention" - it is not a panacea, it does not help with "The Will To Meaning", which was the basis of Frankl's Logotherapy.

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