According to May, apathy and emptiness—not anxiety and guilt—are the malaise of modern times. When people deny their destiny or abandon their myths, they lose their purpose for being; they become directionless. Without some goal or destination, people become sick and engage in a variety of self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors.
Many people in modern Western societies feel alienated from the world (Umweli), from others (Mitwelt), and especially from themselves (Eigenwelt). They feel helpless to prevent natural disasters, to reverse industrialization, or to make contact with another human being. They feel insignificant in a world that increasingly dehumanizes the individual. This sense of insignificance leads to apathy and to a state of diminished consciousness (May, 1967).
May saw psychopathology as lack of communication—the inability to know others and to share oneself with them. Psychologically disturbed individuals deny then destiny and thus lose then freedom. They erect a variety of neurotic symptoms, not to regain their freedom, but to renounce it. Symptoms narrow the person's phe-nomenological world to the size that makes coping easier. The compulsive person adopts a rigid routine, thereby making new choices unnecessary.
Symptoms may be temporary, as when stress produces a headache, or they may be relatively permanent, as when early childhood experiences produce apathy and emptiness. Philip's psychopathology was tied to his early environment with a disturbed mother and a schizophrenic sister. These experiences did not cause his pathology in the sense that they alone produced it. However, they did set up Philip to learn to adjust to his world by suppressing his anger, by developing a sense of apathy, and by trying to be a "good little boy." Neurotic symptoms, therefore, do not represent a failure of adjustinent, but rather a proper and necessary adjustment by which one's Dasein can be preserved. Philip's behavior toward his two wives and Nicole represents a denial of his freedom and a self-defeating attempt to escape from his destiny.
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