EHI logo with Existential-Humanistic Institute text
The Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment: Protective Layers

Would you climb Mount Everest if you had a 1 in 100 chance of dying?

Those are the odds when you decide to climb. By one estimate, over the past thirty-plus years, approximately 1% of climbers died trying to climb Everest.

On a brighter note, the success rate of reaching the summit has doubled over that time. Improvements in weather prediction and climbing equipment (e.g., crampons, ropes, boots, etc.) have vastly improved the chances of success.

Upgrades in the materials and design of protective layers of clothing – base, insulating, and outer layers – also played an important role. For example, polyester and merino wool blends improved base layer management of moisture (i.e., sweat) near the body. Synthetic fleece and design changes (e.g., grid fleece) improved insulating layers, better retaining heat to protect from cold. New materials like Gore-Tex outer shells offered lighter weight with excellent protection from wind.

Existential-Humanistic theory holds that the self of the client relies on protective layers. A diagram of those layers includes the following:

  • Content: The presenting issue or primary concerns
  • Process: Nonverbals, patterns of speech, relational quality
  • Protections: Concrete ways of being that protect wounds
  • Relation to self: Core statement of “I am…”
  • Others: Core statement of “You are…”
  • World: Core statement of “The world is…”
  • Core wound/core decision: What is the wound(s)? What decision did the client make about that wound?

The therapist’s role is to help bring awareness to the protective patterns emerging from these layers and, more deeply, to the disowned feelings within the pattern. Bringing presence to these elements enables the client to integrate disowned feelings, create new meanings (e.g., “I am lovable”), and choose how they want to live.

The journey can be a steep climb. But the view from the summit is life-changing.

Links to Related Blog Posts:

Read all the Existential Moment series posts on EHI’s blog.

Share this post

Related Posts:

The Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment – Authenticity

Authenticity is a core concept of existential philosophy and an essential touchstone in E-H therapy. Moral connotation (i.e., socio-political ideal) aside, authenticity means congruence with oneself – who we really are. It stands opposite ideas like “bad faith” or “alienation.”

Clients often grapple with societal pressures, parental expectations, an oppressive conscience, self-deceptions, internal conflicts, past traumas, etc., that deter them from seeing and living their authentic path.

Read More »
The Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment – On Freedom and Responsibility

Unfairly imprisoned for 27 years in apartheid-ruled South Africa, Nelson Mandela refused to succumb to the chains of victimhood, blame, and rage, instead embracing the powerful message of self-mastery and determination of the poem “Invictus.” For Mandela, “Invictus,” meaning “unconquered” in Latin, was a guiding light of inner freedom in dark times of brutality, isolation, and hopelessness. The mindset helped turn a prison into a crucible of resilience and a man into a beacon of inspiration of hope, forgiveness, and unwavering strength

Read More »
  • Search EHI's Blog

    Upcoming Events

    Get Updates

    Join our mailing list and get the latest in news and events.

    Blog Archives