Wellness Institute Blog

Five Principles of Existential Hypnotherapy

Posted by Diane Zimberoff  Nov 26, 2013 8:30:00 AM

existential hypnotherapy1. Meaning in life is found in the living of each moment.

Most people have experienced some of their most profoundly meaningful experiences in the most fleeting of moments. Consider the adage to “smell the roses along the path.” Being fully present in the experiencing of each moment also implies that the meaning and purpose to be found is in the engagement itself, not in some result that “I get out of it.”

One of the primary injunctions for a therapist with an existential approach is to not have expectations, or an agenda, for the client’s experience or therapeutic goals. Such an approach could be considered awakening from the “trance of ordinary life”.

For most people, the past is alive in the present in the form of unfinished business and uncompleted developmental tasks. As one resolves and completes what was left unfinished, the person opens to the immediacy of the present moment, reducing reactivity and increasing self-esteem, which hypnotherapy is very effective in treating.

2. Passionate commitment is the highest form of expression of one’s humanity

Many researchers have consistently found that relationships are the most important source of meaning for all age groups and both genders. Females identify significantly more relationship meanings than males, however, confirming the emerging understanding in the field of identity development that there is a relatively greater significance of relatedness in female development, and of self-definition in male development.

3. All human beings have freedom of choice and responsibility for our choices

Faced with existential anxiety, one option is avoidance through neurotic defense such as addictions or depression. A second existential choice is self-rejection, to judge, attack or punish oneself for being the person he/she has become.

A third existential choice is to remain open and non-defensive in the face of our deepest anxieties. Hypnotherapy is useful in assisting an individual to recognize fears, anxieties, defenses and personal shortcomings without self-judgment.

4. Openness to experience

“Openness to experience is the most frequent predictor of wisdom”.

Kramer’s research (2000) documents that people who are generally considered wise share the following attributes:

  • promotion of their own personal development and enjoyment of learning;
  • enrichment of relationships;
  • critical awareness and tolerance of ambiguity and complexity;
  • self-clarity including a critical stance toward oneself;
  • capability of finding purpose and meaning in life’s turbulence and using their negative emotional experiences as catalysts for emotional growth;
  • ability to see patterns in their experience and life choices, and to use the insights gained to help themselves and others;
  • concern for others’ welfare and a lack of self-absorption;
  • embracing of one’s own negative and positive characteristics for greater wholeness.
5. The imperative of death

Death is a common theme in many transpersonal altered state experiences, and this is the case with existential therapies (Zimberoff & Hartman, 1999). The context of death may express the fear of existential annihilation, taking one of several forms:

  1. It may be that of ego death, the surrender of the limited self-concept in the service of transformation and integration. It is the profoundly spiritual transformation that deep existential therapy can bring.
  2. It may be that of the necessary death that must precede rebirth, the initiation required for successful return of the hero discussed by Joseph Campbell.
  3. Everyday awareness of death may provide the motivation to live life more immediately.
  4. The context of death may be that of the depressed lack of psychical energy we call malaise, symptomatic of soul loss in Jungian psychology.

Alternately, the context of death encountered in existential therapies may reflect a “death urge,” taking one of several forms:

  1. It may be that of an existential resistance to life, to being incarnate on earth, the deep sense of “I don’t want to be here.”
  2. The form of death urge may be that of someone who gets to a particular stage of development and has a mortal fear of moving on to the next stage.
  3. It may be that of fulfilling a pre- or perinatal imprint on one’s encounter with death prior to or in birth, e.g. re-enacting the traumatic suffocation created in a prolapsed umbilical cord birth or an overterm birth.
  4. The “death urge” may be fulfilling one’s perception of the parent’s desire for the child’s death, e.g. parental rejection in the form of contemplated or actual adoption or contemplated or attempted abortion.

This person, afraid of death, is actually terrified of life. A line in the popular song “The Rose” captures this approach to life:

It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying
That never learns to live.
Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy addresses these aspects of a client’s life experience by directly accessing the unconscious, where these deeply embedded patterns live. 


Kramer, D. A. (2000). Wisdom as a classical source of human strength: Conceptualization and empirical inquiry. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19(1), 83-101.

Zimberoff, D., & Hartman, D. (1999). Personal Transformation with Heart-Centered Therapies. Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies, Vol. 2(1), 3-53.


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Topics: hypnotherapy, Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy, hypnotherapy practice