Rollo May quotes

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Rollo May

Birthdate: 21. April 1909
Date of death: 22. October 1994

Rollo Reece May was an American existential psychologist and author of the influential book Love and Will . He is often associated with humanistic psychology and existentialist philosophy, and alongside Viktor Frankl, was a major proponent of existential psychotherapy. The philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich was a close friend who had a significant influence on his work.As well as Love and Will, May's works include The Meaning of Anxiety and, titled in honor of Tillich's The Courage to Be, The Courage to Create .

Works

„Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings.“

—  Rollo May

Source: Man’s Search for Himself (1953), p. 67
Context: Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one's identity as a being of worth and dignity, who is able to affirm his being, if need be, against all other beings and the whole inorganic world.

„Symbol and myth do bring into awareness infantile, archaic dreads and similar primitive psychic content. This is their regressive aspect. But they also bring out new meaning, new forms, and disclose a reality that was literally not present before, a reality that is not merely subjective but has a second pole which is outside ourselves. This is the progressive side of symbol and myth.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 4 : Creativity and the Encounter, p. 91
Context: Symbol and myth do bring into awareness infantile, archaic dreads and similar primitive psychic content. This is their regressive aspect. But they also bring out new meaning, new forms, and disclose a reality that was literally not present before, a reality that is not merely subjective but has a second pole which is outside ourselves. This is the progressive side of symbol and myth. This aspect points ahead. It is integrative. It is a progressive revealing of structure in our relation to nature and our own existence, as the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur so well states. It is a road to universals beyond discrete personal experience.

„Community can be defined simply as a group in which free conversation can take place.“

—  Rollo May

Source: Power and Innocence (1972), Ch. 12 : Toward New Community
Context: Communication leads to community — that is, to understanding, intimacy, and the mutual valuing that was previously lacking.
Community can be defined simply as a group in which free conversation can take place. Community is where I can share my innermost thoughts, bring out the depths of my own feelings, and know they will be understood.

„When we "fall" in love, as the expressive verb puts it, the world shakes and changes around us, not only in the way it looks but in our whole experience of what we are doing in the world.“

—  Rollo May, book Love and Will

Source: Love and Will (1969), p. 100
Context: When we "fall" in love, as the expressive verb puts it, the world shakes and changes around us, not only in the way it looks but in our whole experience of what we are doing in the world. Generally, the shaking is consciously felt in its positive aspects … Love is the answer, we sing. … our Western culture seems to be engaged in a romantic — albeit desperate — conspiracy to enforce the illusion that that is all there is to eros.

„Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, "This is me and the world be damned!"“

—  Rollo May

As quoted in Marriage Today : Problems, Issues, and Alternatives (1977) by James E. De Burger, p. 444
Variant: I think Dostoevsky was right, that every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, this is me and the damned world can go to hell.
As quoted in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998) by Connie Robertson, p. 270
Context: Therapy isn't curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness. My purpose as a therapist is to find out what it means to be human. Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, "This is me and the world be damned!" Leaders have always been the ones to stand against the society — Socrates, Christ, Freud, all the way down the line.

„The human imagination leaps to form the whole, to complete the scene in order to make sense of it.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 7 : Passion for Form, p. 131
Context: The human imagination leaps to form the whole, to complete the scene in order to make sense of it. The instantaneous way this is done shows how we are driven to construct the remainder of the scene. To fill the gaps is essential if the scene is to have meaning. That we may do this in misleading ways — at times in neurotic or paranoid ways — does not gainsay the central point. Our passion for form expresses our yearning to make the world adequate to our needs and desires, and, more important, to experience ourselves as having significance.

„The daimonic can be either creative or destructive and is normally both.“

—  Rollo May, book Love and Will

Source: Love and Will (1969), p. 123
Context: The daimonic is any natural function which has the power to take over the whole person. Sex and eros, anger and rage, and the craving for power are examples. The daimonic can be either creative or destructive and is normally both.

„Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 1 : The Courage to Create, p. 21
Context: The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt.

„I, for one, believe we vastly overemphasize the human being’s concern with security and survival satisfaction because they so neatly fit our cause-and-effect way of thinking. I believe Nietzsche and Kierkegaard were more accurate when they described man as the organism makes certain values — prestige, power, tenderness — more important than pleasure and even more important than survival itself.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Discovery of Being (1983), p. 17
Context: Certainly the neurotic, anxious child is compulsively concerned with security, for example; and certainly the neurotic adult, and we who study him, read our later formulations back in the unsuspecting mind of the child. But is not the normal child just as truly interested in moving out into the world, exploring, following his curiosity and sense of adventure- going out “to learn to shiver and to shake,: as the nursery rhyme puts it? And if you block these needs of the child, you get a traumatic reaction from him just as you do when you take away his security. I, for one, believe we vastly overemphasize the human being’s concern with security and survival satisfaction because they so neatly fit our cause-and-effect way of thinking. I believe Nietzsche and Kierkegaard were more accurate when they described man as the organism makes certain values — prestige, power, tenderness — more important than pleasure and even more important than survival itself. My thesis here is that we can understand repression, for example, only on the deeper level of meaning of the human being’s potentialities. In this respect, “being” is to be defined as the individual’s “pattern of potentialities.” … in my work in psychotherapy there appears more and more evidence that anxiety in our day arises not so much out of fear of lack of libidinal satisfactions or security, but rather out of the patient’s fear of his own powers, and the conflicts that arise from that fear. This may be the particular “neurotic personality of our time” – the neurotic pattern of contemporary “outer directed” organizational man.

„The self is made up, on its growing edge, of the models, forms, metaphors, myths, and all other kinds of psychic content which give it direction in its self-creation. This is a process that goes on continuously.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 5 : The Delphic Oracle as Therapist, p. 99
Context: The self is made up, on its growing edge, of the models, forms, metaphors, myths, and all other kinds of psychic content which give it direction in its self-creation. This is a process that goes on continuously. As Kierkegaard well said, the self is only that which it is in the process of becoming. Despite the obvious determinism in human life — especially in the physical aspect of ones self in such simple things as color of eyes, height relative length of life, and so on — there is also, clearly, this element of self-directing, self-forming. Thinking and self-creating are inseparable. When we become aware of all the fantasies in which we see ourselves in the future, pilot ourselves this way or that, this becomes obvious.

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„Therapy isn't curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness.“

—  Rollo May

As quoted in Marriage Today : Problems, Issues, and Alternatives (1977) by James E. De Burger, p. 444
Variant: I think Dostoevsky was right, that every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, this is me and the damned world can go to hell.
As quoted in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998) by Connie Robertson, p. 270
Context: Therapy isn't curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness. My purpose as a therapist is to find out what it means to be human. Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, "This is me and the world be damned!" Leaders have always been the ones to stand against the society — Socrates, Christ, Freud, all the way down the line.

„Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and those who followed them accurately foresaw this growing split between truth and reality in Western culture, and they endeavored to call Western man back from the delusion that reality can be comprehended in an abstracted, detached way.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Discovery of Being (1983), p. 51-52
Context: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and those who followed them accurately foresaw this growing split between truth and reality in Western culture, and they endeavored to call Western man back from the delusion that reality can be comprehended in an abstracted, detached way. But though they protested vehemently against arid intellectualism, they were by no means simple activists. Nor were they antirational. Anti-intellectualism and other movements in our day which make thinking subordinate to acting must not at all be confused with existentialism. Either alternative-making man subject or object-results in loosing the living, existing person.

„The constructive schizoid person stands against the spiritual emptiness of encroaching technology and does not let himself be emptied by it. He lives and works with the machine without becoming a machine.“

—  Rollo May, book Love and Will

Source: Love and Will (1969), Ch. 1 : Introduction : Our Schizoid World, p. 32
Context: The constructive schizoid person stands against the spiritual emptiness of encroaching technology and does not let himself be emptied by it. He lives and works with the machine without becoming a machine. He finds it necessary to remain detached enough to get meaning from the experience, but in doing so, to protect his own inner life from impoverishment.

„Our passion for form expresses our yearning to make the world adequate to our needs and desires, and, more important, to experience ourselves as having significance.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 7 : Passion for Form, p. 131
Context: The human imagination leaps to form the whole, to complete the scene in order to make sense of it. The instantaneous way this is done shows how we are driven to construct the remainder of the scene. To fill the gaps is essential if the scene is to have meaning. That we may do this in misleading ways — at times in neurotic or paranoid ways — does not gainsay the central point. Our passion for form expresses our yearning to make the world adequate to our needs and desires, and, more important, to experience ourselves as having significance.

„The first thing necessary for a constructive dealing with time is to learn to live in the reality of the present moment. For psychologically speaking, this present moment is all we have.“

—  Rollo May

Source: Man’s Search for Himself (1953), p. 227
Context: The first thing necessary for a constructive dealing with time is to learn to live in the reality of the present moment. For psychologically speaking, this present moment is all we have. The past and future have meaning because they are part of the present: a past event has existence now because you are thinking of it at this present moment, or because it influences you so that you, as a living being in the present, are that much different. The future has reality because one can bring it into his mind in the present. Past was the present at one time, and the future will be the present at some coming moment. To try to live in the "when" of the future or the "then" of the past always involves an artificiality, a separating one's self from reality; for in actuality one exists in the present. The past has meaning as it lights up the present, and the future as it makes the present richer and more profound.

„Thinking and self-creating are inseparable. When we become aware of all the fantasies in which we see ourselves in the future, pilot ourselves this way or that, this becomes obvious.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 5 : The Delphic Oracle as Therapist, p. 99
Context: The self is made up, on its growing edge, of the models, forms, metaphors, myths, and all other kinds of psychic content which give it direction in its self-creation. This is a process that goes on continuously. As Kierkegaard well said, the self is only that which it is in the process of becoming. Despite the obvious determinism in human life — especially in the physical aspect of ones self in such simple things as color of eyes, height relative length of life, and so on — there is also, clearly, this element of self-directing, self-forming. Thinking and self-creating are inseparable. When we become aware of all the fantasies in which we see ourselves in the future, pilot ourselves this way or that, this becomes obvious.

„The end toward which sex points is gratification and relaxation, whereas eros is a desiring, longing, a forever reaching out, seeking to expand.“

—  Rollo May, book Love and Will

Source: Love and Will (1969), Ch. 3 : Eros in Conflict with Sex, p. 73
Context: Sex can be defined fairly adequately in physiological terms as consisting of the building up of bodily tensions and their release. Eros, in contrast, is the experiencing of the personal intentions and meaning of the act. Whereas sex is a rhythm of stimulus and response, eros is a state of being. The pleasure of sex is described by Freud and others as the reduction of tension; in eros, on the contrary, we wish not to be released from the excitement but rather to hang on to it, to bask in it, and even to increase it. The end toward which sex points is gratification and relaxation, whereas eros is a desiring, longing, a forever reaching out, seeking to expand.

„This is a tale of the agony of the creative individual, whose nightly rest only resuscitates him so that he can endure his agonies the next day.“

—  Rollo May

Source: Power and Innocence (1972), Ch. 11 : The Humanity of the Rebel
Context: Civilization begins with a rebellion. Prometheus, one of the Titans, steals fire from the gods on Mount Olympus and brings it as a gift to man, marking the birth of human culture. For this rebellion Zeus sentences him to be chained to Mount Caucasus where vultures consume his liver during the day and at night it grows back only to be again eaten away the next day. This is a tale of the agony of the creative individual, whose nightly rest only resuscitates him so that he can endure his agonies the next day.

„The value of dreams, like … divinations, is not that they give a specific answer, but that they open up new areas of psychic reality, shake us out of our customary ruts, and throw light on a new segment of our lives.“

—  Rollo May

Source: The Courage to Create (1975), Ch. 5 : The Delphic Oracle as Therapist, p. 106
Context: The value of dreams, like … divinations, is not that they give a specific answer, but that they open up new areas of psychic reality, shake us out of our customary ruts, and throw light on a new segment of our lives. Thus the sayings of the shrine, like dreams, were not to be received passively; the recipients had to "live" themselves into the message.

„It is interesting that the term mystic is used in this derogatory sense to mean anything we cannot segmentize and count. The odd belief prevails in our culture that a thing or experience is not real if we cannot make it mathematical, and that somehow it must be real if we can reduce it to numbers.“

—  Rollo May

Existence (1956) p. 39; also published in The Discovery of Being : Writings in Existential Psychology (1983), Part III : Contributions to Therapy, Ch. 6 : To Be and Not to Be, p. 94
Existence (1958)
Context: It is interesting that the term mystic is used in this derogatory sense to mean anything we cannot segmentize and count. The odd belief prevails in our culture that a thing or experience is not real if we cannot make it mathematical, and that somehow it must be real if we can reduce it to numbers. But this means making an abstraction out of it … Modern Western man thus finds himself in the strange situation, after reducing something to an abstraction, of having then to persuade himself it is real. … the only experience we let ourselves believe in as real, is that which precisely is not.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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