Using Ikigai as a Tool for Counselling and Coaching

How is ikigai beneficial to our well-being? Can it be considered as a form of positive psychology? Dr. Katharina Stenger shares how ikigai contributes to mental health and uses it as a tool for counseling and coaching.

Nick:  So as a psychologist, what attracts you about ikigai as a tool that you use for counseling or coaching?

Rina:  For me, ikigai combines so many great things that can be a support for your mental health. So in my practice, and in my life, I focus on aspects of positive psychology and salutogenesis, meaning that I don't look for all the things that go wrong. I mean, yeah, sometimes I do. I also have this negative filter we spoke about earlier, but in general, I tried to look.. like consciously looking for all the things that still go well and that I can use to motivate myself to keep going even or especially on the bad days, and the ikigai mindset or lifestyle philosophy, however you might call it and the Western psychology I specialize in provide you with tools that will bring you more joy, gratefulness, clarity, and freedom into your everyday life. That is what attracts me about ikigai besides the fact that it comes from my favorite country, of course.

Nick: When you talk about it, you talk about it with such enthusiasm. I think I want to become a client of yours.

Rina: My door is always open for you, you know that.

Nick: I love this. So we've actually shared notes on ikigai. I don't know if I've shared this or not. But yeah.. I mean, I have basically no academic background in psychology or philosophy. But I've just always had a love and fascination for Japan, and I actually remember the day I was introduced to the word ikigai. But you, as a psychologist, you made some notes you shared with me on references to logotherapy and Gestalt therapy. So would you like to touch on what both those therapies are? And their similarities with ikigai?

Rina: Yeah, it's very fascinating. So both logotherapy and Gestalt therapy are part of the humanistic psychology school. Humanistic means that the human, the person is the center of the therapy, not the mental disorder like it is in clinical psychology, or the psychology, we have like in mind, typical psychology. In Gestalt therapy, the human being is always seen in connection with its surroundings. So as a psychologist, you see the actions and the beliefs of a person as a complex interaction of experiences, values, beliefs, goals, dreams, and so on. And Gestalt therapy postulates that you are the creator, you are the Gestalter, in German language, of your own life. 

So you have control, yeah. You can be active, and you are able to heal yourself if you become conscious of your thoughts and your feelings in the present moment and conscious of the things that impact you from the outside world. I think that if you can make sense of these special connections between your past experiences, the person you are right now, and the goals that are still ahead of you, you will find purpose in the here and now, and you will feel ikigai, that's how I see it. You could say that you can become the source of your ikigai, so to speak. 

In logotherapy, "logos" means purpose or meaning. So there's already ikigai in the name of the psychology technique, and logotherapy says that we are all free on the inside, free to make revisions, to change something in our lives, and to grow as a person every day. The therapy is about becoming conscious of this freedom, and also about taking responsibility for it. It's also about finding your true values, which is similar to ikigai and acting according to them.

And logotherapy also says that you should distance yourself from yourself every once in a while, and I actually had a hard time understanding that. But meaning you should let go of your status, your expectations, the influences and stress from outside and so on. But now I know that this sounds very similar to releasing yourself as it is a practice in Japanese culture, right? Like tea ceremony, for example, or archery. 

Then both ikigai and logotherapy explain that pain and suffering are part of life that we have to integrate, rather than to push away or suppress. I mean, Viktor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy, he was a Holocaust survivor in Germany, and he spent time in a concentration camp where he lost his wife and almost.. almost his entire family. Even after he was successful in his job, he was tormented by existential crises and apathy. But he used all of this negative energy in his life he experienced to create something so beautiful to help the world heal, and that's so inspiring, I think. So I think there are many, many connections between humanistic psychology.. Yeah! I could go on for hours. But.. So I think this is what narrows it down for me. So this is why I like to integrate both things in my practice, right? Make sense? Right?


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