Existential Psychology is proposed by May as the reaction to the effect of modern age to human. Modern age with its insanity and absurdity leads human to the researching of self hood. The modern age with its disturbances pull us to the ambiguous question, “what we are and what we ought to be” as May stated (May, 1953: vii). The complexity and the instant produced by modern age cause the confusion to human. At the beginning of twentieth century, this is said by May according to Freud that the most inner problem of nowadays human is the difficulty to accept the instinctual, sexual side of life and the resulting conflict between sexual drives with sexual taboos.”(May,1953:15). But in the middle of twentieth century and the early of modern age, the notion about freedom spreads out. It is proved by the statement by an atheist existentialist such as Nietzsche who noted that God is dead that breaks the cultural sacred about God. It is continued by Dostoevsky who said that If God didn’t exist; everything would be permitted. (Stumpf,1999:478).
According to Freud (Jarvis, 2009:47), psychoanalysis considers the basic instinct of human is called as id, which lets the biology drives such as sexual drive powering human’s life. It is really well supported by the atheism which tells that if God’s dead everything would be permitted. The boundary of taboos and traditions became the secondary side to count. It is signed by the loss of God’s sacred to human. This condition leads modern human to gratify her/his life freely without thinking about taboos, religion law, tradition and other boundaries. The responsible freedom sounds by the theist existentialists just as the wind blows. This kind of freedom, leads human to the free style of life, such as free sex that makes the sexual activity to be the empty, mechanical, and vacuous experience where the sexual gratification is considered as the biological action and there is no love left. That human dissolves to the mass human, s/he loses her/his own selves and s/he becomes the mirror of human. As May stated that “As one person puts it, ‘I’m just the collection of mirrors, reflecting what everyone else expects of me’.”(May, 1953:14). Then the researching of self hood is started.
In his book, May assumed that American character was divided into two groups based on the age of her/his life. There were two typical American characters, first was the American who lived before world war and after world war. Before world war, the typical American character was inner-directed; s/he got the moralistic standard of the late Victorian sense and had strong ambition and motivation. These kinds of characters called as the person who was directed by the strong super ego by psychoanalyst. And present American character (after world war) was considered as the outer-directed, s/he lived based on the mass human, s/he reflected what other people expected to her/him. S/he got motive and ambition from other people; s/he was able to respond but not to choose. S/he dissolved to mass human and far away to her/his own self, s/he has no effective center of motivation of her/his life. The general characteristic of outer-directed people was passivity and apathy.
As the reaction to that pity factual condition, May wrote book told about the rediscovering of self hood of modern people. He said in his preface of his book that;
“One of the few blessings of living in an age of anxiety is that we is[sic] forced to become of ourselves. When our society, in its time of upheaval in standards and values, can give us no clear picture of ‘what we is and what we ought to be’ [sic], as Mathew Arnold puts it, we thrown back on the search for ourselves.”(May, 1953: vii)
We can draw an assumption that human should take a stand to face this reality. Existential Psychology is the one which tries to solve this problem. He divided his book into three major parts which is preceded by predicament faced by human (modern human for special) causing anxiety and loneliness of modern people. That conditions lead human to find the root of that malady. Then the next discussion is rediscovering self hood by defining the experience of becoming person, then discussing the struggle to be, and reaching the stages of consciousness of self. The last discussion is discussing the goals of integration consists of the discussion freedom and inner strength, the creative conscience of human, and courage as the virtue of maturity.