Factors of Dr. Jowdy's Approach:
The term philosophy often carries a connotation of the mystical, ambiguous, or even wishy-washy. Depending on what you have read and learned from the writing of the great philosophers, this can be understandable. But if we take a step back and get to the root of what philosophy is all about, it mainly has to do with values and beliefs. Think of your philosophical nature as being based in what you believe and what you value.
Examples of beliefs:
People can be trusted.
I only live once, so I need to give it my all.
It is important that everyone like me.
I hate failing more than I like winning.
Examples of values:
I value honest, integrity, dignity.
I value treating others the way I want to be treated.
I value being with family.
I value hard work and discipline.
Beliefs and values are a large part of your “operating system,” to borrow computer lingo. Values and beliefs guide how you think, feel, and act (or execute, in the arena of sports). One common belief is, “If I do the right thing and live a good life, good things will happen.” This belief can lead someone to feel optimistic, hopeful, and happy, living life in a manner consistent with their beliefs and value system. But we all know that regardless of how well we treat others or how good our moral compass is, none of us is immune to the travails of the human condition. The human condition is such that tragedy, trauma, and pain are a part of life for everyone. No one is immune. A person who does not accept this truth in the face of adversity (e.g., seeing their child get cancer or having a career-ending injury in sport) may ask “Why me?” The real question is “Why not me?”
In my practice, I draw heavily on existential philosophy. This viewpoint is based upon the premise that an individual is responsible for determining their own development as a result of the choices they make. Many schools of thought in psychology are based in existentialism. The questions “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What am I meant to do?” are what we might call existential questions. In our culture, these questions are often associated with the concept of the midlife crisis. For most people, somewhere around midlife, people realize they are not immortal, the way we feel in adolescence. The reality that we will all die becomes undeniable.
The philosopher Nietzsche believed that when a person comes face-to-face with his or her mortality, that person has a boundary experience. I work with athletes who have career-ending injuries and feel as if they are dying. This is a boundary experience. Nietzsche says a boundary experience gives “birth to the rise of a dancing star.” In other words, this is the point at which a person can truly start to wake up, be more aware, and embrace how precious and fragile life is. I do not mean fragile in a weak way, but rather fragile in the sense that we have the humility to accept that tragedy can strike at any time. This can lead us to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and not complain so much when a plane is delayed or cancelled. Instead of being angry, you start to think, “I get to deal with this.”
Having said this, I believe seeing a psychologist can be a boundary experience in its own right. At least, that is my philosophy, because at some point along the way, we will be looking at each other realizing this life will not go on forever. My hope is that the younger folks I work with will get this in their teenage years. If you’re a parent, you may find this means your kids’ cell phones will no longer rule their lives. I have seen kids realize what a time hog their phones are and limit their use to a certain amount of time every day. I have seen adults become more interested in volunteering to give back to the world. There is much more to say about this, and I would be happy for us to explore the details should you decide to sit down together.