Existential Subjects

The four so called fundamental motivations were introduced by Alfried Längle (* 1951) in 1993 as a structural model for the means of practical Existential Analysis. They can also be referred to as some basic conditions or basic themes of existence and they can be viewed as to contain the existential inquiries about people and their lives. The term is claimed to be taken as a description of the »deepest motivational structure of the person in their essential pursuit of existence«. This concept of the four fundamental motivations extends the motivation theory of the Will to Meaning (Viktor E. Frankl) by describing three corresponding and complementary motivations that alltogether structure the idea of personality.

These four fundamental motivations pick up on the basic questions that humans are faced with in their life and that are understood to be experienced as the basic conditions for holistic existence (»existential experience«). In doing so, you mark the coping areas of existence. Existential analysis assumes that even a partial loss of the basic motivations makes the whole of the existence deficit. Successfully coping with life will require the person to give a fourfold »consent« correspondingly and simultaneously:

 1. Yes to the world – 2. Yes to life – 3. Yes to self – 4. Yes to meaning 

These basic subjects of existence give rise to specific questions that differ from one another in motivational terms but belong together as integral parts. It is always about the personal relationship of people to these basic conditions:

I. Being in the world – dealing with conditions and possibilities

The first fundamental motivation is about the relation to the world and reality with the fundamental question: »I am – can I be?« A person is in this world, in his or her own reality – how can the person cope with existence and life in this world? Can it even be under the given circumstances?

The questions of protection, space and support arise. If a person feels fundamentally protected, safe and held, this creates the basic trust as the basis for his existence.

II. Life – dealing with relationship and emotions

The second fundamental motivation is to relate to life with the fundamental question: »I live – do I like to live?«

To realize an existential life, relationships are needed in life, time as a space for relationships and closeness to people and objects. On this basis, a person can give and receive attention. From this grows a deep perception of the value that life has in itself: the so‐​called basic value.

III. Being a Person – dealing with uniqueness and conscience

The third fundamental motivation is about self‐​reference with the fundamental question: »I am I – may I be like that?« To be able to be yourself, there are three prerequisites: consideration, fairness and appreciation.

When a person is seen and observed, a self‐​image emerges in contrast to other people. This creates a feeling of persons’s own centre and worth. And if a person develops a feeling for what is right due to his or her increased independence, the person can distinguish right from wrong. A person judges his or her own actions and the actions of others based on the own values. The self‐​image gains strength, the self‐​worth is justified.

IV. Meaning – dealing with becoming, future and commitment

The fourth fundamental motivation is about the reference to meaning with the fundamental question: »I am there – what should I be there for?«

Person wants to understand their existence. A human being asks where from, where to, why and what for: These questions of meaning are essential for his or her existence.

As a prerequisite for a fulfilling existence, on the one hand, a field of activity is required to apply and implement what is important to people. In addition, there is a need for a context in which the person is integrated, the structural context (family, workplace, nature, etc.). Based on a future‐​oriented value, human activity gradually creates its life’s work. Human existence, experiences fulfilment and a feeling of being taken care of, his or her existence acquires an existential meaning.