Existential Dimensions

Ludwig Binswanger (18811966) describes three dimensions to which human existence relates to: Umwelt, Mitwelt and Eigenwelt. Emmy van Deurzen (* 1951) adds the fourth dimension, the Überwelt, because this is where the transcendent side of existence is revealed. With the existential dimensions, we have an important model to better understand people in their existence.

Existencial Dimensions (after Hanaway, The Existential Leader, 2019)

Existencial Dimensions (after Hanaway, The Existential Leader, 2019)

I. Umwelt – the physical dimension

Outside is the Umwelt to which human existence relates: Surrounded by nature and atmosphere, one’s own corporeality as well as the physicality of others, the relationship to the environment arises primarily through perceptions.

II. Mitwelt – the social dimension

Encounter arises in the Mitwelt, existence is shaped by human togetherness. It emerges through relationship and dialogue with others, through feelings of belonging and loneliness. The Mitwelt emerges and is equally shaped by social interaction, intersubjectivity, participation and empathy.

III. Eigenwelt – the psychological dimension

Inside lies the Eigenwelt, that, consciously as unconsciously, constitutes the essence of the person: self‐​identity makes reference to the self and discovers similarities and differences to others; memory retrospectively shapes the life lines, while thoughts contribute significantly to the constitution in the here and now.

IV. Überwelt – the spiritual /​ transcendent dimension

»Man is a being in search of meaning«, says Viktor E Frankl in reference to Plato. In a sense, (self-)transcendence arises in reference to the Überwelt, human beings refer in their existence and focus something that is principally not again theirselves or even more goes beyond theirself. This reference is expressed in intuition, convictions, values, love, and the meaning that a person is able to give to his or her life and actions. In order to avoid a purely futile pursuit of desirable goals, the human being has to give his or her own answers to the questions of life. He or she alone is able to give »meaning« to his or her life.