¿Colabora el Análisis Existencial contemporáneo, con el feminismo y/o la teoría de género?

Does contemporary Existential Analysis collaborate with feminism and/or gender theory?


Faced with this invitation to write about feminism and contemporary Existential Analysis (EA), without being an expert on the subject of feminism, but in the EA, I was given the task of studying this theme, and then a question arose: In what way – if at all – can Alfried Längle’s EA be considered a psychotherapeutic approach that incorporates, or collaborates with a feminist approach?  In the following lines, I will elaborate on some initial sketches regarding the relationship between the two theories.

Keywords: Feminism, Gender Theory, Contemporary Existential Analysis.

What is feminism about?

            In my search on these subjects, I have found that Feminism has a considerable history. It begins approximately in 1673, in the letters of the French priest and philosopher Poullain de la Barre in a text named On the equality of the sexes. “It would be the first feminist work that explicitly focuses on substantiating the demand for sexual equality,” details Ana de Miguel in her article Modern Feminism.  However, women’s and feminist movements that took place during the French Revolution also have their key theoretical and practical moments and places in the articulation of modern feminism. This first impetus has been called the First Wave. The use of the concept of Feminism is placed in the “suffragette” movement (1882) when the French Hubertine Auclert, a member of that movement, publishes an article calling feminists to her co-religionists.

            Let’s examine now, where these and the following waves lead us…

            Virginia Woolf introduces us in her own reflection on the subject in “A room of one’s own” book published in 1929, in which she tells us that every woman should have a room of one’s own and 500 lire in her pocket, at a time when women could neither enter a library nor manage her own money. These lines are an advanced step towards what the also tremendous Simone de Beauvoir will write later, in her book The Second Sex (1949) which is considered, until today, as the bible of feminism. In both authors, the “shift of focus from the public to the private, marked the passage from the first wave of feminism to the second” (Levet, B, 2018, p.13). We go from fighting to gain space in society (the right to vote, to study, to access to power, for example), to the most personal, such as having one’s own space in the house, the right to one’s own time, and also to the exercise of a sexuality chosen by women. “One is not born a woman, but becomes one“, is the famous phrase of this author, in which she makes a philosophical-historical distinction between women and what society has done to them (ibid.). Beauvoir distinguishes “woman/female”, from “the feminine”, the first being its physical-physiological determinants, while the second, would be something built from a masculine culture, inventing an ethical and aesthetic model of the female, the one submitted and accustomed to it.

            Santa Cruz et al. (1994), add to what was said in the first wave, endorsing that the category of gender is not descriptive but normative and that the perception of society to women and men is thus determined. Therefore, femininity and masculinity are social constructions that as a society we perpetuate. Of course, they are not unaware of the biological differences that are undeniable for everyone, “but what determines the social organization is not the difference itself but the way in which it is signified and valued, the way in which it is interpreted and experienced”.

            The Second Wave, then, adding to what was already obtained in previous struggles, now seeks a cultural change that frees the roles that were inherited from the male measurements. They are no longer just looking for the right to vote, and sexual freedom, but also autonomy in their property, their economy, etc… “Beauvoir is interested in women’s sexual freedom, but she is perhaps even more interested, in their economic independence” (ibid., p. 13).

            The third wave, voiced by Caviedes and Svenson in the introduction of Gender Theory or the Dreamed World of Angels, (Levet, B, 2018), point out that the author wanted to distance herself from her predecessors, and shifts the emphasis from collectivity to individuality. In this sense, it is feminism without women and affirms that Gender appears “superior” to traditional feminism since it is not limited to the cause of women, because it includes other minorities such as homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, etc. For this author, the concept of Gender (with capital letters) becomes something interchangeable, so it is indifferent if there is a man or a woman because the interest now lies in the experience itself, the individual and non-transferable experience (thus, leaving behind the collective). In this feminist wave, or in this new perspective about Gender, what matters, where the accent lies, is in the individuals who have suffered, who currently suffer, or have suffered throughout history some degree of discrimination, marginalization, and abuse by a group of power.


Feminist and non-feminist psychotherapies

            Is it possible to conceive of a feminist or non-feminist psychological theory, or one that is open to collaborating with this theory, with what has been briefly described so far?

            It could begin with the difference in paradigms of different psychological approaches. Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (1962/2007), describes how different paradigms have developed throughout history. This is how after the medieval paradigm, the Modern emerges with all its development of sciences. Finally, human behaviors, among others, can be measured, quantified, generalized, and predicted. Here we find psychological developments such as psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and cognitive behavioral, for example. Ontologically speaking, in this group, the concept of a human being is that we are determined by our past and our biology and that our behaviors are (and can be) predictable. Therefore, human beings are generalizable. There is no place for freedom in us. Causes are sought to explain behaviors. Hence, the research method par excellence is the scientific method, standardized tests, manuals that seek generalizations, etc.

            As this period of history progresses, new philosophical and epistemological models emerge, as well as psychotherapeutic ones, such as humanist, postrationalist and existential approaches. In Kuhn’s words, we are talking about the emergence of a new paradigm: the Postmodern paradigm. Here human beings are conceived as unique and unrepeatable beings and, therefore, indeterminate. For this new ontology, it was necessary to develop a new method of study that could rigorously grasp this uniqueness, because the previous method did not serve to help and understand that unique being that is shown to us. Phenomenology then appears as a method of research and psychotherapeutic intervention.


What is contemporary Existential Analysis (EA)?

            The contemporary EA paradigm emerges approximately 30 years ago, at the hand of Dr. Alfried Längle, in Vienna, Austria. That period installs us in a time and continent where this “third wave” permeated the academy, libraries, and conversations.

Längle defines the EA as “a personal-phenomenological psychotherapy whose objective is to help persons to achieve a free experience (mental and emotional), authentic positions and a self-responsible treatment with themselves and the world“. (Croquevielle, M., p. 30)

            Already in this single definition, something of what Caviedes and Svenson raised appears to us: the EA is a “personal” approach, where the Person is the unique, the incomparable, and the unrepeatable of the human being. Another element that appears in the definition is the concept of freedom: what is sought in this psychotherapy is that whoever comes to our consultation, can find and understand their emotionality, their thoughts, their own place, from their full freedom.  The method chosen by Längle, could not be other than Phenomenology, thus giving coherence to this psychotherapeutic approach so individual, personal and intimate. We, in turn, as psychotherapists, are prepared to make Heidegger’s epojé call (parenthesizing our own ideas, thoughts, and beliefs), so that it is the consultant who has that space for his or her own. From the EA perspective, what is sought is precisely that those who come to us, develop their ability to take a position from their own being:

In the EA we are interested in the person, described by Frankl (1983, 233f) as that which is “free” in the human being, who as such makes possible all the decisions, choices, resolutions and self-determinations in accordance with themselves. That is the place where human freedom lies: being able to find consent and inner approval, and therefore be in accordance with its own essence. Existential freedom is getting to live essentially; live as a person, with what begins to speak in us, freely, genuinely (Längle 2000b). In other words, EA is directed toward the undetermined in the human being, the spiritual (that part of us that is free and responsible). (Croquevielle and Traverso, 2011. p. 130)

            So many feminist struggles and not only of women, because we see how they encompassed – then and now-, ethnic minorities, discriminated, abused, and invisibilized people, who in EA and in other psychotherapies of contemporary paradigms, can finally be welcomed!

            “The masculine and the feminine are nothing more than codes, imposed norms, which do not take into account the deep aspirations of each one, which work to “normalize” individuals, and not to include them in a world of shared meanings“, writes Levet (p.10). And those codes have historically helped us to signify the perceived, not having to decipher every time we see something/someone (a table with 4 legs is a table, here as anywhere, just as a person with breasts and curves is -biologically- a woman), it has led us to invisibilize the unique,  that which distinguishes us as human beings. You are not born a woman, but you become one…Beauvoir repeats to us.

            EA states that human beings require four major personal fundamental motivations (FM) for a full existence, of which in this article I will mention the first three because they are personal motivations (the 4th motivation is existential, the meaning of life).

            Linked to their material survival, the 1st FM talks about having and developing our abilities, but also, the possibilities that the world offers. Beauvoir already pointed out that we need our own space and some money. We can witness how minorities, not only women, have been so restricted through limitations to study, and hold decision-making positions, for example. There are also differences in our salaries (compared to men in similar activities). Ethnic minorities have been relegated from their own lands and sexual minorities… They have had to hide to survive. From the EA we work with the fundamental conditions so that all people – especially abused minorities, can feel safe, and confident: that they can perceive a solid ground, a space, and protection for being in the world.

            But survival is not enough, we also require a 2nd FM, which relates to what gives us well-being… And I think, how many women have been and continue to be sexually abused, not only through direct violence but also coertion, being taught from an early age that their sexuality is only to procreate (and give pleasure to men). People who, out of shame (because they have suffered discrimination), have not been able to fully and freely enjoy their sexuality or cultural or religious condition. How many depressions and suicides, murders, for not being able to access and feel the value of life! Here we work with the conditions of relationships, time and closeness, which allows them to (re)connect with what they feel as beneficial: dedicating time to personal relationships, intimacy, and closeness with themselves and others.

            “To be allowed to be as we are,” says the 3rd FM of existence offered by Dr. Längle. How incredible to be in the middle of the 21st century, and to have to consider it, as such a fundamental condition for the freedom of people that it must be repaired in so many! How many people belonging to original peoples, how many transgender, queer, homosexual people, how many people with disabilities, belonging to minority ethnic groups, how many people different from the so-called “majorities”… All and all who never received the minimum conditions as consideration, fair treatment and appreciation, just for being the way they were. “May our daughter have your beauty and my intelligence,” one man said to his pregnant wife.

            To receive appreciation for just the fact of being, as I am. So I can face and look at you, and you can hold my gaze. So I do not hide, disguise myself, and make myself invisible, we say in Alfried Längle’s EA.

            These three motivations appear to us as fundamental pillars for being in the world: To be able to be, to like to live, to be allowed to be as one is. Conditions included in each of them, from the EA, are elaborated with each client who comes to the therapists in contemporary Existential Analysis. And our task is to help people, regardless of their belief, their condition, their imprint, to find in this world, their place, their position, their decision. From this approach it is

“To help human beings to be able to act and live with Approval and Inner Consent. Approval is expressed by the authenticity, the genuineness of the person. It is a realization of the freedom of the person in that continuous interior ‘Yes’, it is associated, in a felt way, with the action itself”. (Längle A., 2013, p.198/199)

            In this way, I can say that contemporary EA is a psychotherapeutic approach that, in addition to considering this feminist perspective, crosses, collaborates, and accompanies the victims whose rights (which the feminist outlook defends) have been violated, helping each person, in practice, to exercise their own rights actively, through a self-responsible treatment with themselves, for example, by encouraging the establishments of limits, taking themselves seriously and striving to receive fair treatment and encouraging self-esteem ().  In other words, this is an approach that is open to accompany current social processes, opening dialogues that allow people belonging to those groups (that have been victims of abuse, discrimination, delegitimization), to find their own voice, and actively take a position that can be transformed into concrete action.



Beauvoir, S. (1949). El segundo sexo. Edit. Cátedra. Santiago.

Croquevielle, M. (2009). Análisis existencial: Sus bases epistemológicas y filosóficas. Castalia, 15, 23-34

Croquevielle, M., Traverso, G. (2011). El análisis existencial de Alfried Längle. La conducta de una vida con aprobación y consentimiento interno. En Las psicoterapias existenciales. Efrén Martínez comp. Edit. Manual Moderno, Bogotá.

De Miguel, A. (s/f). Feminismo moderno. Mujeres en red. [en línea]. Disponible en https://www.mujeresenred.net/historia-feminismo2.html [2022, agosto]

Kuhn, T (1962/2007).  La estructura de las revoluciones científicas. Edit. Fondo de cultura económica. Santiago.

Längle A. (2013). ¿Espiritualidad en la psicoterapia? en Vivir la propia Vida. Comp. Längle, S. y Traverso G. (2013). Edit. Mandrágora. Santiago

Längle A. (2006). Libro de Texto Alumnos 2ª MF. La relación al valor de la vida. No publicado.

Längle, A. (1997/2005). Libro de Texto Alumnos 1ª MF. La condición básica de la existencia. No publicada.

Levet, B. (2018). Teoría de género o el mundo soñado de los ángeles. Edit. Instituto de estudios de la sociedad. Santiago.

Santa Cruz, M. et al. (1994). Mujeres y filosofía: Teoría filosófica de género. Buenos Aires: CEAL. (Los fundamentos de las ciencias del hombre; 146-147)

Woolf, V. (1929, 2010). Un cuarto propio. Edit. Cuarto propio. Santiago.



Michèle Croquevielle

Psicóloga Clínica
Postítulo en Análisis Existencial
Supervisora Acreditada
Directora Revista InterAmericana Existencia
Directora ICAE


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Mujer - Women
N° 36 - 2022