Dimensions of Reality

Jan 19, 2014 by

the worldExistentialists distinguish four basic dimensions of human existence: the physical, social, psychological and spiritual. In each of these dimensions, our attitudes are shaped by our perception of our experiences. We are oriented in our worlds according to how we define our own reality. We, as individuals, are often stretched between a positive pole of what we aspire to on each dimension and a negative pole of what we fear.

Physical Dimension – Umwelt
It is on this dimension that we relate to our environment and the laws of the natural world around us. This includes our attitudes toward our bodies and bodily needs, the place where we live, the climate and weather, and objects and material possessions. We struggle on this dimension between the search for domination over the elements and natural law and the need to accept the limitations of natural boundaries. Through health and wealth, we aim for security on this dimension.

Social Dimension – Mitwelt
It is on this dimension that we relate to others and interact with the public world around us. This includes our response to culture in which we live, and the class or race to which we belong. Attitudes here are polarized toward love and hate, cooperation and competition, acceptance versus rejection, and belonging versus isolation.

Psychological Dimension – Eigenwelt
It is on this dimension that we relate to ourselves. This includes our view about our own character, our past experiences, and our future possibilities. We experience contradictions here in terms of our personal strengths and weaknesses. We search for an identity and the feeling of being empowered in the world through self-affirmation and resolution rather than being plunged into a state of disintegration through loss and confusion, which can create anxiety.

Spiritual Dimension – Uberwelt
It is on this dimension that we relate to the unknown and so we create a sense of an ideal world – an ideology and a philosophical outlook. This is the dimension in which we find meaning by putting the pieces of the puzzle together and creating a sense of wholeness. For some, this is accomplished by adhering to a religion or other prescriptive world view; for others it is accomplished by discovering or attributing meaning in a more secular or personal way. The polarities here are often related to purpose and absurdity, hope and despair. We create our values in search of something important enough to live or die for, something that may have universal validity.

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