2021 Asian Regional Conference on Covid-19 and the Givens of Existence:
An Asian Transnational Dialogue About Regional Response
August 21-22, 2021
Welcome to the 2021 Asian Regional Conference on Covid-19 and the Givens of Existence: An Asian Transnational Dialogue About Regional Response. The International Institute of Existential Humanistic Psychology and HELP University Malaysia is pleased to invite you to participate in a unique online conference titled Covid-19 and the Givens of Existence – An Asian Transnational Dialogue about Regional Response. As the name of the conference suggests, the conference will bring together existential thinkers and practitioners across Asia from a variety of existential orientations to present and dialogue about how various geographical regions have responded to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Each of the presenters will be asked to discuss how the Covid-19 pandemic has enriched their understanding of existential psychology and how their particular geographical region has dealt with the pandemic, including how the various wisdom traditions of their culture have helped with coping. In line with the concurrent International Conference which will be taking place during the month of August, the presenters will focus upon the following four existential givens, which serve as the main themes of the International Conference: Freedom, Finitude, Relatedness, and Meaning.
Click on each photo for more information regarding each presenter
COVID-19 Has Not Turned My Life Upside Down; It Has Turned It Inside Out
There was a sense of homecoming for Magdalen when she learnt of the opportunity to pursue Existential Therapy in London. However, chasing this dream meant sacrificing stability for a future that was uncertain. After all, existential psychotherapy carries a scarce presence in Singapore, where she lives. Still, displaying much courage, she embarked on a road less travelled. Six years later, Magdalen is closer to finding her voice, becomes a researcher on authenticity and accepts her calling to introduce existential therapy to in her home town. She plans to start her private practice and settle down as a Mrs. 2020 should have been an exciting year. Then COVID landed. As expected, Singapore has taken on an authoritarian response to the situation. How does living in Singapore at this time impact on the dreams and plans of this Asian woman? How has the country’s response to COVID re-shape her position on existential ideas like authenticity and freedom? In the end, 2020 turned out to still be an exciting year, just different.
Courage and Resilience in the Middle Space: A Filipino’s Perspective on Grief and the Philippines’ Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic
What meaning and purpose could a pandemic have for us when it brings so much suffering and loss? The year 2020 was to be filled with meaning and joy. Yet when Covid-19 arrived, retreats and reunions were replaced with loss and sorrow. The government inconsistent response was filled with confusion and the pressure to portray resilience. Politicizing the pandemic, disseminating misinformation, prioritizing the economy over and above science and physical and mental health, created significant distrust amongst the people. Media personality were also complicit through the distribution of fake news resulting in public mistrust, belief in pseudoscience, mistrust of healthcare workers, vaccine hesitancy, and the discrimination of Covid-19 patients and their families. What can the Philippines learn or gain from living through the pandemic? What lessons are available when one has the courage and resilience to stay in the middle space – that space where one stays with the difficulty and pain while maintaining the capacity to ask what message exists when there is so much suffering and loss?
The Uncertainty of the Epidemic Leaves Us in the Midst of Impermanence
In his article “Death in Everyday Life,” Trungpa Rinpoche wrote, “We have all grown up in a culture that fears and hides the truth about death. Yet nevertheless, we experience death all around us.”
From the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 till now, the world remains in uncertain turmoil. We do not know when we will be immune to the virus, nor do we know when we will be able to travel freely, unimpeded. In many cultures, death is a taboo subject. Though in China we are taught off and on from an early age about death and impermanence. Among the traditional Chinese festivals, there is Qingming Festival and the “Ghost Festival” to remember those who have been lost. We also use these ceremonies to express our remembrance and learn how to face impermanence. The Buddhist scriptures also talk about the impermanence of all actions. All existence in this world is impermanent, and nothing is immutable. The earliest reference to “impermanence” is found in the I Ching, and impermanence is strongly emphasized in the Chinse culture.
The existentialist psychologist Irvin Yalom wrote about the loss of passion for life when death is denied. Yet when we begin to confront and contemplate these issues, it inevitably leads to “anxiety” and “fear”. Covid-19 can be understood as a “border/awakening experience” as proposed by Yalom, challenging us to face how we exist in the world.
As psychologists, we have experienced numerous changes in our clinical practice in the aftermath of the epidemic. Our clients’ occupational, emotional, and family life situations are impacted by the pandemic. Under such conditions, how can we be more grounded, both within ourselves and in our work with our clients, is something that all of us psychologists need to deeply reflect upon and explore.