Guidelines For Intervention And Existential Questions

This intervention can work in time-limited situations. Our group time is limited to about thirty minutes each morning with eight boys before we go to breakfast in the correctional center. This requires a very focused approach to give each boy an opportunity to participate and hopefully also exhaust the subject in the allotted time. I choose a different existential question to process each day. I introduce the subject as a "provocative question" they can respond to freely, without fear of censure (at least not from me). Useful existential fantasy questions may include the following:

1. If you live to be seventy, which decade of your life will be the most important to you? (e.g., meaning of life, approach of death)

2. If you were stranded on a desert island, whom would you want as a companion? (intimacy, freedom)

3. If you had thirty days to live how would you spend your remaining time? (anxiety, approach of death, meaning)

4. If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would you choose? Which would you never choose to lose? (degrees of freedom, death )

5. If you were deported from your home country, never to return, which other country would you choose to live in? (isolation, freedom, death)

6. If you could change one thing about your physical appearance, what would you change? (isolation, intimacy, identity)

7. What is one year of your life you'd like to skip; what is one year you'd never have skipped? (responsibility, meaning, intimacy)

8. Who is one famous person, historical or fictional, that you'd like to meet? (meaning, intimacy)

Eliciting Self-Awareness

9. What is your greatest strength? Greatest weakness? (degrees of freedom, meaning)

10. What short message would you like written on your gravestone along with your name? (meaning of life, absurdity, death)

11. Given your present situation, what freedoms do you have left? (degrees of freedom, responsibility, meaning, death)

12. How will you know when you have become successful? (meaning, approach of death)

13. The most important relationship in my life will be with whom? (intimacy, meaning)

14. What invention would you like to create to improve the world? (meaning of life)

15. Which friend or family member would you grieve the most for if they died? (intimacy, isolation, death)

16. If you could choose another family to be born into, which family would you choose? (intimacy, isolation, freedom)

17. If you could commandeer the front page of the local or national newspaper, what headlines and story would you write? (meaning, isolation, freedom)

18. If you could control another person's behaviors completely, whom would you like to control? (responsibility, intimacy, freedom)

19. What would you be willing to give up in order to gain your freedom? (responsibility, meaning, freedom, death)

A daily question maybe: "If you could have complete control over another person, who would that be, and what would you have them do?"

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