New Parents in a Changing World

Existential and Interpersonal Dilemmas
  • Sophia Richman


Becoming a parent is a profound psychological and existential event. It is an experience that can potentially change one’s perspective from the trivial preoccupations of daily life to an attitude of greater self-awareness. Often, deciding to parent raises issues of personal identity, encourages a reevaluation of values, goals, and aspirations, and involves a reordering of priorities. Irvin Yalom, the existential psychotherapist, uses the term boundary situation to describe events “that propel one into a confrontation with one’s existential situation in the world.” For Yalom, the prototypic boundary situation is death awareness, but his description could just as readily apply to birth awareness. Giving birth, like facing death, potentially creates a massive shift in the way one lives in the world. Yalom sees decisions as boundary experiences as well. He writes: “Decision, especially an irreversible decision, is a boundary situation in the same way that awareness of ‘my death’ is a boundary situation. Both act as a catalyst to shift one from the everyday attitude to the ontological attitude—that is, to a mode of being in which one is mindful of being” (1980, p. 319).


Death Anxiety Shared Parenting Primary Caretaker Powerful Bond Joint Parenting 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophia Richman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Contemporary PsychotherapyNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Postdoctoral ProgramNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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