Sensing ourselves in the world

Heidegger and Befindlichkeit

“Heidegger’s concept denotes how we sense ourselves in situations. Whereas feeling is usually thought of as something inward, Heidegger’s concept refers to something both inward and outward, but before a split between inside and outside has been made.

We are always situated, in situations, in the world, in a context, living in a certain way with others, trying to achieve this and avoid that.

“A mood is not just internal, it is this living in the world. We sense how we find ourselves, and we find ourselves in situations.

“A second difference from the usual conception of “feeling” lies in this: Befindlichkeit always already has its own understanding. (Here is Heidegger’s second basic parameter of human existence: “understanding.”) We may not know what the mood is about, we may not even be specifically aware of our mood, nevertheless there is an understanding of our living in that mood. It is no merely internal state or reaction, no mere coloring or accompaniment to what is happening. We have lived and acted in certain ways for certain purposes and strivings and all this is going well or badly, but certainly it is going in some intricate way. How we are faring in these intricacies is in our mood. We may not know that in a cognitive way at all; it is in the mood nevertheless, implicitly.

“This understanding is active; it is not merely a perception or reception of what is happening to us. We don’t come into situations as if they were mere facts, independent of us. We have had some part in getting ourselves into these situations, in making the efforts in response to which these are now the facts, the difficulties, the possibilities, and the mood has the implicit “understanding” of all that, because this understanding was inherent already in how we lived all that, in an active way.”

Befindlichkeit: Heidegger and the Philosophy of Psychology


Review of Existential Psychology & Psychiatry: Heidgger and Psychology
Vol. XVI, Nos. I, 2 & 3, 1978-79


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