Masters in the Art of Living by Dr. Bruno Bonvecchi

The following article by Dr. Bruno Bonvecchi, founder and former Director of the IPAE in Cosenza, Italy, was presented at an Italian Federation of Psychotherapy conference, and offers a wonderful overview of what Existential Personalistic Anthropology aims at helping people achieve, and how Counselors in this method approach their work with clients. 

It explains that trained Existential Personalistic Anthropologists are seen not as detached professionals when working with their clients: they are working to become Persons too, and Artists of their own lives, in their own journey of self-discovery and development, and the guidance they offer is based not only on their education and training, but on their personal experience of transformation and growth.

Such an approach requires not only years of education and training, but a willingness to accept guidance from those further along the path as they undergo their own transformational processes.

This ability to embrace one’s own continual transformation forges ever -deepening empathy, profound respect and humility towards their clients, who are seen as equals and peers along the path of human healing and evolution, even though they may be a few steps behind.


If it is true that human beings are the result of a continual evolution of a life form within our Universe, I think that they truly exist only as far as they evolve during their own lives.

In the current evolutionary process, humanity’s artistic and spiritual dimension is emerging, which is connected to our ability to become Persons and Artists of our lives.

A Person is someone who manages to achieve an autonomous, free and responsible identity, while consistently adhering to a code of ethics. An Artist is someone who transforms their traumas and painful memories of even a far away past into something new, something that is vital and beautiful.

An Artist does not complain about life, even when presented with harsh challenges during adulthood, but rather he or she makes such trials into opportunities to create further transformative beauty.

When training our Counselors we draw particularly on the teachings of three great teachers and experts of the human experience.

Viktor von Weizsacker: this scholar, with his theory on RELATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY and PATHOSOPHIA, reminds us that a true relationship between people is a very difficult thing to accomplish. Such a goal always requires that each of the people involved renounces something of themselves so they can make room for and embrace the other.

By drawing upon the research he did in the fields of medicine, biology and neurophysiology, he offers us an original way of interpreting the “living phenomenon” that is the human being. His is an in fieri anthropology, that no longer looks at the subject as a simple object of medical-philosophical-scientific study, but that instead includes what the subject is BECOMING, and looks for the origins of this becoming by studying what the subject is expressing as pathic. For this scholar, everything that pertains to the experience of pain is pathic, as well as everything that helps to penetrate into its meaning, and stimulates an openness to the inter-subjectivity of relationship. “We are not just (BE)-INGS, we are MOV-ING, FLOW-ING, BECOM-ING, and only then are we LIV-ING”, is an important affirmation he made in 1926.

Ludwig Binswanger:  In a conversation with S. Freud in 1927, Binswanger affirmed: “A person is transformed when they choose to follow their spiritual spark for guidance, or rather when they make a decision after they reach awareness”. Freud’s first comment in response to this was: “Yes, the spirit is everything”. Binswanger created Anthropoanalysis, which is an analysis of the ways of be-ing of the individual and of its real and actualized presence in every moment.

Antonio Mercurio:  His departure point was Analytical Psychotherapy, and in 1970 he founded in Rome the first school of psychotherapeutic training in Italy. He then moved on to Analytical Existential Psychotherapy and developed the theory of “Existential Anthropology and Personalistic Metapsychology”. Within this theory he offered a historical definition of the Person, which, in my opinion, is still today an important point of reference for all those interested in the phenomenology of human beings. Later, his Existential Analytical Psychotherapy became Sophia-Analysis, which was no longer the analysis of only the psyche, but included an analysis of the wisdom present within every phase of human evolution as well as within each human being. Still later he further developed Existential Personalistic Anthropology by creating two distinct methods:

a)      Sophia-Art, which is the art of unifying the opposites and the split off parts within us, such as love and hate, creativity and destructivity, beauty and ugliness.

b)      Cosmo-Art, which instead is an artistic Movement as well as a method. It is inspired by a new and original way of looking at the myth of Ulysses, which is seen as a metaphor for human existence from prenatal life onward and as an attempt to offer an evolutionary and artistic answer to the existence and function of pain in human life.

Sophia-Art and Cosmo-Art are two fields of research where Counselors within our Association are encouraged to carry out research regarding their own life experience.

More recently, Antonio Mercurio has proposed a fusion between his thought and the positive thinking proposed by the Metaphysical Counselor Louise Hay. By doing so he reminds us that human beings exist as long as they are continually becoming Persons, or rather if they continually evolve towards new levels of identity that are superior to the preceding ones. He began doing this by evolving his own thought through the recognition of all the wealth contained in Hay’s approach.

Mercurio writes: “Human beings that exist but are not becoming, or rather that never change and never transform themselves because they remain rigidly fixated in the ways of thinking they were born with and in the behaviors they have always identified with, are not living beings, even though they may believe to be so. They are shadows; they are not truly alive” (From the Sixth Theorem in A. Mercurio’s Cosmo-Art Theorems and Axioms, 2010 Solaris Institute of the Sophia University of Rome).

As we can see, Existential Anthropological Counseling looks at single individuals with a global, holistic approach, and it especially concentrates on their artistic, spiritual dimensions, where their individual life purpose, their freedom and their ability to make responsible decisions lie.

An Existential Anthropological Counselor is a PERSON who has a direct experience of everything I described above within their course of training. He or she acquires specific tools to learn, step by step, to act wisely and to apply such wisdom to their own existential becoming, so they can then transmit this to others. This in turn helps the beauty of their own lives and the lives of others to emerge, through the discovery of new ways of transforming suffering, of harmonizing conflicts and of removing obstacles, which are all seen as precious opportunities to grow, evolve and be healthily transformed.

Our Counselors do not operate within the context of behavioral disorders or with every type of pathology. They do not work on structurally changing the personality or in all those situations that are instead the specific competence of other professions. It is important that our Counselors do not consider themselves neither healers nor saviors of just anyone.

Counselors trained in this method always keep in mind that times of crisis, obstacles, conflicts and suffering are signals that Life sends us to stimulate us and help us decide to make those transformations necessary to become Persons who are increasingly free and creative and are moving towards “more being”. It is important to live to experience the joy of living, besides just the pleasure of living. The joy of living requires acknowledging and accepting that pain is a useful source of energy that helps accomplish one’s own original existential purpose.

Counselors in Existential Personalistic Anthropology are professionals and guides who are experts in the “art of living”. This is an art which is governed by the Laws of Life that are written within humanity’s deep individual and collective wisdom. It is an art which teaches how to flow with life by working on one’s awareness, on one’s responsible freedom, on one’s knowledge of oneself and one’s own existential goals. It is an art that encourages us to renounce believing we are helpless victims of events and situations, so we can recover unknown personal resources and unexpressed creative potential. It is an art that trains us to be able to act to create Beauty in our own lives and in the lives of those who are close to us.

An Artist of one’s own life and of the life of the universe is someone capable of making their lives a work of art and who, together with others, works to transform a group of people who are complete strangers into a single living organism capable of creating truth and beauty, following the laws of life. To forgive oneself and others, for example, is one of the laws of life ….”

This is what Antonio Mercurio writes in his Invitation to Existential Personalistic Anthropology, and I would like to add that forgiveness does not mean agreeing with or justifying anything!

I affirm that just as Ulysses conquered his own monsters and poisons, I, too, can conquer my own monsters and poisons and make my life into a work of art that is a fusion of truth, freedom, beauty and love, and I can do this without expecting that I will accomplish this over night”. (Antonio Mercurio)