Existential Issues

Anxiety is a complex phenomenon, and understanding people in relation to death anxiety helps to explain many strange and puzzling phenomena about human behavior, not the least of which are people’s propensities for self-destructive responses. The arousal of death anxiety generally leads to an increased reliance on defensive behaviors and self-protective lifestyles. Any significant event, such as illness, rejection, accident, or tragedy, or an unusual success or special acknowledgment, can precipitate feelings of death anxiety, which in turn may lead to a retreat to defenses typically used by the person during times of stress.


Assessment Instruments

Firestone Assessment Instruments for mental health professionals: FAVT (Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts), FASI (Firestone assessment of suicidal intent), and FAST (Firestone Assessment of Self-Destructive Thoughts).


Critical Inner Voice

The critical inner voice can be thought of as the language of the defensive process. It has been defined as an integrated system of thoughts and attitudes, antithetical toward self and hostile toward others that is at the core of an individual’s maladaptive behavior. The concept of the “voice” is not restricted to cognitive processes but is generally associated with varying degrees of anger and sadness.



Differentiation refers to the struggle that all people face in striving to develop a sense of themselves as autonomous individuals. The most fundamental question to consider is: are we living based on pursuing the things that really light us up, that matter to us, and that give meaning to our lives, or are we living based on prescriptions we acquired in our past? Are we living according our own values and ethical principles, or are we automatically living according to the values and standards of other people or of the society in which we live?


Division of the Mind

To varying degrees, all of us are in conflict between tendencies to fulfill ourselves through goal-directed behavior and tendencies to limit ourselves, to sabotage our accomplishments, or at the extreme, to destroy ourselves as feeling human beings. The division in our personality is primarily the result of conflicting feelings and attitudes that our parents held toward themselves and directed toward us during our formative years.


Fear of Intimacy

Most people say that they are seeking love, yet paradoxically, they often find it difficult to accept being loved and acknowledged for who they really are. Indeed, for centuries, authors and playwrights have written about the fear and distrust of love that keep people from freely accepting affection, respect, and love in their lives. We may be tolerant of realizing our dreams and desires in fantasy, but very often we are intolerant of having them fulfilled in reality. This is especially true in close relationships. Being loved by someone we love and admire threatens our defenses and reawakens emotional pain and anxiety from childhood. In addition, both giving and receiving love tend to disrupt the negative, yet familiar, ways we have of thinking about ourselves. On an unconscious level, we may sense that if we did not push love away, the whole world as we have experienced it would be shattered and we would not know who we were.


Separation Theory

Separation Theory, developed by Dr. Robert Firestone, represents a broadly based, coherent system of concepts and hypotheses that integrate psychoanalytic and existential systems of thought. Separation theory explains how early trauma leads to defense formation and how these original defenses are reinforced as the developing child gradually becomes aware of his or her own mortality.


The Fantasy Bond

The fantasy bond is a term used to describe an imaginary connection formed originally by the infant with the parent or primary care-giver. It also describes an illusory connection to another person that adults attempt to establish in their intimate associations, a process that leads to deterioration in the relationship.


Voice Therapy

Voice Therapy is a powerful technique that quickly taps into clients' core negative beliefs. It is a process of identifying and eliciting negative thought patterns that are driving a person's maladaptive behavior.