On shows created by Joss Whedon

Buffy's Search for Meaning

By Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D.

The hardest thing in this world … is to live in it.

-Buffy Summers, “The Gift” (5-22)

Slayers are real and not delusional.2 So, why therapy? It is almost certain that Buffy would meet diagnostic criteria for depression during most of season six, but that’s really not the point. Existential therapists don’t generally see people as sick but as sometimes needing guidance in their efforts to negotiate the challenges of life.3 We could all use this sort of guidance occasionally, but it would be of particular benefit to Buffy, whose daily challenges are epic in nature.

But why existential therapy? It is not the most popular (that would be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and it is not the latest new treatment, like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. In all honesty, it may be difficult to even find a practicing therapist who works primarily from existential theory.4 I don’t myself. And yet, if Buffy asked me for a referral during any period of her life after becoming the Slayer, this is the specific type of psychotherapy I would recommend, for it is the only therapy developed to explicitly deal with those big life issues that Buffy seems to confront on a daily basis. Consistent with existential principles, I prioritize depth over breadth, and focus exclusively on just two existential themes: responsibility and death.

The Weight of Responsibility

“How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the  …

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