Home » Blogs » The Therapist Within » Existential Therapy and ‘One-Day-Thinking’

Existential Therapy and ‘One-Day-Thinking’

So much seems caught in this handful of words (on another strangely insightful billboard*):

“One day could change your life.”

For, existentially, all of our lives seem certain to change one day – changed forever from the life we know into something we can only understand as an ending; as death.
One day, life; one day, not.

Yet how easy it is to forget this. To, instead, get caught up in the other kind of ‘one day’ – as in: “One day, I’ll get around to fixing that broken step/heart/relationship”. Or, “One day I’ll finally have the courage to test out my dream of …” Or, “One day, I’ll eventually let myself be the kind of person I secretly feel myself to be.”

One day…

(Just not today).

The myth of this ‘one-day-thinking’ is that there’ll always be a ‘later’. Guaranteed. That, somehow, your life will be long enough, large enough, to attend to those things some other time. That the days you have here will stretch out to accommodate all the stuff you’d like to return to down the track. Later. Then. Whenever. (Never?)

How is it that we can see and experience others dying and it often seems ‘too soon’ – and yet imagine that we’ll magically be immune from that. That we won’t be cut short. We’ll have the time. One day.

Joyce Carol Oates, in her new memoir exploring widowhood, writes about this sort of stuff in terms of the “vanity of believing that somehow we own our lives.”

And, maybe subconsciously, that we believe we can control how long we’re around for and when we can afford to put things off until…

Yet our particular ‘one day’ is coming – the day it all stops being an option. (At least in the way we currently experience our lives).

So in light of the (unmeasurable, unknowable) time you still have left here, what seems important to you? What would you like to say, to see, to heal, to attempt, to become? What freedoms and responsibilities do you have? What choices do you want to make?
(This is all deep in the territory of existential therapy).

And what action might these things entail?
What changes might you like to make in your life to bring this about (while you can)?

And when?
When you get around to it?

Or maybe even today

Maybe you want to stop swapping the life you have now for some mythical ‘later’ – to stop bartering what you do have for what you don’t (or maybe even can’t have). To live right now…

So, as it turns out, the billboard might be right. One day could change your life.

And perhaps that day might even be today…


*This image of the billboard is so pixellated as, in the spirit of ‘seizing the now’, I snapped it while I could, on my phone…)

Reference: Oates, JC (2011) A Widow’s Story: A Memoir, Harper Collins, London.
Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.
Existential Therapy and ‘One-Day-Thinking’

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2011). Existential Therapy and ‘One-Day-Thinking’. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Mar 2011
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.