Existentialism relates to the issues we face around the experience of existence. As human beings we face many ‘stages’ in life, each with their challenges and ‘rights of passage’. We live within families, communities, cultures, societies, and a world.
We also experience the metaphysical realms; the experience of our subjective being within these contexts, and our perceptions of the worlds we inhabit. There is a lot for us to contend with as we grow and develop in our reality. We will inevitably be confronted with issues that relate to the nature of our existence, for example, concerns around death, our life purpose, and questions about why we are here.
An existential crisis can happen at any age, often occurring when individuals are transitioning in some way, for example, entering the ‘mid-life’ or questioning their identity after having children – these kinds of issues can create anxiety, fear, guilt, confusion, loneliness, and despair.
We might be left with questions and discontent about life and living. The existential approach is enriched with the complex and nuanced ideas of many philosophers and psychologists who have suffered and endured, and who offer ways to help manage existential issues and crises, and perhaps a healthier way to traverse the life course.
Existential depression can cause (or be caused by) a loss of hope when someone is unable to derive meaning in their existence. People can question the point of living because they don’t have a deeper sense of meaning for their life. This impacts their sense of purpose, as the two are intertwined – when we have a purpose, it gives our life meaning.
Existential depression can set in when people are unable to connect to a sense of purpose in life. This can lead to suicidal ideation due to a lack of motivation and feelings of apathy toward life.
People often feel troubled by the ‘bigger questions’, these can relate to why we are here and if there is a point to our suffering. When people are unable to find satisfying answers to these kinds of questions, they struggle with the discontent and disturbance this creates – also known as an ‘existential crisis‘.
Sometimes the questions people ask themselves about life and death can become so worrying, and cause such discontent, anxiety, and despair, that they become consumed by them, this adds to their difficulties.
The inability to feel satisfied creates frustration and conflict, such that individuals are unable to experience inner joy.
Existential crises can occur after a significant event, this might be a major trauma, for example, a loss of some kind.
Or due to carrying historic issues that have not been processed and resolved.
Crisis can also occur when we are feeling a keen dissatisfaction with oneself, and one’s life.
Or when someone close to us dies, or when we are faced with our own mortality, after midlife for example.
Some experience existential conflict due to guilt about something.
Or because they are feeling disconnected from others, isolated, lonely, and therefore, socially unfulfilled.
Existential issues also arise when we feel anxious about taking responsibility for our choices in life, as this means we have to accept responsibility for potential risk and failure.
Or when we look back on life and feel no sense of accomplishment, this can make life and existence seem pointless and despairing.
Having a history of blocking out ‘negative emotions’ can stunt our emotional resilience and growth, and create a false sense of security and happiness, but because this happiness is false, people often feel empty, causing existential crises later on.
Existential issues and crises can be debilitating because of the gravity of the questions we wrestle with. Purpose and meaning, are massive, and if we feel dissatisfied in these areas, the impact can be widespread and all-consuming. At Phinity we will attempt to teach you ways to cope, and overcome the issues you’re faced with.
Existentialists do not see ‘negative thoughts’ as something that need to be eradicated, rather, they are a natural part of the human condition, and life. It is about how we respond to them; at Phinity, we will aim to help you discover how to live more meaningfully, whatever that may mean for you. This is a journey of exploration and discovery, and learning what your passions are, and working toward fulfilling them.
Working existentially can also help you to find meaning that does exist in your life, the exploration of self, and how one relates to one’s world(s) can help change perception and perspective in a way that is enriching, also helping individuals make changes that better serve them.
You may have some big questions, and these can seem insurmountable, but with the help of one of our therapists, you can be guided with breaking down questions, into smaller ones, and in doing so, perhaps gain understanding of your bigger picture.
At Phinity, we offer existential therapy, as well as other ways to work through existential crises, do see below for other useful approaches. We also offer integration of therapies, so you can work in a way that is best suited to your concerns, and yourself.
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