Existential Crises: Introduction
Some disclosures and trigger warnings: discussing existential questions at times can trigger any number of negative emotions. Please only read through my words if you are in a favorable emotional space. And if it ends up becoming too much for you, it’s okay. There are people to talk to. Seek out a professional counselor, or call a friend. If you’re feeling particularly low, there is a national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255< these people are available to talk to you 24/7 and they can help you get out of that funk. Alternatively, if you just want to have your voice heard or share your experiences surrounding this topic, please feel free to comment.
A lot of times folks reflect back on a major life transition when they think about an experience with existential crises. For me personally, my first brush with existential questions was the death of a family member when I was 8 years old. At this age I couldn’t fully grasp the concept of death, but the turn of events did open up a whole can of worms for internally processing the big questions.
Going to the funeral is still one of my most formative early memories. Our childhood cat Dixie also died later that year, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred soon after these deaths. These events in combination made for the perfect recipe for my first existential crisis.
Side note: it can be easy to read the ingredient list for a crisis after the fact, but not so easy to understand while it’s occurring.
What is an existential crisis anyway?
I conducted open interviews with people I know that surrounded their personal experiences with existential crises. These interviews combined with my personal experiences helped me to define an existential crisis (as I write about in this series) as:
Any period of time in which any of the following thoughts come up:
What is the point?
What is the meaning of life?
Why am I doing this?
What do I believe? And where do these beliefs come from?
What am I going to contribute to the world at large?
Am I just a construct of society? Am I unique?
What’s wrong with me?
I’m going to die. It’s all bullshit.
Combined with any or all of the following feelings:
And can result in any number of (sometimes contradictory) behaviors including but not limited to:
Seeking religious or spiritual relief
Periods of introspection
Seeking quick distractions
Do we have to talk about this?
Existential crises and/or existential dread (which I define as the feeling that leads up to or trickles down after a crisis) come up all too often for people in their lifetime. And, like most issues of mental health, we tend to be totally silent about our experiences and believe we have a responsibility to “get through” this terrifying experience alone.
With this thought, I’d like to offer readers an alternative: a chance to read through this blog series to see if:
- reading through common experiences normalizes your darkest moments,
2. some strategies I write about help you in the future.
In the interest of full disclosure, part of my motivation behind writing this blog series is that since I have recently graduated with my master’s in counseling, moved cities, and changed jobs, I am seeking solutions to help with my own dread as well.
So no, I don’t have all of the answers. Even with my extensive research.
And truthfully, I don’t think anyone does.
What I hope that you will find is bits and pieces of truth that you can fit together to form your own unique meanings from what is out there. A lot of what is written is dense, complicated, or abstract. One of my intentions in writing this blog series is to explain some of the theories and coping strategies in layman’s terms.
Full series list:
2. Existential Crises: The Language of Existence
3. Existential Crises: What is the Existential Vacuum?
4. Existential Crises: Triggers
5. Existential Crises: The Lost Finale
Julia Stamman, LPC
Hi, I’m Julia! I’m an LPC (licensed professional counselor) practicing in South Austin. I understand the personal importance of a therapist groking my lifestyle, so I started helping others who identify as geeks, gamers, and/or misfits. Over time, I realized that I’m passionate about attachment-related trauma, social anxiety, and neurodiversity. On this blog, I write on topics like the overlap of alternative culture and mental health, and how to find services catered to these lifestyles.