Existential Crises: The Lost Finale
I originally started publishing the Existential Crises blog series in 2017. I had a pretty good pace writing them, then as I edged toward the conclusion of the series titled “What Helps Existential Crises” I became overwhelmed. Additionally, my pool of data here was a handful of philosophers, and my friends. So here we are, almost 3 years later with the lost finale.
Oh, the irony!
Yes it’s ironic that I wasn’t originally able to finish the series on existential crises. Maybe I had my own existential crisis. Certainly I didn’t quite realize the enormous task of answering the meaning of life. It could also be that I found a sense of meaning through the direction of the work I was doing with clients, so finishing this series didn’t seem as relevant. Finding answers was harder than musing about people’s experiences.
However, as the months then years passed I never lost interest in answering these questions. I started taking notes as I would hear others address the topic. Different theories of what “cures” existential dread started sprouting and weaving a complex web of answers. I’ve collected some thoughts for you.
First, take a look at my early Existential Crises blogs (edited recently) here:
First of all, let’s start with some everyday people describing their thoughts on what’s helpful. Can any good can come of having an existential crisis? Here’s how my interviewees responded.
Could anything positive come from an existential crisis?
- “If I spend time and address it, go to counseling, and process- it doesn’t make it go away but the intensity can diminish. If I try to ignore it or push it away it just intensifies.”
- “The thoughts propel me into taking more responsibility as a human on earth-being kind to others, helping whenever I can, and overall trying to be more considerate and understanding.”
- “I think that positive things can come from us taking an opportunity to pause and consider our current path. I think that if we took more opportunities to do this on a regular basis – through meditation, therapy, etc, existential crises would be more rare.”
- “Every time as I worked through it. I grow exponentially and I wouldn’t trade the growth for anything- it was worth the pain and frustration. I learn about myself, and about others, and about the world.”
- “It was an existential crisis that brought me back towards art; it definitely lead me to try some things that I don’t think I was completely comfortable with trying before I had some of these deeper thoughts and revelations.”
- “One positive thing has been for me to have healthier attachments with other people. After facing the given of aloneness, I’ve realized no other person is going to “complete” me or take away that inherent loneliness. I think existential dread can be used as a tool for growth- if you are ready to face it. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” right?”
Wait so, existential crises help existential dread?
Maybe…in other words, what might be helpful is sitting with the experience of the crisis itself. Allowing yourself a few moments to really dig into those feelings. Having an exit plan might be helpful, though. The plan might include setting an allotted time, or having a friend check in on you after a while.
Borrowing from the idea of philosopher Danielle LaSusa, going through the process of loss of your old model of meaning making is necessary in the process of transformation. This is when you can look at the dusty crumbled structure, clear it out, and start building something new. Something that is yours!
Now let’s get into what some of my reading over the years has taught me.
Some folks believe the meaning is derived from:
- Emotion and human connection.
- Sense of movement or in-person connection with others.
- Influencing the next generation to do good for our environment and social systems.
- Our chosen hobbies; relationships; career; and spiritual beliefs.
- Enjoying the experiences in life we can while we’re here.
- Human creation itself.
And that to accept our existential reality, we might consider:
- To make authentic choices that are not based on fear.
- Realize our own and other’s finitude. Life seems sweeter when faced with death.
- Authenticity, morality, becoming and being a good person; becoming truly human.
- That we decide our values and decide our counselors (even when choosing who we’re going to ask to tell us what the meaning is).
- OR there is no meaning and how do we accept that? Belief system is that we just make up our own belief systems.
- Create something new (building sandcastles knowing they will wash away) because it’s the human spirit.
- Not to take it too seriously because it’s all a game!
References from this list: Theory and Treatment Planning in Counseling and Psychotherapy; Being a Brain-Wise Therapist; Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration; Existentialism is a Humanism; Say More About That
A huge takeaway when compiling these thoughts was that this blog will probably be disappointing for you to read. You might have come here wanting answers, damnit! In line with my own beliefs, I can’t be the one to tell you those answers. You’ve got to create your own system of meaning-even if it’s choosing some other established system.
Danielle LaSusa says “when meaning comes from outside ourselves it’s always going to fall flat.” However, this is not to say that discussing with others, collaborating, or sharing ideas is pointless. We learn from each other. In fact, lots of folks have pondered these ideas, or made them their life’s study. So, these are important questions to muse on, and play with. The answers keep us motivated, grounded, and hopeful. Consider what your system of belief is now.
And now I will send you off with some lovely cartoons, as is tradition with this series.
Let me know if you’d like to chat more about your existential crisis! Seriously.
I’m available for telehealth individual counseling here in Austin. I offer a free 30-minute online consultation at this time if you’d like to meet me and see if we’re a good match for services. Here is how to connect with me.
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.