Have you ever had one of those days where you are sitting in your car, stuck in traffic, and you wonder “What is the point of all of this? Why are we here?”
Or maybe you are a successful professional, working in your industry for a while. Lately, you have started questioning the true purpose of your career, wondering if it truly aligns with your deepest values and aspirations.
If you relate to similar situations such as the ones mentioned above, then you may have been struck by an existential crisis.
What is an Existential Crisis?
An existential crisis is when one deeply starts to question their purpose and meaning in the world. It isn’t just something philosophers reflected on—it’s a human experience that can affect all of us. Therapists like Viktor Frankl and Irvin Yalom have explored existential themes and applied them to psychology. So, when you find yourself questioning your existence, remember you are not alone.
The origin of the term “existential crisis” can be traced back to the school of philosophy known as existentialism. Existentialism explores the nature of human existence, freedom, choice, and the search for meaning.
Who is likely to face it?
Existential crises can affect people at different points in their lives. It can occur at various stages of life, such as during adolescence, midlife, or in response to significant life events or transitions. It’s important to remember that existential crises can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or cultural background. The findings of the survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Vejo, where 77% of Americans agreed that 2020 caused an existential crisis for the country, highlight the widespread impact of such crises on individuals’ lives and collective consciousness.
What to do when you feel this way?
- Acceptance: One of the most powerful steps you can take is to accept and embrace the existential crisis. While it is not easy to embrace discomfort and uncertainty, working towards accepting these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings can help you seek deeper meaning and understanding. Through acceptance, we foster self-compassion and create space for personal growth. This brings an opportunity for transformation where one can lead a more authentic and purposeful life.
- Create a sense of meaning: Existential crises may involve a search for meaning and purpose. One way to do that is to actively seek and cultivate meaning in life. We could do this by identifying values, exploring passions, and engaging in activities that align with our personal purpose. By finding meaning, whether through relationships, work, or personal pursuits, we can anchor ourselves amidst uncertainties.
- Seek support from loved ones: An existential crisis may feel isolating. Seeking support from our loved ones can help in reducing that sense of isolation. It can help us garner emotional support and valuable perspectives. You never know, your loved one may have had a similar experience.
- Read up on existential philosophy: Adding to the earlier point, it may be comforting to discover that others have grappled with similar questions and concerns. Existentialist thinkers such as Sartre, Camus, and Nietzsche have explored questions about existence, freedom, and the human condition. Exploring different philosophical perspectives can provide you with valuable insights and help you make sense of your own experiences. A good start to this journey could be books like “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl and “The Stranger” by Albert Camus.
- Contact a counsellor: Another valuable solution for navigating an existential crisis is to reach out to a counsellor. They can help in exploring existential questions, finding meaning, and developing strategies for coping with the challenges that arise during such periods.
An existential crisis invites us to delve deep into the fundamental questions of life. In the words of Søren Kierkegaard – “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
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