Just what is an existential crisis? It’s real and it hurts.

Dr. Donna L. Roberts

We are all confused, dumbfounded by life. ― Cave Man, Modern Human’s Handbook

What it is

An existential crisis is a profound psychological state that can be experienced by individuals at any point in their lives. It is a period of intense questioning and reflection on the meaning, purpose, and value of one’s existence. It is often characterized by a sense of confusion, anxiety, and despair, as individuals struggle to reconcile their expectations and desires with the realities of their lives.

An existential crisis is a complex, multifaceted and deeply emotional experience that can have significant implications for individuals’ mental health and well-being. While it is a natural part of the human experience, an extended period of existential crisis can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.

How it feels

An existential crisis can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and its symptoms can vary from person to person. Some common signs of an existential crisis include a sense of alienation or detachment from the world around us, feelings of emptiness or meaninglessness, a loss of faith in our personal beliefs or values, and a profound sense of sadness or anxiety.

One of the key challenges of an existential crisis is the feeling of being lost or adrift in the world. Individuals may feel that their lives lack meaning or purpose, or that they are unable to make a meaningful contribution to society. This can be particularly challenging for those who have invested significant time and energy into their careers or personal relationships, only to find themselves feeling unfulfilled or dissatisfied.

Another common challenge of an existential crisis is the sense of mortality and the impermanence of life. This can be particularly acute for individuals who have experienced significant loss or trauma in their lives, as they may struggle to come to terms with the fragility and unpredictability of human existence.

Why it happens

One of the most common triggers of an existential crisis is a major life change, such as the loss of a loved one, a significant career change, or a major relationship breakup. These events can force individuals to confront their mortality and reevaluate their priorities and values, which can be overwhelming and disorienting.

However, an existential crisis can also arise as a result of a more gradual, long-term sense of dissatisfaction or unease with one’s life. This can occur when individuals feel that they are not living up to their potential, or when they feel that they are stuck in a rut and unable to make meaningful progress toward their goals.

What you can do about it

Despite the challenges of an existential crisis, there are several strategies that individuals can use to cope and emerge from this state with a greater sense of purpose and direction. One of the most important steps is to seek out new experiences and perspectives that can help to broaden one’s understanding of the world and one’s place in it. This may involve travel, volunteer work, or pursuing new hobbies or interests that challenge one’s assumptions and beliefs.

In order to address the core issues of an existential crisis, individuals need to engage in a process of self-reflection and self-discovery. This involves actively confronting and questioning one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world, and seeking out new experiences and perspectives that can help to broaden one’s understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

One useful strategy for managing an existential crisis is to focus on personal growth and development. This can involve setting new goals, pursuing new hobbies or interests, or seeking out new experiences that can help to expand one’s horizons and create a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Another strategy for coping with an existential crisis is to cultivate a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the small pleasures and joys of life. This can involve practicing mindfulness, meditation, or other forms of self-care that help to ground individuals in the present moment and to find meaning and purpose in the simple things in life.

An essential aspect of overcoming an existential crisis is to develop a strong support network. This can involve seeking out the help of a therapist or counselor, joining a support group, or simply talking to trusted friends and family members about one’s feelings and concerns. It helps to understand that these feelings of unrest and uncertainty are not a unique reflection of one’s shortcomings but a common experience of the human condition.

Ultimately, the key to overcoming an existential crisis is to recognize that it is a natural and normal part of the human experience. By acknowledging and embracing the challenges and uncertainties of life, and by actively seeking out new experiences and perspectives, individuals can emerge from an existential crisis with a deeper sense of self-awareness and purpose, and a greater appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the world around them and a renewed sense of purpose and direction. With the right mindset, support, and coping strategies, individuals can navigate the complexities of an existential crisis and emerge stronger, wiser, and more fulfilled.

Comments / 21

Published by

Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

Canandaigua, NY

More from Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Comments / 0