5 signs you’re going through an existential crisis

An existential crisis is as emotionally intense as it is difficult to understand and even to detect. As a result, many people suffer from the discomfort associated with such experiences without being aware of what is happening to them and assuming that there is nothing they can do to improve their well-being.

In the following lines you will find a summary of key ideas for detecting an existential crisis, which is the first step in fixing it.

    What does it mean to undergo an existential crisis?

    Defining what an existential crisis is is complex and in fact a task that has posed a challenge to both philosophy and psychology. The reason is that it refers to our way of experiencing the most abstract (and therefore diffuse and changing) thoughts that exist: those of the meaning of life. In short, an existential crisis is the discomfort we feel when we notice the absence of something that gives meaning and / or purpose to our existence.

    Part of what explains how we can feel this way has to do with our ability to think long term, on the one hand, our awareness that our life is going to end, on the other hand, and our predisposition to feel about it. aversion to uncertainty. Because we can think long term and know that we are mortal, we can think of our life as a project with a beginning and an end, a chain of steps that lead to a result.

    But at the same time, we have no references for know what must consist of this project of our whole life, our whole existence, and this produces an intense uncertainty that goes hand in hand with anxiety.

    On the other hand, the concept of existential crisis is so complex that there are philosophers who have come out of it to develop their ways of understanding the world. From existentialism, for example, authors like Jean Paul-Sartre have come to defend the idea that human beings always live more or less an existential crisis, such as the mere fact of existing does not go hand in hand with a specific purpose or reason for living, something to which our actions naturally tend.

      5 warning signs to identify an existential crisis

      As we have seen, the existential crisis is related to the lack of references to know what is the purpose or the value of what we do, and of our lives in general. This is why this idea is often associated with the notion of nihilism, although it is not exactly the same.

      The person who suffers from an existential crisis (for example, abandoning the religion in which they have been socialized and educated from childhood) notices a tension between the desire to notice that there is a genuine and valuable intention behind their actions, and the belief that at least then there are none. On the other hand, a nihilistic person does not have to want to find meaning in their existence, they simply deny that there can be a “meaning of life” and other guiding principles of human existence, as a universally valid morality.

      Like that, whoever is going through an existential crisis wants to change this situation, or at least alleviate it, but it is not always easy to recognize the source of the discomfort. Therefore, here we will review the main signs for identifying an existential crisis, although not all of them should appear in one person.

      1. Let others impose life benchmarks

      Experiencing an existential crisis is also adopt an attitude of passivity and conformity when deciding what to do. Because there are no strong values ​​or ideas to guide your own behavior, you act by imitation and look for the easiest way to adapt in the short term to the circumstances in which you live.

        2. You feel jealous of those who seem to be committed to a cause

        People going through an existential crisis feel a high level of envy for those who feel energized and strongly involved in a project in which they are participating, even if they do not sympathize with the causes of that person. In other words, it is we do not envy what they participate in, but the fact that they can actively participate in something, connecting to a range of values ​​and long-term goals.

          3. You suffer from a loneliness problem

          One of the most notable consequences of the existential crisis is unsolicited loneliness.

          Even if you surround yourself with a lot of people on a daily basis and have a friendly relationship with them, the lack of values ​​and sense of purpose in life makes emotional connection with others difficult, although the empathy remains.

          This is because the existential crisis pushes us to introspect, to question aspects of our existence as individuals, and the social is in the background.

            4. You find it almost impossible to visualize what your future will look like.

            Faced with the lack of references on the meaning of life, the future just becomes a big unknown, because we don’t see ourselves climbing into it through projects that talk about us and what we want.

              5. It is difficult for you to identify with your “me” of the past

              Everything that deeply interested you before you developed the existential crisis loses its meaning, and so, in retrospect, everything you have done and thought to be important to you seems strange.

              What to do to deal with this type of discomfort?

              The best way to deal with this unpleasant experience is to go to psychotherapy. Consulting a psychologist is not something that should be done only when we suspect that we have developed a mental disorder: also it supports people who experience more diffuse and non-psychopathological forms of discomfort.

              Psychological therapy sessions explore possible activities and projects that can excite the person, studying their values, interests and predispositions. It also identifies aspects of everyday life that can fuel that feeling that nothing matters or matters. From there, an intervention program based on new habits, ways to manage emotions and questioning dysfunctional beliefs is put in place. In this way, a different way of living life gives rise to a new way of interpreting things and a richer and more nuanced way to appreciate life.

              Bibliographical references

              • Flynn, T. Jean-Paul Sartre. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
              • Paykel, ES (2007). Cognitive therapy in the prevention of relapses in depression. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 10 (1): p. 131 – 36.
              • Yalom, ID (1980). Existential psychotherapy. New York: BasicBooks.

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