Existential Crisis: Seeing Beyond Suffering

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Joe Dispenza


Existential Crisis: Seeing Beyond Suffering

Existential crises are also opportunities to get in touch with the deepest part of ourselves and to implement a process of metamorphosis that allows us to find our way.

Last update: June 27, 2020

There are times in life when we feel overwhelmed; moments in which we feel the temptation to ask ourselves existential questions such as: “why am I here? For what purpose? Am I doing the right thing? What is there after death? ”. Each of us wonders about various issues, but happen to go through moments in life of a real existential crisis.

An existential crisis can occur at any time in our life and can affect both wealthy and less well-off people. Consequently, it does not appear to be associated with the economic resources at our disposal.

It usually occurs when we feel we are about to lose control. It is as if our certainties are wavering. Like any kind of crisis, even the existential one can bring suffering, but we can find something more in it. Let's see what.

If we have no power to change a situation that causes us pain, we can always choose the attitude to take in the face of that circumstance.

-Viktor Frankl-

Existential crisis, what is it about?

We talk about the moments in which we become inquisitors of our own existence. Moreover, they usually occur unexpectedly and affect our usual way of dealing with life. Just then you happen to start asking yourself questions that can shake the foundations of our firmest beliefs. 

Existential crises bring with them a flood of feelings and thoughts. This means that they act intensely on our cognitive and emotional world. For this reason, many people view them negatively and this is because they can feel overwhelmed by so many unknown sensations and perceptions.

Moreover, existential crises can lead to identity crises. When we doubt ourselves, we can extend that uncertainty indefinitely, questioning everything and everyone.

How to recognize an existential crisis?

The main feature to keep in mind is the feeling of emptiness that can accompany the crisis. Although this feeling is not exclusive to the existential crisis, it usually accompanies it. Now let's look at other characteristics that help us understand if we are going through such a phase:

  • Disorientation. It happens when we lose our bearings and find no meaning in our life, or even the world.
  • Feeling of uncertainty. Given by an insecurity that generates questions about life and death, about good and evil and so on.
  • Emotional instability. Different emotions and thoughts are revealed that make us restless.
  • Deficit in the ability to feel emotions. Since we don't know what to do, who we are, what life is about and where we are going, it is difficult for us to take responsibility and draw conclusions.
  • Dissatisfaction.
  • Insomnia.

Now these characteristics may vary from person to person. We must not forget, in fact, that each human being is unique.

It is also important to emphasize that a crisis of this type can result in - or be a symptom of - mental disorders such as depression. But be careful: this does not mean that if we are experiencing one, it will surely result in depression.

Turn the existential crisis in our favor

As much as this feeling may be a burden, we can always turn it in our favor. How? We have to see it from another point of view. It is about enhancing our potential and exploiting it to get better.

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, focused on this way of seeing the existential crisis. He supported man's ability to distance himself from the situation he is experiencing, or to understand that he can overcome difficulties. For this reason one should look for a meaning to that given situation and existence.

Frankl formulated logotherapy, a type of psychotherapy that claims that the main engine of the human being is the search for meaning. Furthermore, he perceived the human being as unique and unrepeatable, so the evolutionary path of each individual is distinguished from that of the others.

Viktor Frankl's logotherapy

Through this therapy, we can discover what our purpose is and thus give meaning to life. It is about going beyond suffering; to see the existential crisis as an opportunity to explore ourselves and move forward.

Speech therapy has been a practice that has been in place for many years. An example of the value given to it today is the article entitled Análisis existencial y Logoterapia: Bases theoricas para la práctica clínica (Existential analysis and logotherapy: theoretical foundations for clinical practice), by the Spanish scholar José Genger, in which analyzed in detail the systems for diagnosis and psychotherapy applied today.

We can stop perceiving ourselves as victims and feel frustrated by that flood of emotions that pervades us, instead to take the opportunity to test our resilience capacity. Namely, the ability to overcome adversity.

By changing our point of view, we can be able to see resources, concepts, ideas that until now we had ignored. Furthermore, when we accept crises as an active part of our "heartbeat", in many cases the anguish ends and gives way to serenity.

Getting out of an existential crisis without “getting dirty” or without “immersing ourselves completely” in it is an almost impossible task; in the face of this awareness, we have the opportunity to explore it, recognize it, investigate its causes and find out where it can lead us. 

Existential crises are part of life. How to deal with them is a subjective choice, but choosing an optimistic perspective - in which learning is the best - means choosing the healthiest path. The important thing is to go beyond suffering and doubt, in order to come out stronger than before.

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