Humanity’s search for meaning in life can be viewed through hundreds of religions, philosophies, and ideas. There’s no doubt we face a complicated existence in which many struggle to find happiness in the wake of bills to pay, errands to run, work to maintain, and families to raise.
Many of us find ourselves overwhelmed with the monotonous nature of a stable life, swept up in the need to fulfill our responsibilities. We lose touch with our greater existence.
Sometimes an event occurs that jars perception and makes us question what our place is in the cosmic order. A person suffering an existential crisis may start to question their life and personal truths. They may struggle to find identity or question if what they are contributing truly matters. An existential crisis can cause a dramatic shift in the way we perceive or conduct our life because we realize that the truth is much greater.
Anyone can experience an existential crisis, but let’s look at a few types of people who are more likely to than most.
Depression is an all too common experience. It does not discriminate and anyone can experience it.
Depression is described in many ways by the people affected by it – anger, sadness, emptiness to name but a few. At its core, depression literally depresses the scope of a person’s ability to feel. That’s why screening often includes questions like, “When was the last time you felt happy?” and “Do you still enjoy your hobbies and interests?”
Severity and length differ for everyone. A person who is affected by mild or short-term depression may not have their worldview greatly affected. On the other hand, surviving chronic depression over the course of years or decades dramatically affects the way a person perceives the world. It robs a person of the ability to see the beauty and warmth of life. Depression drowns it all.
And no, life is not always sunshine and rainbows. Quite a lot of life is enjoying the high points while navigating the pain that existing brings. Depression mutes the high points and makes the middle points of life much worse than what they would typically be.
So, what happens when we finally start to recover, breaking the surface after drowning in the sea of depression? We now find ourselves facing this reality that we couldn’t even see was being warped, because all of our energy was invested in just trying to survive. That is a dramatic system shock after years of drowning.
The Kind And Compassionate
Kindness and compassion are important qualities in humanity. They provide not only a sense of peace and love to oneself, but can help people find their way out of darkness. People that grow up and live in a loving, nurturing environment where kindness and compassion are practiced regularly can walk away with a narrow view of what humanity is capable of.
It’s one thing to flip through the news or social media and read stories about the horrific things that happen in the world. But it’s an entirely different one to sit in the space of a person who has been wounded badly by others, or confronted by the self-centered and malicious that only seek to destroy. Why? Because they can. Because it brings them pleasure or profit. There isn’t always a reason – and for people with a kind and compassionate nature, that can be hard to accept.
“But I always try to see the good in everyone…”
Look hard enough and good can be found in literally anyone. No one is completely wonderful or horrible and life isn’t completely kind or awful. Everything sits within shades of gray. However, some people are too wounded or malicious to do anything other than avoid or contain them.
Some run away from this new truth they’ve been exposed to, while others seek to understand it so they can function and survive in its space. The latter is the harder, though better choice. Not everyone is emotionally healthy or mentally strong enough to handle it though – and that’s okay!
Society loves to romanticize total selflessness. There are those who look at great acts of compassion, find inspiration, and decide to give in a way that makes sense for them. That can range from people being involved in charity, to trying to support a friend who’s struggling, to giving up on their own wants and needs for their loved ones.
The problem is that such sacrifice can reach unhealthy levels and result in a thing called, “Caregiver Burnout.” It’s common for people involved in social services and charities to eventually seek a different path from the stress, being overworked, underfunded, mentally drained, and generally giving too much of themselves. Witnessing the suffering of others and the general apathy of society is difficult. Caregivers for loved ones suffering with medical problems like Alzheimer’s or dementia can experience the same thing.
You can also find it in families where certain members are expected or forced to carry a majority of the load of responsibility on their shoulders. That might be a single parent, a stay-at-home parent who never gets a moment to themselves, or a person who was saddled with great responsibility at a young age.
A person can be in this position for many years without meaningful support. But sooner or later, they are going to realize that they cannot carry the weight of the world on their shoulders without eventually breaking. They must have and enforce boundaries so that they can enjoy their life, too. That moment will often be a deep moment of introspection and realization that shifts their worldview.
Humanity’s place in the universe is much greater than to simply work a job, pay bills, and die. But a lot of people get swept up in the constant grind to not only survive, but thrive in an increasingly competitive and difficult world.
The advice people used to give is, “Do something that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” In practice, it’s bad advice. In practice, the things you love may not be marketable or profitable. In practice, it may not be a sustainable way to keep food on the table and a roof over the family’s head.
There is nothing wrong with picking a career, investing passion into learning it well, and using that as a means to meet the necessities of life. However, one must be careful to balance that against activities that provide fulfillment and meaning. Tilting too far to either side will create an imbalance in a person’s life that will catch up with them sooner or later.
Can we toil away all of our life without taking the time to appreciate the warmth of love, beauty of nature, or passion of art? Can we waste away our productivity and capability in hedonistic activity and self-serving pleasure? The answer to both questions is no. A balance is required otherwise we will find ourselves empty, aimless, and pointless.
There is no wrong way to seek harmony and balance in life, so long as it’s found.
Walking The Path…
Life can deal an unexpected hand. It can be hard to find the right path towards balance and stability. Friends and family are great, but sometimes they don’t have the knowledge or experience to help find the path that is right for us. A good option for those feeling lost, aimless, or confused is to have a few sessions with a counselor. A lot of people think that counseling is only for the mentally ill, but sometimes it’s helpful to talk to someone who helps others on their paths.
A counselor can shave years off of the journey if they can provide a meaningful place to look for answers.
You may also like:
- Existential Depression: How To Defeat Your Feelings Of Meaninglessness
- 9 Ways Modern Society Is Causing An Existential Vacuum
- “What Am I Doing With My Life?” – It’s Time To Find Out