Existential Depression Recovery: If Nothing Matters then Do What You Want

“I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn’t have a god, politics, ideas, ideals. I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. I didn’t make for an interesting person. I didn’t want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone. On the other hand, when I got drunk I screamed, went crazy, got all out of hand. One kind of behavior didn’t fit the other. I didn’t care.”

Charles Bukowski,

Why are we here? That is the question that starts it all for some, and ends it all for others. It is the grand mystery, the divine paradox. There is no identifiable reason for why there is something rather than nothing. The more we try to find that answer, the more questions we create. If you lived forever you could think about it all day and probably never find an answer. That is ok. It is a question that does not need to be answered. A mystery that for all intents and purposes, should remain a mystery. The question you should really be asking is, why are you here? That is a much easier question to ask than the great mystery.

I am going to be very frank, you are right about certain facts. There is no objective meaning to life. There is no purpose nor explanation for why there is something rather than nothing. It has been discussed at length by men who devote their entire lives to it, and yet it has only created more questions than answers. An infinitely growing number of questions with an infinitely growing number of answers. Trying to find the initial why but failure after failure. That is the result of delving into the nature of existence. It is a beautiful result.

From Existential Dread to Existential Depression

An existential crisis is not abnormal, it is perfectly healthy. It motivates us to seek meaning beyond simple pleasures that keep us satisfied for a few moments before we seek more. It adds excitement to an otherwise dull and boring life. However, when we fixate on it, we begin to dread the existence of life itself. We forget to enjoy the beauty of it, and miss the forest for the trees. The individual flower, tree, or animal isn’t the most important part. It’s how the whole works that is marveling. It is a matter of too much focus.

What Existential Depression Feels Like: Manifestations and Symptoms

It can feel like a sense of complete emptiness. Like the love that should be flowing from your heart has been cut off. No warmth, no joy, no desire for pleasure, no energy. You just respond to stimuli as best you can. Others may confuse it with a feeling of loneliness but that actually feels very different. A person with existential depression usually self isolates because there is just too much stimuli to deal with in ordinary life. A large focus on the suffering combined with existential dread that one day, everything will just go black, again.

Fixation on an Objective Meaning of Life: The main problem that arises is that people who suffer from existential depression assume there is one definitive purpose that governs what they should be doing. This fixation over the “right answer” leads to the depression. While questioning your purpose in life is a common and understandable concern, it can become a troubling symptom if it becomes all-consuming. Preoccupation with this profound question can start to hinder other important aspects of your life, such as your relationships, self-care, and work.

Lack of Interest in Peers: Existential depression can lead to a profound preoccupation with abstract and elusive ideas, causing one to withdraw from meaningful relationships. When the weight of life’s profound questions becomes all-consuming, interactions with loved ones and acquaintances may start to feel insignificant and uninteresting. The isolation caused by these withdrawn tendencies can be further exacerbated if those around you are not grappling with similar existential concerns, making it difficult to maintain a sense of connection with those close to you.

No Motivation for Evolution: Existential depression not only presents daunting life questions as recurrent stressors but also shapes how you believe you can answer them. When life feels predetermined and out of control, it’s challenging to maintain faith in humanity’s ability to change or influence it. How can small daily human actions impact unchangeable aspects of life?

Vulnerable Populations who Experience Existential Depression

Gifted Individuals

Studies have indicated that intellectually gifted adults may experience a lack of fulfillment and poorer mental well-being compared to the general population. This heightened susceptibility to existential depression may stem from a combination of factors, including:

  • Higher sensitivity: Gifted individuals often possess heightened sensory processing and emotional intensity, leading them to experience the world more deeply, including its complexities and existential dilemmas.
  • Intellectual curiosity: Their sharp minds may lead them to ponder profound questions about life, death, and the meaning of existence, which can trigger existential concerns.
  • Perfectionism: Gifted individuals may set high standards for themselves and their accomplishments, leading to feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction when they fall short of their ideals.
  • Social isolation: Their advanced intellectual abilities may make it challenging to relate to their peers, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

While existential depression can be a distressing experience, it may also carry the potential for growth and self-discovery. According to Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration, gifted individuals with overexcitability, a heightened response to stimuli, may possess the capacity to transform challenging experiences into personal growth. This process involves confronting existential questions and integrating them into one’s identity, leading to a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s place in the world.

It is important to recognize that existential depression is a complex phenomenon with multiple contributing factors. Rather than viewing it solely as a negative condition, it is crucial to acknowledge its potential for personal transformation and growth.

Reclaiming Your Story: Embracing Life and Meaning in the Face of Existential Depression

In the depths of my mind, a darkness resides,
A void of meaning, where hope subsides.
Existential dread, a constant companion,
Whispers of insignificance, a haunting chanson.

The weight of existence, a burden to bear,
The purpose of life, a question too rare.
Am I but a speck, in this cosmic expanse?
A fleeting existence, a mere fleeting chance.

The stars in the night sky, so distant and grand,
A reminder of my place, in this vast, empty land.
The sun's golden rays, a fleeting embrace,
Yet my heart remains cold, in this desolate space.

I yearn for connection, for love's tender touch,
But fear keeps me distant, afraid to clutch.
The world spins around me, a blur of delight,
While I stand still, lost in the endless night.

Oh, existential depression, why do you haunt?
Your presence so heavy, my spirit you taunt.
I long for escape, from this mental abyss,
To find solace and peace, in a world of bliss.

But amidst the darkness, a glimmer of light,
A spark of resilience, burning ever so bright.
I'll face the unknown, with courage and grace,
And seek out the meaning, in this intricate space.

There is no “the” meaning of your life. There is “a” meaning to your life. You decide what that meaning is of your own free will.

Shifting Focus: Embracing Control Amidst Life’s Mysteries

Existential depression often draws our attention to the vast and uncontrollable aspects of life, such as chance, death, and other enigmatic forces. While it’s natural to ponder these profound questions, dwelling on them can weigh heavily on our minds. To alleviate this burden, it’s essential to refocus our energy towards what we can control and influence.

Take a moment to reflect on the areas of your life that lie within your sphere of influence. Create a list of your achievements, both big and small, and remind yourself of the positive impact you’ve had on others. Engage in verbal affirmations or write down notes to reinforce these reminders.

Don’t hesitate to seek perspectives from those close to you. Inquire how your actions and presence have touched their lives. You might be surprised by the profound impact you’ve made on others.

By acknowledging your sphere of control and recognizing the positive influence you wield, you can gradually ease the weight of existential questions and rediscover a sense of agency in your life. Remember, while some aspects of life may be beyond our control, we still hold the power to shape our own experiences and make a meaningful difference in the world around us.

See the positive side of an existential crisis

Existential crises can be a challenging and sometimes painful experience, but they can also be a catalyst for personal growth and change. Here are some of the reasons why existential crises can be good:

  • They can help us to question our assumptions about life and meaning. We often go through life on autopilot, following the expectations of others or the path that we have been set on. An existential crisis can force us to stop and think about what is truly important to us and what we want from life.
  • They can help us to develop a deeper sense of self-awareness. As we grapple with the big questions about life, we can learn more about ourselves, our values, and our beliefs. This can lead to a greater sense of self-acceptance and self-compassion.
  • They can motivate us to make positive changes in our lives. When we realize that we have the freedom to create our own meaning in life, we may be more likely to take action to pursue our dreams and goals.
  • They can help us to develop a stronger sense of resilience. Existential crises can be difficult, but they can also make us stronger and more resilient in the face of adversity.

Of course, not all existential crises are positive experiences. If you are struggling with an existential crisis, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you to understand your thoughts and feelings and develop coping mechanisms for dealing with the challenges of an existential crisis.

The Reality Of The Situation

There is a non-zero chance of there ever being an answer to why we exist. Ultimately, the answer doesn’t matter. The answer almost never matters. It is the journey, the experience, the life that matters. You matter. What you do matters. Especially if you make it matter to you. The uncertainty and unknown is what keeps the boredom away. I get it. It is terrifying to make your own choices. Especially when you know how much they can impact others. It seems pointless to work for something when one day you are going to die. Have fun anyway. Enjoy it all while it lasts. It does not have to be here, but it is here anyway.

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