Do you ever think there's got to be something more to this life? Do you feel like you're just going through the motions and missing out on truly living up to your fullest potential? You're not alone.
This is a common feeling that we all get when we're on the verge of a break through, or a major life change. When we get uncomfortable with the life we're living, it's a sign that we're ready for those changes. This concept is called the existential void. Whoa, that's a big word! Let's back up into what existentialism means.
Existential thought was originally explored in the field of philosophy by big names such as Sartre, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. They explored concepts that include the meaning of life, death, despair, anxiety, and guilt. These themes were quickly adopted by psychologists such as Viktor Frankl who wrote, "Man's Search for Meaning" and Irvin Yalom who wrote "Staring at the Sun". These renowned psychologists suggested that the concepts in existential philosophy (meaning, death, despair, isolation, anxiety, freedom) are issues that all human beings experience at different points in their lives.
Now that I've made you question everything, the idea is to start questioning more, and ask yourself, “What now?” We know that it’s inevitable we'll all go through difficult times and experiences in our lives (the existential void), so what are you going to do about it? Despite the trials and tribulations of being human, how will you live your life? Will you fall prey to the horrors of this world? Or will you stand strong and keep breaking until you break free? Break open to be able to really, truly experience your life!
Existentialism doesn't have to be this depressing, nihilistic concept. It can be a very positive and fulfilling concept. I know I feel connected to others when I realize that every human being has, or will, experience difficult times too. I'm not alone. You're not alone. We're all just trying to figure out this thing called life that has no manual or guidebook.
That's a lot to chew on, I know. But during times like these, don't be afraid to look inward and explore what's really going on for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help to friends, family, or mental health professionals. It’s normal! It's also helpful to engage in mindfulness practices such as meditation or simply noticing the present moment. You may be surprised to find what you've been missing behind your phones, tablets, and TVs all these years.
Below I've included some specific mindfulness techniques you may want to try when facing the existential void:
· Mindful Breathing
o Sit in a comfortable position and notice your breath moving through your nose. Start with 1 minute and add more time as you feel comfortable.
· Mindful Activity
o Choose an ordinary activity, like brushing your teeth, and focus only on that activity. In this day and age, we love to multi-task which can make us feel scattered.
· Be present with your loved ones
o Put down the phone at dinner, when you see your kids after school etc. and just talk to each other. Notice how you feel when you can be fully present with the people you love.
Aurora Owen, LPC