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Thread: How often do you experience an "existential breakdown?"

  1. #21
    desert pelican Array Owl's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by Beat View Post
    Do you have a strong, positive outlook on life and feel secure, in that you're here and existing for a reason, that life has meaning and that you hold a purpose? How often do you question your stable and secure mentality (assuming you have one)? How do you deal with the doubts when they arise?

    I want to see how it varies from person to person.
    I have a positive, (as defined above), outlook on life, but this does not always translate into feeling good about life. But warm fuzzy feelings and sensual pleasure, while nice to have, are neither necessary nor sufficient for happiness.

    E.g. If I pumped you full of "happy pills" and hooked you up to a pleasure machine, but you knew that your family and friends were dying, would you feel good?

    I question my purpose almost every day. (You're not alone.) I deal with my doubts rationally, and then I let my feelings catch up with my thoughts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beat View Post
    Like, really do people just not think about this? Do most people choose to believe in something that comforts them (God/afterlife) and then shun the prospect of anything different?
    Is it good to think about this? If a person thought it good to search out answers to these questions, then he would. That so few persons do is an indication that most don't believe it is good to do so; a man's belief about what is good is made evident by what he does.

    Some men may believe in God and the afterlife because of psychological and practical concerns. But psychological and practical concerns may also lead a man to choose not to believe in God and an afterlife; what would it mean for an individual life if God did exist? Would a man be willing to recognize that he is a creature, totally dependent on God for all things?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beat View Post
    ^"Because life is good even if it's painful"

    What about when it's not good? We strive to make changes and fulfill what's empty. Then you question, why even do that? What happens when things go wrong again, or when it's not enough? What do you live for? Is it the next pleasant moment/period of life?

    I have a rather good life. I have an amazing family. There's nothing inherently wrong with me. But I often look at people that have it so much worse than I do and I have to wonder how they make it through. Where does their motivation stem from? Can people really just live life without even feeling a need to question their existence?

    I'm just stimulating discussion. I'm not freaking out really, if it appears that way. hah
    Why would life not be good? What is good?

    There's a comedian... can't remember his name... who cracked this joke: "a teacher asked a student to define ignorance and arrogance, the student replied, "I don't know, and I don't care."" Ignorance is bliss. Right?

    What have you seen? Where do people go on Friday night? Are the libraries the hot place to go on Friday night? Do they have trouble keeping Plato's Republic on the shelves? C'mon, do you really think people are concerned with seeking to know what is good?

    Or do most people think that wine, women, and song, or--in today's parlance--sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll are good? (Well, som people might settle for a six-figure salary, a mansion, a trophy wife, and a big ol' boat. Wouldn't that be sweet!) If you had these things in abundance, you couldn't fail to be happy. Don't you agree Mr. Cobain? If you didn't have these things, then life would be insufferable. Isn't that correct, Mr. Frankl?
    Last edited by Owl; 07-01-2008 at 07:46 AM. Reason: misspelld Frankl, thanks CC

  2. #22
    `~~Philosoflying~~` Array SillySapienne's Avatar
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    Jan 2008


    ^ Phenomenal post.

    Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search For Meaning" has had an immense *positive* impact on my life.
    'Cause you can't handle me...

    "A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it." - David Stevens

    "That that is, is. That that is not, is not. Is that it? It is."

    Veritatem dies aperit

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  3. #23


    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    Does anyone want to brief me on what existentialism is? Simple terms?

    Well, here we are.

    What are we going to do about it?

  4. #24
    Senior Member Array Synapse's Avatar
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    Dec 2007


    Its a bit open ended, just like life. Taking the universal context the reason isn't in what you think or what you believe. Its in the experience that defines you, existence is about personal growth thats it. All positive and negative values that happen are part of that purpose to personally expand or dim the soul or brain state.

    I've experienced the negative state and questioned what is this meaning, does it have a purpose like a mechanical bull. There has to be something that makes it tick because without a meaning there isn't a purpose to understand the reality that transforms you. That was just self defeating and in the end I realised meaning is created as an extension from the experiences you accumulate from the purpose or thereof lack of purpose in life. Like a tree trunk, you can see all the lines eventually just have to wait awhile.

    Goes back to a state of satisfaction in the self and how valuable you feel/think you are to believe that you are meaningful or insignificant in this world and express it outwardly. Then you find/create your purpose or lack of purpose because you've already written it into your subconscious and find/create meaning in everything else accordingly.

  5. #25
    4x9 Array cascadeco's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    4 so/sp


    I didn't have many thoughts on the topic growing up, so I don't recall being overwhelmed or preoccupied with the thoughts/feelings as a child. I was raised in the lutheran faith and went to church every week. I do recall internally questioning the biblical stories, though, so I had doubts right from the start.

    By my teenage years I had internally pretty much become someone who thought all religions grasped at the 'truth', and none were ultimately in the right.

    Once in college I was part of a christian group for a few years, as I had gotten slightly depressed by the start of my junior year, so was rescued into an evangelical christian group. At that time I became somewhat fundamental, I would say, in my beliefs, even though I was mostly just stuffing all of my doubts and questions because it was more pleasant to believe. At this time I also read about 2/3 of the Bible (didn't get through the middle portion of the Old Testament - HA!)

    Once out of college, I realized I didn't like how I had become, and didn't like those I was surrounded by and saw as total hypocrites and completely judgemental (and, well, oblivious to much of the world and existance at large) so I stepped away from the religion at that time to figure out what I really believed.

    So I read a lot of philosophy at that time, and quite a bit of history and some science books. I did this for at least two solid years, so it was a gradual process. This was my major existential crisis, because it was the first time I had thrown religion completely away in an effort to define what *I* truly believed, and in the process of my reading and self-assessment, I came to new conclusions about religion and all of that. So now I'm quite solidly agnostic, probably bordering on atheism in some aspects. I was very unhappy and cynical during these two years, and I think it was because I was having to build my entire foundation from scratch -- digging really deeply into my beliefs, and what I observed in the world around me, as well as throughout history, and figuring out what I DID think and believe. It was *extremely* unpleasant. And admittedly, it was the intellectual turning to agnosticism that caused much of the unpleasantness -- because I then needed to emotionally figure out a way to be happy and at peace with the absence of a creator and afterlife in the sense religion preached. And, to come to a sense of my own purpose in life, and what I saw Life as being, and how I wanted to live it. But, I felt it must be addressed.

    Once I worked through all of that (again, it was a rather slow process), I have been overall pretty happy -- and I really do think I went from being a more cynical person in general, to a person who is more optimistic in general. It may not be evident on these boards, because this isn't to say I'm still not pretty darn emotional, as I certainly get into periodic little funks, where I question what I'm doing and sometimes despair about Life -- but they're not the massive existential funk that I had in my mid-20's, and last a matter of days, rather than 2 solid years. ;-) I'm more often happy, optimistic, and hopeful than in a true funk these days. So....
    "...On and on and on and on he strode, far out over the sands, singing wildly to the sea, crying to greet the advent of the life that had cried to him." - James Joyce

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  6. #26
    Resident Snot-Nose Array GZA's Avatar
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    Aug 2007


    I know I had a big one when I was like 10 about what death was and how it works and what it is like to simply stop existing. At the time, it made actually existing seem meaningless and tired. I snapped out of it almost overnight though, decided it was not worth worrying about anymore. I had a fairly sizable one when I was 14, but I don't remember the details, other than feeling like shit. I had a smaller one more recently, a few months ago (some of april, may, and some of june) where I bassically sort of slipped out of my own healthy personality, how I identify my own existance, and behaved/thought like something I don't want to be. I've solidified a few things in my mind, I think, like how I see god (or rather, that I'm agnostic and don't think he can be seen if he exist at all, ect), and I have a much, much better (but still kind of incomplete) grasp on my personality and what is important to me.

    I suspect I'll have another episode in a couple of years or something, and hopefully that will be it. I sort of look forward to it, though, because it will help me grow. I've grown up in a very open minded environment... any information I want is pretty much at my fingertips, and I know people who I can discuss some things with (althought its rare to find people I really trust to discuss it with). This kind of upbringing has been good because I don't think I've been mislead in any way (as some of you seem to have expressed, especially some of you with a religious upbringing), so I feel like the world is something I can see with clear eyes and I need only to observe and figure out how it works.

  7. #27
    The Destroyer Array Colors's Avatar
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    Apr 2007


    I don't think I've ever had a fullblown "existential breakdown". Possibly because I've never really felt secure in any purpose or anything.

    I mean, who's to say there's a purpose? Why should there be one? It's not owed to you. At this moment, what you have is life. You do what you do. And maybe you'd like to prefer to pretend you have a gameplan, but you decide/make it into realtiy as the moment you need to make a decision comes up. Doesn't matter if you preplanned it or not. (And that's not even counting when you don't have a choice.)

    Not to say I haven't had my share of depressions. But you can't really break down what doesn't exist.

  8. #28
    Senior Member Array dnivera's Avatar
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    May 2008
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    How often do I experience existential breakdowns?

    Frequently, whenever I get tired of the daily routine and scenery if I've been doing the same thing for too long. At first, when I start a new venture (start a new degree, new job, hobby, or project), I'm very inspired and have a sense of purpose and conviction. As I move through the routine tasks associated with the project, I start to get bored and lose the original insight and motivation. I have those moments when I look up from my desk and want to scream out of frustration, what am I doing here? Why am I doing this?

    Therefore, breaks are really important to me - not just short ones, but sabbaticals and long periods of time to take care of yourself, disengage your mind from routine, and reflect. Breaks and a change of scenery give me a totally different perspective and help me get out of those existential ruts, and remind why I started that project in the first place.

    I took a year's leave of absence during graduate school and it really helped me get my motivation back. I came back refreshed and ready to attack, and my questions were better than ever. Before I left I was stuck on a huge problem in my research that I just had no idea how to deal with, and stressed me out and killed my motivation. But when I came back and re-studied the problem and talked to people, I had new insights and knew exactly what to do. I wondered why I just hadn't seen the answer before, when it'd been sitting under my nose the whole time.

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  9. #29
    Striving for balance Array Little Linguist's Avatar
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    Jun 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by Beat View Post
    Do you have a strong, positive outlook on life and feel secure, in that you're here and existing for a reason, that life has meaning and that you hold a purpose? How often do you question your stable and secure mentality (assuming you have one)? How do you deal with the doubts when they arise?

    I want to see how it varies from person to person.
    Although I am not ISTJ, I have these feelings quite often. I wonder from whence I came...what existence before and after death means, or if it even exists. I wonder what this little thing called a soul means. I wonder if it is there, and if so, what encompases "soul"? Is it in the mind? Is it the part of the brain we do not use? If not, what happens to it after we die? Do people that die exist in some way, or is this some kind of bizarre fabrication to make us feel better? Where do feelings come from? Is it simply a combination of chemical processes and hormones, or is there something deeper? And what makes two people know they are right for each other or not? And is there A person for everyone? If so, how was this determined? If this is simply a bunch of chemical processes...well...then can we go without relationships or would our chemical processes be disturbed, therefore we need relationships simply as a means to procreate? If so, does that mean this whole soul thing was simply a fabrication? If so, what is the rest of the brain and what does it do - or is it simply there in case something goes wrong and new pathways have to be use? Who used their brains the most? Is it a crazy genius? IF so, is that why he cannot deal as well with people and maintain relationships? Why do we all try to procreate anyhow? What is our purpose? How will we evolve? Surely human beings are not the end of the evolutionary chain. What will happen in a million years? And what will happen after the sun turns into a giant red ball of flaming gas before it finally dies? And when it dies, are there other life forms that see this as simply a star that no longer exists? Uh, get the point.
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  10. #30
    Queen hunter Array Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
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    I can offer my experience.

    Do I have emotional/existential breakdowns? NO.

    That is because I live in something what other people see as void.

    For example people want everything to make sense while small amount of people (like me) think that belief in purpose is one if the largest flaws of mankind.

    Why I am like that? People always draw the line of pointlessness just before god and then belief in that god as the only way out. That is because he/she/it is behind that line.

    But for me the line is behind god and even if god exist he/she/it is a part of the pointless scenario known as reality. And he/she/it can do whatever he/she/it wants to. But forever the entire thing is pointless.

    But if everything is pointless for sure then way worry about it?
    The whole point is actually to stop thinking about purpose because it is one of the mechanisms installed in your mind to help you survive nothing more.

    If some of you ever get in position where I am you will realize how stupid is to have fears about things like this.
    Also it is pointless to be afraid of death and there is one good reason for that. For example all people at this forum are alive now but where were they in 15.century? If you ask me they were dead.
    So if I was dead once why not once again? And if I remember correctly it was not a bad experience.
    Once you get to this position your F will drop because there will no longer be that paranoia machine to power it up.

    Instead off crying and living in fear. That someone close to me will die and telling lies to myself through religion. I have devoted my life to understanding what reality really is and what is the actual truth if there is any final truth at all. To be honest I was never religious or spiritual.

    Someone could say that this is horrible way to live your life but I don't agree whit that.
    If you live like this you can enjoy in many puzzles of the world. Which are forbidden by religion and mainstream way of thinking.
    And those puzzles can keep you mind busy all the time so you will always something to think about.
    For example when you go deep into the science (like me) it will distort your picture of reality behind recognizable level and change the way of your thinking.

    OK people now you can call that institution you were talking about.

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