Existential Psychology


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The holidays can be tough on a lot of people. If their situations are bleak they wonder what in the world they have to be thankful for. They imagine the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect romantic relationship, the perfect house, the perfect life. Their own realities fall short of these idealized images.

The tyranny of comparison affects us all at various times in our lives. It stands in clear relief during the holidays. By constantly being reminded of what others have we fall victim to thinking about what we lack, feeling frustrated, envious, or even empty. People with all the necessary conditions for fulfillment feel unfulfilled because they don’t believe their situations measure up.

Comparison is a game you are never going to win. You can always find someone who has more, reminding you of what you lack. It’s a rat race. Even if you focus on those who have less, if you somehow get to the top of the comparison pyramid, the best you can hope for is arrogant self-satisfaction, a hollow sense of self-worth that relies on the dubious pleasure of constantly assuring yourself that you have what others lack.

The fastest way to leave comparison behind and feel gratitude right now, regardless of how your situation looks to you, is to think about how infinitesimal the chances were for you to come into existence in the first place. They are so miniscule that they defy any statistical analysis. You are so many standard deviations out on the bell curve that you do not even factor into it. You won the game of chance with the worst possible odds in the universe. If you really want to have your mind blown ask family members from older generations to talk about their choices, and about the routes they almost took in their lives. Every single moment, down through the generations and even back to the start of our universe, had to go exactly the way it did for you to be sitting here reading this right now.

Focus on the miracle of your existence, on the luck you have to be a sentient organism capable of thinking, feeling, and experiencing the world. All of the other stuff is icing on the cake, the pumpkin pie after the main course.