Existential Psychology

Life Problems And Feelings Of Isolation

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When people are forced to confront unique life problems they of course have to deal with the painful, unwanted concrete circumstances themselves. But there is always hidden, secondary fallout from the primary problem in the form of feelings of isolation, which only add to the psychological and emotional distress.

When life is going well it’s easy and natural to feel connected, to feel one with the larger community, to feel a part of not apart from. But when a specific unwanted life issue appears that sense of connection is threatened by the sudden distress of feeling completely alone, of having been unfairly singled out by fate. Friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances might sympathize but the secret, painful thought is that they’re sympathizing from the comfort of their own wellness cocoons. They have their own perfect lives to fall back on.

What we’ve got to understand is that when the sense of existential isolation crashes into conscious awareness the emotional and psychological results are devastating. Isolation is hell for human beings. In order to stay sane we need to feel that others understand and support us, that we’re not drifting aimlessly through a vast universe all by ourselves but have people in the boat with us.

The fundamental thing to grasp when suddenly confronted with unwanted life problems is that the resulting feeling of being different, of being completely alone, of having to face something that no one else has to face, is illusory. Everyone is struggling with something, even those who appear to have it all together on the surface. And whatever the specific problem is, there are countless others going through the same thing.

Joining a support group online or in person is the best antidote to those rising feelings of existential isolation, feelings that make the problem seem insurmountable and add an extra dose of pain to an already painful situation. It might be impossible to fix the concrete problem right away but it is possible to fix the sense of isolation resulting from it. And it’s the sense of isolation that causes the most damage to the psyche and that cues off apathy, hopelessness, and despair, which make overcoming the problem less likely.