Existential Psychology

Lived by Life Or Living Life

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There is a tremendous existential burden that is part and parcel of living in a free, individualistic society, and this is the felt personal responsibility for carving out a unique identity. Self-actualization is easy when the cultural mentality is collective, when everyone follows prescribed patterns of thought and behavior without needing to question what their roles are, much more difficult when it’s all left up in the air, when the decision for who and what to become is up to the individual.

This is the challenge and the opportunity that we all face as Westerners. It explains one of the great unconscious sources of emotional and mental anguish in our times, which is the feeling of being lived by life rather than actively living it.

The distinction between being lived by life and actively living life is only applicable to human beings, who have transcended nature and therefore don’t simply fulfill their biological imperatives but also retain the choice of how to respond to their given situations and therefore retain the freedom to become who they wish to become despite their circumstances. This is where free will and destiny meet since while many variables are outside of our control we are the ones in charge of the formation of our identities.

That gnawing feeling of being lived by life shouldn’t be ignored but rather embraced and fully brought into conscious awareness since it represents the deepest layer of Self calling out, desperate to be heard and heeded, aware that there’s not much time to become, not much time to make the active choices that end up forming a unique identity and with it an individual destiny.