Existential Psychology

Searching For Answers

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Being human means living and struggling with the dichotomies of our existence, dichotomies that don’t have easy answers and cause a lot of mental and emotional torment. As Erich Fromm used to say, we are the freaks of nature. We are at once a part of it yet transcend it. We have to come to terms with the fact that meaning is not given to us like it is to other organisms; we have to construct our own meaning and find the way we will relate to the world. We contemplate our eventual deaths and we are scared. We must struggle with the immensity of time and how tiny our lives are compared to it, how tiny we are compared to the cosmos. At a fundamental level we all compelled to find the way to bridge our inherent human separateness. Separateness from nature and from one another.

I talk to a lot of bright, sensitive people who wish they could leave all of these difficult questions behind and just find contentment with the superficial answers that our society provides, like so many other people seem to be able to do. But if you are a searcher it’s already too late for you to go back. Pandora’s box has been opened. The only way through is forward, coming to terms with all of the dichotomies of human existence that make life challenging and using these revelations to live a fuller, more meaningful life that you can be proud of.

Of all of the ideas I have used to try to help people on their journey, one seems to provide the most relief and hope. It is a simple question. “If you had the choice, would you trade places with someone who doesn’t feel your pull to seek answers, someone who accepts the way things are and plays his or her role in society without questioning it too much?” The response after careful analysis is always a firm no.

As searchers we have to take the bad with the good. It’s like Sigmund Freud said, “”No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.” The emotional and mental turmoil that comes with searching often makes us feel like we are mentally ill when in actuality we are on the only road to true mental health, a mental health born out of authenticity instead of adjustment.