Existential Psychology

Typical Life Crises Versus Existential Crises

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What’s the difference between typical life crises and existential crises? Probably that typical life crises require a prompt resolution and therefore call out your focused attention. But you can usually allow existential crises to fester and grow, you’re not in any immediate physical or economic danger so you can ignore them, repress them, project them, rationalize them.

We could say that existential crises have more to do with the symbolic concerns of human life than they do with the concrete, everyday concerns for security and survival. They have to do with deriving meaning, with coming to terms with who and what you believe you really are, with deciding whether or not you’re on the right path for your growth and self-actualization, with cultivating the right kinds of relationships, with confronting mortality.

These latent existential concerns that manifest as existential crises can be put off but sooner or later they’ll catch up to you. If at bottom all existential crises are the result of felt meaninglessness then ignoring these existential crises in order to keep on plodding forward on the same path will ultimately result in a meaningless destiny.

The problem is that we fool ourselves into thinking we have all the time in the world. We don’t like to think that our lives are on the clock and once that clock strikes twelve our time’s up forever. We all secretly fancy ourselves as immortal beings and this ruinous belief that our permanence is assured gives us the excuse we need to ignore the difficult truths rather than face up to them.

Since it’s nothing less than your destiny on the line the same care, concern, and focused attention should be directed towards existential crises when they arise as is directed towards the more typical life crises. Resolving the typical life crises insures short-term physical, economic, or emotional survival but resolving the existential crises insures long-term spiritual survival.