26 votes

What do you do about existential dread?

I have felt lost recently, I have lost my purpose. If anyone feels the same, what do you do about it? Is there really anything to do about it other than forgetting the dread? I don't like being this pessimistic, but I don't really see a way out of it.

25 comments

  1. [11]
    suspended Link
    I find that rare individual who will listen to me, without judgement, and allow me to vent anything to them. If I can't find and a friend, acquaintance, or a family member that is available and...

    I find that rare individual who will listen to me, without judgement, and allow me to vent anything to them. If I can't find and a friend, acquaintance, or a family member that is available and I'm desperate, then I'll go speak to a counselor/psychologist.

    8 votes
    1. [10]
      Wolf Link Parent
      It definitely to talk with others, but no one really has an answer when it comes to the philosophical questions. I don't blame them for it, obviously, since it's impossible to answer those...

      It definitely to talk with others, but no one really has an answer when it comes to the philosophical questions. I don't blame them for it, obviously, since it's impossible to answer those questions. I guess what I wanted out of this thread was a discussion about re-calibrating yourself, of finding a new purpose for yourself.

      2 votes
      1. [9]
        suspended Link Parent
        In that case, I spent a little over a decade learning how to eat properly and exercise. It's remarkable how many psychological cobwebs left my mind as a result.

        In that case, I spent a little over a decade learning how to eat properly and exercise. It's remarkable how many psychological cobwebs left my mind as a result.

        2 votes
        1. [8]
          Wolf Link Parent
          I am not the healthiest eater but I didn't know eating could have substantial mental health effects. If you don't mind sharing, why do you think being healthier helped you so much?

          I am not the healthiest eater but I didn't know eating could have substantial mental health effects. If you don't mind sharing, why do you think being healthier helped you so much?

          2 votes
          1. [6]
            suspended Link Parent
            tl;dr Exercise releases hormones into your brain that make you, psychologically, feel good. Similarly, proper eating makes you, biologically, feel good.

            tl;dr Exercise releases hormones into your brain that make you, psychologically, feel good. Similarly, proper eating makes you, biologically, feel good.

            3 votes
            1. [5]
              Wolf Link Parent
              That I understood. I guess I wondering if it helped you feel more fulfilled with yourself.

              That I understood. I guess I wondering if it helped you feel more fulfilled with yourself.

              1 vote
              1. [3]
                suspended Link Parent
                Yes. Feeling good most of the time allowed me to focus my energy on replacing the things I didn't like about my life with new, creative, and interesting ones.

                Yes. Feeling good most of the time allowed me to focus my energy on replacing the things I didn't like about my life with new, creative, and interesting ones.

                2 votes
                1. [2]
                  Wolf Link Parent
                  I understand now. Thank you for sharing!

                  I understand now. Thank you for sharing!

                  1 vote
              2. Atvelonis Link Parent
                I only started a real workout routine a few months ago, but being more physically active has made me much more excited about just... existing? Whereas a few months ago I would go about my day in a...

                I only started a real workout routine a few months ago, but being more physically active has made me much more excited about just... existing? Whereas a few months ago I would go about my day in a perpetual state of "meh," my resting emotional state now is much more optimistic. This optimism, I've noticed, is greatly heightened following a period of exercise, especially something intense.

                That isn't to say that I'm completely free from existential fears or insecurities, but they have very much taken a backseat to realistic goals for self-improvement. It feels as though I have some sort of underlying purpose; as though my efforts to improve myself are proof that I'm not just dead weight (so to speak) compared to the rest of humanity. Combine that with a better sleep schedule and a change in activities, like @suspended said, and my life has felt remarkably more fulfilling.

                2 votes
          2. InherentlyGloomy Link Parent
            In addition to what @suspended said, there is growing research about the link between your gut micro-biome and mental health, specifically mental disorders like depression. Better diet and...

            In addition to what @suspended said, there is growing research about the link between your gut micro-biome and mental health, specifically mental disorders like depression. Better diet and exercise may also improve your gut health and, by extension, your mental health.

            Sources:

            1 vote
  2. [2]
    Akir Link
    You don't "forget the dread", you find a new purpose. To be brutally honest, I don't think this discussion format is going to help you find the answers you need. This is the kind of issue that...

    You don't "forget the dread", you find a new purpose.

    To be brutally honest, I don't think this discussion format is going to help you find the answers you need. This is the kind of issue that generally gets solved with intimate conversations with loved ones and some introspection. If this is having a significant impact in your life, you might even want to talk to a therapist about it.

    But as someone who has gone through some very bad depression in the past, I can at least give you a helpful tool. The first step to shaking off these feelings is to find out why you are feeling that way. This feeling of dread is a symptom, and it will only go away once you find the cause. Once you figure out the cause, you can address it, which should help the feeling go away.

    7 votes
    1. Wolf Link Parent
      Thank you for being so forward! I think you're right that introspection will help me find a way out of this. But that's I started this discussion, to find out what questions I should ask myself by...

      Thank you for being so forward! I think you're right that introspection will help me find a way out of this. But that's I started this discussion, to find out what questions I should ask myself by seeing what others asked themselves. Just like you pointed out in your comment to look into what caused this.

  3. [7]
    ThatFanficGuy Link
    I've been there. It wasn't easy to get out of, and it wasn't due to the effort. I've written about my experience on the way out of it on Tildes. If you have any questions – or just wanna talk...

    I've been there. It wasn't easy to get out of, and it wasn't due to the effort. I've written about my experience on the way out of it on Tildes.

    If you have any questions – or just wanna talk about how you feel – feel free to PM me.

    4 votes
    1. [6]
      Wolf Link Parent
      How did you gain a sense of purpose back?

      How did you gain a sense of purpose back?

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
        I don't think I did. I think my issue was that I was trying to follow a path destined to me by someone else's expectations and hidden desires. I felt obligated to do so, and it made me feel...

        I don't think I did.

        I think my issue was that I was trying to follow a path destined to me by someone else's expectations and hidden desires. I felt obligated to do so, and it made me feel miserable.

        When I jumped off that ship, it set in that I have no fucking clue what I am to do now that I decide my own path. I think that was the reason for the experience: I felt hopeless because for once, no road was in front of me, and I didn't know where to go.

        Like I said in the linked comment, what got me through was the idea that one makes their own path, not finds it. What I do with the time I have is a choice I can make – and if I want it to be meaningful, genuinely-pleasant in the deepest, most-satisfactory way, I have to make it.

        It's tough. It's frightening. It can be nauseatingly off-putting just by its sheer audacity. It's also affirming and envigorating once you're through.

        What do you love to do? What gives you genuine, deep pleasure, and makes you feel like you're doing the right thing? Mine's design, and storytelling, and crafting. There's a higher precision to those things for me, but generally, that's what makes me come alive. If I die tomorrow, I want people to know me by the good things I did in those areas. Not only for those things, but professionally, this is what's mine as a craftsman.

        Are you a curious person? Do you take interest in others' livelihoods, and the way their lives unfold? Do you spend time with people you care deeply about? If not, and if you consider life worth living (or simply find dying a worse alternative), then those are the things you want to engage with. Human connection is important to us: we are social creatures. There's also the connection with the world and the things about it. What always piques your interest? Is it cars? history? war theory? botany? climate science? oceanography? writing? music production? the process of making paint? There's something in everyone. Find that, and see if you can engage with it meaningfully: I mean, add something to it, make a change that would make others' lives or work better.

        I'm on my way to change the world. You can, too: you are the world. Find where your skillset and preferences lie best, and work there.

        4 votes
        1. Wolf Link Parent
          I am glad you shared your story. It does seem like the best way to find our purpose is to just try as many as things possible until some sticks out. I have never really felt a need or want to...

          I am glad you shared your story. It does seem like the best way to find our purpose is to just try as many as things possible until some sticks out. I have never really felt a need or want to leave a legacy, but maybe I should.

      2. [3]
        CALICO Link Parent
        For your consideration: Meaning is a Jumper That You Have to Knit Yourself
        1 vote
        1. [2]
          Wolf Link Parent
          Thank you for sharing the video. It was very insightful. Do you know of any other resources or stories people shared of they knit the meaning jumper - or sharing where they started? I understand...

          Thank you for sharing the video. It was very insightful. Do you know of any other resources or stories people shared of they knit the meaning jumper - or sharing where they started? I understand it's a personal journey I have to take, but if people maps I would like to see them.

          1 vote
          1. CALICO Link Parent
            I only have my own. I began to experience existential dread when I was young and began to question the world I was given. Growing up in a religious household, life and death had pretty well...

            I only have my own.

            I began to experience existential dread when I was young and began to question the world I was given. Growing up in a religious household, life and death had pretty well explanations. But as I read and thought and began to have my own experiences, I wasn't satisfied with these answers. Suddenly nothing made sense, and I realized in time that there is no objective meaning or purpose to existence, outside of our biological purpose to reproduce. I fell into a kind of depression, where I was lost in a meaningless world where nothing really mattered, and yet I played my part in the farce in my daily life. It took me years to find out how common this was, and how to address it.

            Jean-Paul Sartre believed that people possess the power to look at themselves, another, or an object, and that this act of looking had the ability to destroy the subjectivity of whatever is being seen. Once this happens the thing becomes an "in itself". All the meaning that people or society had placed on it is now gone, and it is only what it is. People might find that they defined themselves on how they were being perceived by others, and by looking at themselves they have destroyed that meaning. Similarly with society, institutions, or anything we ascribe meaning to. He believed that existential angst came from this radical shift in perception (which he called, "The Gaze") onto ourselves. To move past it, we need to define these things for our own purposes. When I Gazed at my life, it lost all meaning. If I were to ever come to terms with this, I would have define it for myself.

            I'm still working on my meaning of life, but I've made great strides in deciding why the hell I'm here in the first place. Not without its many faults, the Myers–Briggs might be able to help you in self-actualization and understanding how you see yourself. While I used to score as an INTP, I now quite reliably score as an INFP. While not entirely accurately, it does fit me quite well and I feel personally called out in some respects. It helped me to understand some of my strongest values and desires, and I have re-purposed myself in accordance with what spoke to me personally. I feel best when I help others to grow, and I place the needs of others over those of myself, to a fault.

            In secondary school and university, my instructors have always praised my writing whenever it came to analytical essays or creative works. After years of self-doubt, I've decided to take their word for it. I'm writing a book. If I have a talent with words and creative expression, then I would like to use that talent to nurture thought, creativity, self discovery, and personal growth through it. I have no illusions of become a novelist capable of sustaining myself on my writing, that's up to chance more-so than ability. At the moment I work in a career I believe has value to the world, but I don't derive any fulfillment in it for myself. As a passionately curious person I'd much rather learn to understand reality and everything in it, as best as I can, and to help others to see worlds in a grain of sand, or heaven in a wild flower. I want to be an academic. Though, if in my studies I find something I am talented at that could positively affect the world in a sense that I feel strongly about, then that might just be my purpose in life.

            I've come a long way, but I have a ways yet to go. But I feel more confident and comfortable with who I am and what I'm doing here.
            I no longer feel lost in an empty universe.

            2 votes
  4. 45930 Link
    Jordan Peterson's book may appeal to you. I also like the Tao Te Ching. Based on only your responses here, it seems like maybe you're overthinking it. You don't need a purpose. You don't need to...

    Jordan Peterson's book may appeal to you. I also like the Tao Te Ching.

    Based on only your responses here, it seems like maybe you're overthinking it. You don't need a purpose. You don't need to be working toward some great accomplishment. So few people can even "accomplish" not being a burden on society and their friends and families. If you are one of the lucky few with the skill and luck to get that far, then do what interests you. If you're concerned with the well-being of the world then volunteer or donate or whatever. If you're concerned with yourself then buy some expensive stuff.

    What you'll find is that if you just go out there and actually do things, you will level up at them and maybe develop some "purpose" along the way. If you sit around planning how you will change the world, the only thing you'll get good at is deluding yourself.

    3 votes
  5. cadadr Link
    You might want to give Existentialism is a Humanism by Sartre a read. It is a conference transcript, and Firefox's Reader tells me it is an hour's worth of reading. For me, tho, this short piece...

    You might want to give Existentialism is a Humanism by Sartre a read. It is a conference transcript, and Firefox's Reader tells me it is an hour's worth of reading. For me, tho, this short piece of text has been really formative, back when I was fighting what I now believe is depression (I was never diagnosed, but I've never been to a therapist &c and today I'm sure I'd be so if I did back then; philosophy has helped me battle that situation and triumph over it).

    The basic idea is because that things like purpose and meaning are produced by humans (rejecting divine origin of such stuff), in essence all purpose and meaning is fabricated. But that means we get to choose whatever purpose or meaning we like for our lives. Helping feed starving kids or making the best sourdough bread and maybe selling it for a living has no inherent meaning, but if I enjoy such a thing, and it helps me go on, it is better than not doing it, and defining it as my purpose and/or assigning some meaning to it.

    In practice in my life this has meant that because I love learning, reading, researching and teaching, I am working towards landing a career in academia. As a mid-20s son of a broke blue collar family who recently lost his father, that is not easy, but it is a beautiful goalpost to inch towards. Should I fail that, I just switch to something else, or just go and be a barista or waiter or something, because, inspired by existentialism, I've set an epicurean love of learning and a light, responsible version of "carpe diem" as my main purpose and meaning, and I always know where I am and where I could go regardless of what career plan and lifestyle I currently fancy. It is all external to me, and all it's meaning comes from me. If I want to assign such meaning to something else, and am ready and eager to put in the effort to do so if necessary, there is nothing blocking me from doing it.

    So what do I do about existential dread because I feel like I lack a purpose, something I can produce at a whim? I produce one and stick to it, until it is extinguished. And try not to exaggerate existence all that much. It is something I share with billions and billions of other organisms, and having it currently is better than not having it given there is no chance of knowing what it is like to not be having it, so I just go along, try be jolly happy and find somethings to keep me busy when I feel like so.

    3 votes
  6. knocklessmonster Link
    You never had a meaning. Realize this, and it stops being so scary. What did you do before this "revelation?" Keep doing it. What do you want to do, that is moral and ethical? Do some of that. You...

    You never had a meaning. Realize this, and it stops being so scary. What did you do before this "revelation?" Keep doing it. What do you want to do, that is moral and ethical? Do some of that. You have to make your own meaning because there is not a single entity in this universe that can give you meaning, and anybody that says otherwise is selling you something.

    Personally, I don't worry about it. It was mostly just living with the idea that made me okay with it. I don't do anything to specifically combat this idea because that is the road to being depressed about it. I just do what I think is right, and what I feel I want to and need to do to be fulfilled.

    2 votes
  7. JakeTheDog Link
    I would highly recommend community involvement. Connection to others is universal among humans, even those who are introverted - you don't have to be the life of the party to have meaningful...

    I would highly recommend community involvement. Connection to others is universal among humans, even those who are introverted - you don't have to be the life of the party to have meaningful interactions with at least a couple people.
    A common problem is having lots of people around you but only superficial connections, a la the Facebook effect.
    Volunteering is a great opportunity to meet people with a sense of purpose, and to find opportunities to find your own purpose.

    1 vote
  8. mrbig Link
    I feel it.

    I feel it.

    3 votes