As many of the great say, life is movement. So the main problem is the problem of life changes, reevaluation and the transition to a new stage of development. Sooner or later, everyone is faced with situations that may trigger an existential crisis.
These may be the death of a loved one, the loss of family or a friend, a serious illness, loneliness, the change in a social status, etc. Therefore, any life event can lead a person to a crisis in case it poses a potential or actual threat to the satisfaction of basic human needs and at the same time, puts him in front of the need to find a solution in a short time and in an unusual way.
Undoubtedly, an existential crisis is a turning point in life. But is it possible to overcome it without negative consequences?
What is an Existential Crisis and Why Does it Happen
An existential crisis occurs when our consciousness faces with unknown situations that it can’t cope with. It still can’t understand that the world has changed and it should adapt itself to the “new world”. In a manner, the crisis is a driving force of the development and formation of the personality, a kind of response to the call of the personal growth.
The crisis often occurs when the person is unable to accept the changes that are happening in life. An existential crisis is perceived not as intellectual discovery, but rather as the taking away of things that were previously available.
Signs of an Existential Crisis and the “Neutral Zone”
Mental pain, anxiety about the existence, and yearning are the first signs of the crisis. As a rule, the existential anxiety is expressed in the anxiety of fate and death as an absolute level of anxiety when a person experiences a sense of the horror of the void, the horror of the invasion of non-existence into the one’s existence.
The crisis moves a person into a marginal position, or so-called “neutral zone,” in which the habitual patterns of thinking and behavior do not work while the new hasn’t been formed yet.
While being between “what is already destroyed,” and “what has not yet been created,” a person must understand that to cope with the crisis, he has to take a peek inside himself. Otherwise, there’s almost no chance to find the way out.
The neutral zone is a time when feelings of abandonment and loneliness are experienced most acutely and old beliefs seem to be devoid of meaning. It’s the time of questions when you have to learn to love the questions that do not have answers yet. It’s the fear of being different and refusing usual stereotypes, the fear of starting the search for the unknown in oneself and the world.
Can the Crisis be a Catalyst for the Development of Personality?
It’s very hard to accept the life as it is. At critical moments, many people tend to build a psychological defense against threats from reality. But the stronger the protection, the more fragmented, impoverished, distorted is the perception of reality.
However, the crisis has both positive and negative components. If it is not resolved adequately, it may bring in destructive aspect and complicate the process of further growth and development. At the same time, if the person adequately resolves the crisis, it gives the opportunity to go to the next stage of development and become a more mature personality.
The trick is to treat the crisis as a difficult phase in the natural process of self-development. Actually, it’s able to heal a variety of emotional and psychosomatic disorders, positively change the personality, solve important life problems and lead to what is called “the higher consciousness.”
During an existential crisis, a person is open to new experiences, and this means that the crisis could serve as a basis for positive changes and important personal experience. The pain that a person experiences in the crisis motivates him to search for new solutions and resources to acquire new skills and knowledge. Thus, the nature of the crisis can be described as a transformational, as it carries not only a rejection of the old but also to search for new – improved and more progressive.
How to Beat The Crisis?
So, how can you help yourself when you’re in crisis?
At first, you have to overcome the so-called “Crisis of Support”. Speak to somebody who’s already left the crisis behind. When someone talks about his problems, there is a decrease of emotional stress, and even the possibility of emotional discharge.
Well, at the first stage it’s crucial to determine the type of crisis:
- The crisis of adaptation. To successfully overcome it, you have to take the time and gather as much information as possible. You need vitamins, extra hours of sleep, and favorite food. This is equally true for the baby who’s just begun attending kindergarten and the employee who’s become a boss for the first time.
New living algorithms and objectives may cause an existential crisis. One of the most common crises is the so-called “Empty Nest:”
The children grew up and left home. Parents who are accustomed to solving children’s problems suddenly turn out to have a lot of time. They need to find a new meaning of life and new points of contact with each other. Sometimes the difficulties of such a period can trigger a divorce if the only thing that has united them were the need for care of children.
How to live on? The only way is to find a new meaning. If a person is not able to solve this problem, he will experience senses of existential vacuum and inner emptiness. Long stay in this state undermines the immune system and causes psychosomatic diseases.
You have to establish contacts with interesting people and worn on your new life position. In no case, you can give up! Travel, meet with classmates and fellow students, visit relatives living in other cities and countries, change the profession or master a new hobby.
- Internal Crisis. If children’s crises are usually quite strictly tied to a certain age, the adult ones cannot be defined by certain boundaries.
For example, you faithfully attended university and completed the postgraduate course, then married and tried to be the guardian of the hearth. Yes, these goals are worthy, but when you realize that the most of your life path is already behind, here comes a crisis caused by a revision of previous ideals and goals.
In a state of crisis, don’t let yourself blame others for your internal discomfort as that’s a sign of psychological immaturity and infantilism. Do not give up! Think about the positive thing that the crisis may bring to you. Although it’s hard to part with the past, it is necessary as it constrains growth. Keep critical towards your words and actions, as well as keep the good attitude and respect towards your colleagues and family.
When you identify the crisis, you have to find out an effective strategy and behavioral patterns. Speak aloud about your problems and try to come up with a few alternative ways of resolving them. Pay attention to self-analysis and introspection.
However, you have limited personal resources, so the best way is to enlist the support of the one who has endured such a crisis and can share experiences or a person who due to professional or personal characteristics may provide psychological assistance and support.
A number of studies have shown that the effectiveness of coping with crises is determined not so much by the speed of overcoming but the depth of the internal study of oneself and own experiences, as well as the possibilities of using the problem for personal growth and development.
We can assume that an existential crisis is a deep process of self-knowledge as the crisis is the basis for the formation of a new identity. The one who feels lonely either by temperament or under the influence of fate is the most susceptible to the crisis. In a chilling atmosphere of loneliness, the person inevitability transforms into a single big question to oneself. Perhaps, the problem of self-knowledge is the most important issue of the crisis. And that issue must be solved by any means!