Existential crisis


Existential crisis


your avatar   Allison (34 year-old woman)

My problem is that I just don't see any meaning at all in life. I went all the way through school, got my masters, graduated top in my class, but it all seemed so meaningless. It has been that way for generations back in my family. And when I see what bad shape the world is in, I can see why. I basically don't even want to be living.

I have a daughter, and if I would have known what I know now, I never would have had her. I went to school for theology, and discovered it was all hogwash, down to the very last thing - just political games. Nothing else. Problem for me though, is everything else is too. I know there is no God, but knowing that makes things just as bad, as living a lie when I was in the church. So now what. I can't sleep at night. I have horrible nightmares.

I can't raise my daughter properly. I have been shunned by all old friends because I gave up Christianity, and yet I can't make new ones, because I know death is right around the corner, so what is the point. The only thing I can think to call this is an existentialist crisis. It is affecting my whole life, and I just don't know how to make things better. I have been trying now for three years, with no success.

Can a person get through such a horrible ordeal? Thank you for taking the time to respond. This has caused me major anxiety.


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Allison,

You are an intelligent, morally upright, decent person, and that is why you are hurting. There SHOULD be meaning in the world, there should be an explanation for all the terrible events that beset us, and what are we here for anyway?

And it's perhaps worse for you than for the millions of others best by these questions, because you used to have the support of religion, even trained for theology, and now that apparent certainty is gone.

Allison, I know where you are, because I used to be there myself. That's right, used to be. There is hope.

As a young student, I was part of a group. One fellow was Salvation Army, and KNEW that the Bible was the literal word of God, even every apparently nonsensical part True. Another was Roman Catholic, and KNEW the rest of us were damned for denying the One True Religion. A third was a member of the Evangelical Union, a Protestant organization. There was an atheist who laughed at the lot of them, and tried to convince everyone who'd listen that there was no God.

Then there was I. I disagreed with everyone, thought them to be arrogant for claiming to know. I spent many a sleepless night worrying over the issues that now depress you, and finally I arrived at a world view that has satisfied me to the present day (all too many years).

Either there is a God, or not. If there is, that Being could be a personality like the Judeo-Christian tradition says, or not. If there is such a Person, Her nature could be good or evil or uncaring or none of these.

If there is the Judeo-Christian-type God, then I see evil in the world only because I am too limited to grasp the totality. A puppy or human child being operated on to remove a cancer may think the surgeon to be evil. I am sure such a Person would be infinitely bored by endlessly repeated ritual and prayer, so I have never felt the need to follow any religion.

The real nature of such a God cannot be like any human representation of Her. People make their Gods in their own image. I visualize Her as the infinitely perfect Mother. You are a mother. Think of your daughter when she was still crawling. If she dirtied her pants, or naughtily threw her food, did this lessen your love for her? Now imagine that you are perfectly mature and loving, with no shortcomings. How tolerant and amused is your love for your child, regardless of what she does?

So, if there is a God Who is an infinitely good Personality, all I need to do is my imperfect best to be a good human being. My faults will be forgiven, regardless of what ritual I omit to do, what silly beliefs may be within my head, even if I deny Her.

If there is a superhuman, immensely powerful entity Who is evil or uncaring, then I need to defy this person, and fight in every way possible to work for good.

Now let's look at a more Buddhist conception of the Deity. I like this one: God is the Universe. Every star, every blade of grass, every grain of sand -- and every person -- is a part of God. God is not a Person, but all there is, and I am a small molecule within Her Being. I am within Her and She is within me.

The implication for my behavior is the same as before. I am here in this turn of the Wheel of Life in order to learn some lessons, and I will keep returning until I have become perfect, then I simply cease the need to exist, and merge into the Godhead that is the Universe. I don't need to chant or meditate or fast, unless that happens to be part of the karma of my present existence.

Finally, what if your current belief is correct? There is no God, there is no order, reason or purpose. We just happen to be, and if we don't care, there is no other Consciousness that cares either. The world is Chaos, and anything else is illusion.

Allison, I'd like you to go to my web site. The Welcome page has a poem on it. This is my mantra when things get me down, like when a publisher rejects a book of mine, or my computer breaks down, or I feel there is no meaning to anything.

My dear, if there is no meaning 'out there', it's up to us to put meaning from 'in there', from within our hearts. There is no God if you have none within you. But admit a purpose, or better a Purpose, and that is what God is.

You have a daughter. Rather than bemoaning the fact that you brought her into a nasty world, fight to change that world, make it a better place for her and all children. That was the meaning I gave to my life, thirty years ago.

I wish you'd left an email address. If you do read this answer, please get back to me at my email address

There is beauty in the world, and love, and simple pleasures. You just need to look at them. Ignore the long view -- it will only make you dizzy.

Have a good life,

Bob Rich

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com


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