“Existential dread is a state in which in individual questions existence, meaning, purpose and almost everything about life in a cynical way.” This is a random post I read scrolling through Facebook.
I was confused on why would this happen. Why would people get crisis on existing? Soon the confusion turned into curiosity and I want to know about this. I googled it but the results are a bit confusing.
So I messaged my friend, of course, you guessed it, John. So here is how the conversation goes.
Me: Hey John! My man! How are you?
John: Hey, I’m good, how about you?
Me: I’m good, so I saw this term called “existential dread”. What does it mean?
If you remember, John has a habit of texting back late when asked something important. After a couple of hours, I got a text back from him.
John: Why do you want to know that?
Me: I just read it on Facebook and want to know more about the same.
John: Okay, before we dig deep, you need to know a term called “existentialism” and “existential crisis.”
In simple words, it is is a philosophy that stresses the importance of human experience, and says that everyone is responsible for the results of their actions.
In simple words, an existential crisis leads to a time of deep questioning within oneself. This normally associates with how someone sees themselves and their meaning within the world.
John: Existential dread and existential crises are technically the same. If we push, we can say that the dread is the next stage of the crisis.
Me: I get that, but why does anyone question their existence and feel bad about it?
John: If we talk scientifically, it may trigger when there is a trauma, death of loved ones, major loss, substance abuse etc., But on a philosophical level it is on a different note.
Me: Okay, can you elaborate on that?
John: Sure, from the philosophical standpoint, the burden of existence is the cause of the crisis.
Me: What? It doesn’t make sense. I mean how is existence a burden? We all exist and that is a fact. I don’t get it.
John: It is very simple, the existence of an individual is not a choice. All life and existence are random. So you really don’t have a choice of existing.
Me: I get that, but life is what it is. Adding to what you said, you cannot really choose to exist or not. So why feel sad about it?
John: That is exactly the issue. Life is what it is which is an unavoidable thing.,. Some people choose not to exist yet they do. As there is a famous saying “Life is not a bed of roses.”
Me: Okay, I get the premise of the existential dread. How bad can it be? You might feel bad for some time and move on right?
John: It is one of the worst things to hit you. It is almost a mental suicide. If a person is hit by it, they lose interest in almost anything and just become a deactivated robot.
Me: I don’t believe it. How extreme will it be?
John: Any individual suffering from the dread will be in a very bizarre position. As I said, they have zero interest in doing almost everything, the consequences are overthinking, less expressive, not able to focus etc.,
According to some studies, these can lead to some mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety etc., It not only affects you mentally but also physically as you are not able to focus.
Me: Oh man! That is very bad than it sounds. What would a day look like for the person who is hit by existential dread?
John: I can talk from a personal point of view. For instance, If I have a knife in my hand, I want to just want to cut my hand and see how the blood would ooze out. Even by thinking about this, I wouldn’t flinch.
If I’m on the roof of a building, I would imagine if I would jump, how would my head burst when it’s hit the ground, how would the blood splatter all over and things like this.
These are not suicidal tendencies but complications of overthinking on the burden of existence. I would just sit in a dark room staring and thinking or would be in the shower for hours doing nothing.
It is like a man who is emotionally dead, with an expressionless face just walking around. Everything around me eventually stops making sense doesn’t make any sense no matter what. It feels very weird.
Me: Man this sound awful! Is there no other way to divert from this existential dread?
John: There is one amazing quote I read somewhere it says “The universe is a cruel, uncaring void. The key to being happy isn’t a search for meaning. It’s to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually, you’ll be dead.”
If we just keep ourselves busy with any unimportant shit, we can eventually come out or avoid the existential dread.