by Aletheia Luna
May 20, 2019
The hardest thing about going through an existential crisis is that
you feel constantly depressed and alienated.
Nothing makes sense anymore and everything feels meaningless... including,
all of your old accomplishments, desires, professional
attachments, relationships, and goals...
You want to find your real purpose in life.
You want to know why the
hell we're all here in the first place, but you don't know where to
If you can relate to these feelings, my heart goes out to you.
I've been there
before and it's a dark place. Worst of all, it can sometimes
last for years (like mine did).
As someone who has been
I'm not here to
I'm not promising that what I'll share will help it all become
But I do hope you find a little bit of solace.
What is an
Existential Crisis? - Definition
Put simply, an existential crisis is a period in life where a person
is at a crossroads and is questioning their entire reality.
They may wonder what the
meaning of their life is and whether they have a higher purpose.
They may wonder whether life itself has meaning or is just a random,
chaotic product of chance.
And as a result, they may
suffer from tremendous anxiety, depression, isolation, and feelings
of being lost.
You're Experiencing an Existential Crisis
Are you going through an existential crisis? Pay attention to the
for the meaning of life
You feel alone
You feel like
your 'old life' has withered away
You don't know
who you are anymore
You feel like
your past accomplishments are meaningless (and as a result,
you feel lots of regret)
You see through
the shallowness of society's goals and desires
You crave for
something deep and meaningful
You realize that
the Universe is far more complex than you previously thought
You feel a sense
of smallness or powerlessness in the face of everything
aware of your mortality (and feel existential anxiety as a
fundamentally different from others
You feel like
there's something innately 'wrong' or 'broken' about you
You feel empty
You can't seem to
find any place that feels like 'home'
How many of the above
signs can you relate to?
When I was going through an existential crisis my entire worldview
shattered. I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian background and
could no longer come to terms with an 'all-loving God' who would
send people to burn in hell for eternity.
I went through years of
confusion, emptiness, anxiety, and depression wondering what the
purpose of all this was. It was an extremely difficult,
traumatizing, and heart-breaking time. (And yes, thankfully I have
pulled through it, hence why I'm writing this article.)
But my story is only one of millions, and there are many reasons why
you may be going through a crisis. We'll explore below…
WHY You're Going
Through an Existential Crisis
Why did all of this happen to you?
There are a number of reasons. Here are the most common that you may
Sudden death of a
Job change or
of shock diagnosis
Moving to a new
place or country
Having a baby
Entering a new
life phase (e.g. adulthood, mid-life, old age)
Loss of religious
(flood, hurricane, fire)
awakening and dark night of the soul
As you can see, the
existential crisis is caused by literally any big life event or
change - whether positive or negative.
Anything sudden can be destabilizing to your mind. Think of it like
an earthquake that sets off a domino effect within your psyche.
Before you know it, you have cut off all your friends, quit your
job, and have completely withdrawn from society because it all feels
Again, I want to emphasize the fact that this won't last forever.
It might feel like it and you might believe, in your present frame
of mind, that you're the only person out there who is going through
this. But you're not. And there are people who understand what
you're going through.
So please take solace in
that and keep reading to get support.
Why More and More
People Are Experiencing the Existential Crisis
Yes, you heard it right:
the existential crisis is increasing in
It's becoming a global phenomenon.
With record numbers of people experiencing major depression and
other symptoms associated with the existential crisis, the question
With all our technology,
wealth, and material abundance, why are we feeling more and more
There are many possible answers, but I believe that the main cause
is emotional, philosophical, and spiritual in nature.
We live in a world that worships the reductionistic mechanistic
scientific view of life. Anything mysterious, magical, or remotely
spiritual in nature is scorned and looked down upon.
We pretend we're 'above
all that childish nonsense' when in reality it's what we need the
As clinical psychologist and scholar, C. Michael Smith
The world seen only
through the lenses of scientific-calculative thinking is a thin,
dry, hollow, surface world, devoid of mystery, depth, and
There is an
existential nausea (Sartre) that comes with such a nihilistic
view of reality. Such a view is itself a symptom of deep
spiritual, social, and ecological pathology.
Some face this
nihilism with stoic courage, others retreat into
fundamentalistic and traditional forms of security, where they
may have some limited contact with the sacred, while still being
touched by the nihilism of the modern scientific worldview.
Some seek a genuine
sense of the sacred to give their lives meaning and direction,
but cannot find it in the
institutional religions of the west.
Some turn to the
numinous resources of the East, some to occult interests; some
are now turning to
shamanism, others the
rekindle a sense of mystery and meaning characteristic of the
As a society, we deal
with our existential emptiness many ways, but the unifying sobering
reality is that we are spiritually destitute. We've lost touch with
our spiritual nature and are suffering horribly as a result.
I'll explore how to get back in touch with your spiritual nature
(and what worked for me) a little later.
But first, let's explore why this is not all so doom and gloom…
Existential Crisis Can Be a Good Sign
I know this sounds totally absurd.
But the fact that you're experiencing existential anxiety signifies
that you're not a mindless sheep of society.
You are alive goddammit, and more than that, you're in touch with
your spiritual nature.
As spiritual philosopher Krishnamurti once wrote:
It is no measure of
health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
The fact that you're
maladjusted, the fact that you're questioning everything and feel a
sense of despair means that you're getting more in touch with your
own truth - not the version of truth that society likes to spoonfeed
As author Tim Farrington writes,
Doubt as to whether
you are in a dark night or "just depressed" is probably a very
good sign; it means you're alive and paying attention and that
life has you baffled, which is the precondition for truth in my
Perhaps more than anyone,
the Holocaust survivor and psychotherapist, Viktor Frankl,
was acquainted with the depths of existential crisis.
He writes in his
wonderful book The Doctor of the Soul:
The 'symptom' of
conscientious anxiety in the melancholia, is not the product of
melancholia as a physical illness but represents an
'accomplishment' of the human being as a spiritual person.
In other words, feeling
existential anxiety is not just the result of depression (or
melancholy), it's actually an accomplishment that signifies we're in
touch with our spiritual nature.
Mirabai Starr, author of numerous spiritual books writes,
who is broken... who has struggled all his or her life with some
intense deficiency, may have a uniquely powerful relationship with
And it's true.
The more you suffer existentially, the closer you are likely to draw
to the Divine...
I realize you may be an atheist or simply not interested in
spirituality, but perhaps it's time to reconsider your relationship
with the mysterious at the very least.
We'll look more into this
7 Ways to Get Through
the Existential Crisis... and Actually Benefit From it
Again, I know "benefiting" from your existential crisis may sound
But hear me out.
The existential crisis is an opportunity for you to,
find your life
purpose, figure out what truly matters in life, and connect with
your spiritual nature.
What you're going through may be horribly painful, but you're
experiencing a death and rebirth. You're undergoing a mental,
emotional, and spiritual renewal process.
Everything in life works in cycles. Think of life like the four
seasons. What you're experiencing right now is the winter stage of
existence. But after that comes spring.
Here are some paths/practices you may like to explore.
Many of these I have used
myself during my existential crisis period - and they helped
(journal) all your thoughts every day
This one was a BIG help for me - and I believe it can be for you
Writing down all your
thoughts and feelings is a good way of getting them out of your
mind. The more you let your thoughts accumulate, the more
overwhelmed you can feel. So let it all out. Journaling is
extremely therapeutic and is recommended by professionals and
depressed folks alike constantly.
Here's an example of a journal entry:
horrible today. I watch and listen to people talk about
their lives, but it all seems futile. I can't relate to any
of them. Not even a bit.
All their plans,
goals, and shallow desires - can't they see that it's all going
to perish one day?
suffocates me and I feel like I'm walking in the land of the
dead. Everyone is asleep. Why can't they just wake?
Maybe I'll feel
better tomorrow, but for now, I just wanted to get these
As you can see, your journal entry doesn't need to be long. It
can be a tiny paragraph or even a few words. It also doesn't
need to be wordy, well-written or poetic.
The point is to
benefit from it by making a habit out of it.
your pain into art
Some of the best art (think Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch,
Goya, etc.) has come from those who have suffered tremendously.
You don't need to be
good at art (or an "artist") to benefit from artistic
The point isn't to
create something that will please others, but something that
helps you feel better and process what you're going through.
If you need ideas, go on Pinterest and look up different
art projects. Places to start include watercolor, sketching,
collage, and paint pouring.
You can also read
our art therapy ideas article
and see if that interests you.
3. Get in
touch with your inner warrior
There's a reason why we've named this website "lonerwolf."
wolf is symbolic
of the inner warrior, the inner force of nature who refuses to
give up. S/he is the fire within you that voyages courageously
into the unknown, fights for freedom, and respects your true
When we go through an existential crisis it can feel like all
our power, all our energy, has been drained from us. We may
struggle to get up in the morning and keep moving forward. We
may feel small and defenseless in the face of life.
The way to move through these feelings is to reconnect with your
inner warrior, in whatever way he/she/it appears to you. We like
to see this fiery essence as the wolf, but you may see it
To connect with your inner warrior, you may like to turn to your
Before going to bed,
ask your unconscious mind to present to you an image of your
inner warrior. Then, pay attention to your dreams. Note down
anything significant when first rising in the morning. If you
struggle with this activity, repeat it for a week.
You may even like to take a herb like mugwort, blue lotus, or a
lucid dreaming supplement to make your dreams more vivid (please
do your own research regarding dosage requirements and look into
An alternative is to practice visualization.
walking down a staircase and at the bottom is a golden door.
Once you open that door, you'll come face-to-face with your
What does he/she/it
You might like to play some music that puts you in
the right frame of mind for this activity (think warrior music
which you can find for free on Youtube).
Once you've connected with your inner warrior you can work with
this inner image in your daily life for strength and guidance.
You may like to
journal with this inner force, talk with it through
visualization, or create a piece of artwork that you put
somewhere noticeable and special in your home.
If you struggle to connect with others, go out in nature.
Connect with the birds, trees, and plants. Sit and watch what
happens around you and find delight in the small things.
Spending time in nature was one of the major ways I got through
my existential crisis.
I would often spend hours sitting outside
observing how the clouds moved through the sky and the way the
wind danced through the trees.
If you don't live near nature, try taking regular trips to your
local wildlife reserve, forest, or park. Nature is soothing to
the soul and will help you to get out of your head.
If you're interested,
I wrote this article on
the art of forest bathing (shinrin yoku)
a few years ago.
what brings you joy and meaning
Even the smallest things can bring you joy like a patch of
sunlight on the floor or the feeling of cold water against your
hands as you wash the dishes.
By practicing mindfulness, you can connect with the present
moment more and step out of the cycles of dark thought that
accompanying the existential crisis.
Finding the meaning of life is a longer path, but something that
can also bring you a sense of purpose.
We've written more on the
topic of finding
the meaning of life and you're more than
welcome to go check that out.
Practice self-care and self-love
Take care of yourself.
This is a tough time. I know it's hard,
and I know that most days you don't have the energy for much.
But treat yourself with as much love as you can muster. Even
opening the window for some fresh air can be seen as a small act
of self-love or putting on some warmer socks.
Two forms of self-love and care that you may like to start with
affirmations and gratitude...
I know you may feel skeptical
toward them, but there's a reason why they've entered the
You may like to start a gratitude journal and list five things
you're thankful for each day (being grateful has been
scientifically proven to help you feel better).
And you may like to
find/create one or two affirmations that you carry with you and
repeat throughout the day.
Examples may include,
"I am strong, and
I'll get through this"
"It's okay to not know all the
"I surrender to the cycles of life"
better every day"...
and minimize sources of stress
You're going through enough inner stress as it is, so don't be
afraid to let go of people/responsibilities that cause you more
harm than good.
One way of minimizing your stress is by creating a calm and
clear mind. Try guided meditations that soothe your mind and
body each morning and evening.
I love the free app "InsightTimer"
for all its variety and I use it on my phone each day.
I encourage you to do
See if there are any depression support groups around you.
everyone experiencing depression is going through an existential
crisis, but some are. And you can find a sense of kinship there.
Otherwise, there are many groups online (such as on social
media) that you can join for support. Alternatively, you can
simply browse around this website and see that you're not alone
in your existential difficulties.
You may also wish to call a mental health hotline if you
desperately need to talk with someone or go to a website like
7cups that offers free support.
As psychologist Christa Mackinnon writes:
correlations between spiritual well-being and positive
psychological responses when people are confronted with
existential crisis situations.
A recent study of
60 lung cancer patients in America, for instance, found that
aspects of spirituality, namely meaning in life and prayer,
have positive effects on psychological and physical
responses, and an in-depth study of 160 terminally ill
patients in palliative care came to the conclusion that
spiritual well-being provides a sense of peace and offers
some protection against end-of-life despair in those for
whom death is imminent.
You don't need to buy
into anyone's bullshit - find what type of spirituality works for
That might be simply
praying or lighting a candle, or it could mean learning how to be a
spiritual healer and finding a higher sense of purpose.
I personally enjoy the path of inner work and I incorporate many
eclectic practices into my spiritual path like,
working with the
archetypes, spirit guides, practicing meditation and mindfulness,
creating sigils, connecting with nature,
...the list goes on.
Find a path that works for you and let it give you hope.
This is a Time
of Death and Rebirth
The existential crisis is a time of death,
the death of old
beliefs, death of old ways of being, and death of old values...
But after death comes rebirth. Just look at the cycles of nature...
What you're experiencing isn't going to last forever. After the
night comes day, and after winter comes spring.
I hope this article has shown you how valuable this process you're
going through actually is.
There is nothing wrong with you.
You are not alone.
You are actually saner than most people because you are questioning
the insanity of the world around you.
You are in the process of
getting in touch with your true spiritual nature...