I have been reading a little about Existential Theory and the philosophy of it, plus the whole concept of being genuine and a more authentic self. I find it fascinating and we can all gain something from it, so I have chosen to outline the highlights I find particularly interesting. Do not be put off by the harshness of the subjects – if we can understand and embrace the realities of life, we can become a more rounded, fulfilled person, rather than someone who hides in fear of reality. I feel that a lot of our pain is caused by our mere existence as below.
This is probably the harshest of all. As soon as we are born we are on our way towards death. As a child, we find out at some point or another and our naivety is challenged. Many of us then spend our lives denying the reality of death, or hiding from it, or finding deeper meaning to life and our ‘passing on’ fuelled by religious beliefs. We find ways to cope with the reality. If we do embrace it, however, we can seek to enjoy our lives and be more at peace with the notion.
Then there is the anxiety caused by the idea and realities of those close to us dying. We experience these things at different ages and must find our own way to grieve, but what about just the idea that a person will die? If we think about that too much, it could be very negative, so we hide the fact by ignoring it, finding a faith that allows us to believe better things will happen once we pass on, or we get sad about it. Some people even plan for it. My own father felt that most important to him is that he leaves enough money behind him to pay for his own funeral and my mum’s. When I was younger, I couldn’t talk about death at all, or any planning or wills with my dad, but now, as they get older and older, I have had to face it – the reality of it.
We plan for other things in our lives – holidays, work, meeting friends – in fact we are constantly making plans, but plans around death, for many, are taboo.
Freedom, which comes with responsibility
Oh, how we love to have our ‘freedom’ in life. We are born as individuals and do have the freedom of living our lives as we wish to quite a large degree. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But, with that freedom comes responsibility; we must make our own decisions and choices, we must make our own lives seem worthwhile to us, we must make our lives continue and enjoy or suffer the consequences of our own choices and actions.
So, essentially we do have freedom, and we think we want it, but sometimes that freedom is overwhelming and we wish we could be managed by others; given a structure to live within.
Embrace our freedom, and we can make brilliant choices, learn so much from life, and experience many different things for self-fulfilment. We might also become less in denial of ourselves instead of blaming the events and people in the outside world for our own problems. We can become stuck, forgetting that we make our own destiny and need to take responsibility for it, ourselves, and owning our own personality and actions. We cannot change others, but we can change ourselves if we want to. If we say it’s not our fault, the world is crap and it’s all because of this and that, then no change will occur. Change occurs when we take responsibility for ourselves and make things happen – whether that be an easy journey one day and a very difficult challenge the next.
Isolation and loneliness
It is perfectly natural to feel isolated and lonely in life. We were born alone into this world, and we die alone. If we accept that fact, and work on how we can feel more integrated and part of a group, we can learn to fit in. We are intelligent, social creatures, who need contact with others, but we need to make that happen watching out that we are not just holding on to relationships just so that we are not lonely/isolated. Relationships are not the best if they are just based on isolation avoidance. We like to be popular, but staying with negative relationships just to negate our loneliness and isolation is not the key to fulfilling this need.
Relationships, however, that are more authentic and with less boundaries, can work very well. If we are isolated because of our own personalities, we can change if we want to, to ensure we integrate better.
In avoiding isolation and loneliness, we do much more than just look for a partner to fill our time – it could be having children, making ourselves busy, taking up hobbies, going to the gym, seeing friends… but instead of covering up, we could embrace it and say it’s OK, because everyone experiences this.
Meaning (and authentic relationship)
We all need meaning in life. We like to feel useful, successful, popular. Without meaning, we can feel worthless, useless and unwanted, so we strive all the time to gain meaning in life. We work, earn money, are responsible, have friends, relationships, see family, we study and we travel seeking new information anything else to make our lives worth living.
The reality here is that no-one is going to give us meaning in life – we must seek it and make it happen for ourselves. It is sometimes hard work, and if we slack in this task, we can feel awful.
Many ways to create meaning come from the relationships we have but again we must be careful, as one negative relationship can bring us to rock bottom and kick our self-worth out of the window anyway. We can seek fulfilling, two way relationships, where there is comfort and joy and trust; an authentic relationship with people who are also genuine. See my post on ‘How to be more authentic self, and have more authentic relationships for better living’ by CLICKING HERE (opens in a new window)
We need hobbies, exercise, and interests to keep us going too, and a sense of control over our lives can help us to build meaning. We feel worth-while. But, essentially, it is not just about making ourselves busy – we need to be committed to what we are doing or who we are with to fully build meaning.