Video: We've all heard the phrase, and we all feel it from time to time, but what exactly is an existential crisis? According to this video from the School of Life, it involves a few identifiable traits. The School of Life describes an existential crisis as "a period when a lot that had previously seemed like common sense or normal reveals its contingent, chance, uncanny and relative nature". In other words, you start to question why your own situation is what it is — why you live in a certain part of the world, why you follow a set of social norms, why you have the job you do.
This might seem like a "first world" problem, but like we've said before, first world problems still have a place, and questioning your situation can make you realise you have options, and that can be liberating.
The video points out that an existential crisis is also anxiety-inducing, though. "A recognition of our freedom does not bring calm — quite the opposite. We recognise we've been deluding ourselves about what 'has' to be." You also become very aware of your mortality and realise your time is limited. The School of Life continues:
...we have many choices but are, by the nature of the human condition, denied the information we would need to choose with ultimate wisdom or certainty. We are forced to decide but can never be assured that we have done so adequately. We are steering blind. And therefore, we can be guaranteed to make a lot of mistakes.
It all sounds very doom and gloom, but the good news is, understanding this phenomenon helps you work through it. It also helps you feel less alone, which is encouraging when you're worried about living the right kind of life and making perfect decisions. As the video puts it, "the regret-free life exists only in movies and songs."
Our own Patrick Allen wrote a detailed guide on what he's learned in his own experience, and for even more detail, check out the video below.
What Is an Existential Crisis? [The School of Life]