Existential crisis through lens of anthropological crisis of modernity

The crisis of subjectivity doomed humanity to homelessness (Hauslosigkeit) [1] and existential uncertainty; the human condition no longer entitles people to what was once seen as their inherent, essential qualities. Research in the field of artificial intelligence, genetics, biotechnology and fundamental social change (such as emancipation, sexual revolution, atheism) force humanity to redefine its position in the Cosmos in order to find a new home, habituate itself to the new conditions [1]. But one shouldn’t look at the current changes just pessimistically, because there is a possibility that these changes also bring new coping strategies.

If we shift focus to the level of an individual life and investigate the global anthropological crisis from the subjective position we find significant vulnerability to existential crisis (crisis of identity, which induces questions of meaning, freedom, questions like: “why am I?” “ who am I?” “what am I?” [2]). The first world countries welfare conditions [3] eliminate the need to struggle for existence thereby exposing personal existential issues: “Idleness spoils us…Like paradisal Adam and Eve, having no need to sweat for our bread, we were trying to pilfer the fruit from the forbidden tree. Truly we received a similar punishment” [4].

What are the causes of personal crises? Traditionally, individual existential crises are considered in their relation to age and their occurrence is preconditioned by the sensitivity of a particular period in life [5]. Another widespread approach explains the occurrence of crises as a result of an encounter with a particular situation and therefore not directly age-related. The situations of that sort, impossible to postpone or shift responsibility for the outcome to somebody else, Jaspers calls “borderline”: “But there are situations that stay unchanged in essence, even if their momentary appearance changes and their omnipotent power is hidden from our eyes: I have to die, I have to suffer, I have to struggle, I have to depend on chance and I discover my own guilt inevitably” [6]. Any event can be the trigger of an existential crisis, even “an autumn leaf falling from a tree” [6].

The traditional coping strategies, described by existential authors (religion, family, labour, creativity) become less effective, at the same time the destructive ones (addictions, ludomania, escapism) become more accessible and have less alternatives. Moreover, any of the aforementioned strategies might be escapist if the person is not aware of it being his own choice. This confusing situation motivated the author to investigate the most vulnerable population category, and, specifically, the modalities of existential crisis in their relation to available coping strategies.

Thus, people most vulnerable to existential crisis are those who can’t fight it off by traditional coping strategies:

  • Atheists. Atheists are deprived of ready-made answers to the questions concerning the meaning of human existence, isolation, freedom and mortality offered by religion and face the necessity of independent investigation of these issues.
  • 1st world citizens. The labour culture, along with the notions related to it in the past, such as enthusiasm, goal-orientedness, inspiration as necessary building blocks of a worldview and the attitude towards labour as a uniquely human quality, the quality distinguishing humans from non-humans and necessary in a human is replaced by an attitude to it as a means to fulfill one’s wishes. Prosperity (including widely available credit and social welfare) destroys the necessity of labour and humans stop labouring, which makes them more prone to existential crises.
  • Childfree, Anti-sexualism. People who vehemently refuse to create families (relationships) and have kids lack the opportunity to solve existential crises of limited existence, meaning, etc., through perpetuating themselves in their offspring and sharing life experiences with a significant other [2].
  • People who don’t have a creative occupation and are not sensitive to creativity lack the opportunity to cope with existential crises through art .

While finding existing strategies outdated, people turn to the search for new ways to cope with existential crises. One of these strategies is developing mindfulness, i.e. cultivating the ability to see the world as clear from emotional bias as possible. That approach allows to encounter existential truths and find the best way to cope without negating them. The mindfulness cultivation strategy is not fundamentally new, but the current interpretation it is entirely secular and culturally available to a wide audience. Another promising existential coping strategy is reflection, which is not fundamentally new either, but it might become more efficient due to current developments, including the cognitive-behavioral therapy (healthy thinking).

  1. Buber M. 1998 The problem of man. Kiev: Nika Center, Vist-S.
  2. Yalom I. 2015 Existential Psychotherapy. Moscow: Class.
  3. Markov B.V. 2013 Chelovek v usloviyakh sovremennosti. Saint-Petersburg: Faculty of liberal arts and sciences.
  4. Shestov L. 2015 All Things are Possible (Apotheosis of Groundlessness). Leopold Classic Library.
  5. Craig G., Baucum D. 2019 Human development. Saint-Petersburg: Piter.
  6. Jaspers K. 2000 Introduction to Philosophy. Minsk: Propilei.

Existential crisis through lens of anthropological crisis of modernity: 2 комментария

  1. Елизавета, здравствуйте. Я недавно прошла ваш замечательный курс по интернет-маркетингу. Получила сертификат и там было моё имя, дублированное из фейсбука. Можно вас попросить исправить сертификат на настоящее имя и фамилию. 28.12.2019 сертификат на имя Инна Инна, а нужно на Инна Богданович. Я буду вам очень благодарна. Спасибо.


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