By Kassie C.
*Trigger warning: Please be aware that this blog mentions the concept of death as it relates to the theory of existentialism.
There are many theories of how to view life. I like learning and understanding why I am the way I am through different perspectives: I keep the parts I connect with to create a compilation of ideas that feel unique to me. This week, I am looking through the lens of Existentialism to understand myself.
Existentialism acknowledges all human experiences, how those experiences create a person and how we relate to the world. It is not concerned about personality rules or types or the division of the self; it addresses the person as a whole being.
Existentialism deems there are fours ways of being in the world and all can occur simultaneously: existing in ones own subjective world, existing within relationships, existing in the physical environment with all living beings and finally, existing in spiritual beliefs about the ideal world.
Existential theory believes that people have an inner struggle between freedom and responsibility; that people are driven by the need to find meaning, value, identity, and have productive relationships. If all are successfully achieved, the individual becomes self-aware, creates self-actualization, and develops their authentic self. Existentialism’s goal is to become ones most authentic self which increases the way people relate to the world.
People are meant to exist; therefore, fears are biased around their ability to not be able to do this. Fear impacts individual choice; people fear of isolation, meaninglessness, lack of stable fulfilling relationships, guilt, emptiness, and finally death.
Existentialism views anxiety in particular ways as well. Anxiety is normal and leads an individual to live fully and authentically. Many of life’s choices and situations produce some amount of anxiety because anxiety is a signal that a psychological challenge needs to be resolved; anxiety is normal and healthy. However, it becomes unhealthy when anxiety occurs in an inappropriate time or becomes disproportionate to the situation. Over anxiousness can occur when anxiety has been repressed.
When we break people down, we see a lot of the same driving forces: acceptance, success, meaningful relationships, impact, which also means fears follow the same patterns. I think Existentialism is liberating because it shows us how to connect through finding ways to ease our own fears, which in turn does this to those around us.
Reading through the theory of existentialism, I understand it but as I am working through my Eating disorder, I am finding contradictions to my personal beliefs. Up until quite recently I have always dealt with thoughts of death, I had always connected to my darkness, in some sense’s I had befriended it. I am in a different place now then I have been as long as I can remember, and to be honest it is not the idea of not existing that impacts me, it is being in a place now where I see a future that is overwhelming. I have let my eating disorder take up so much of my mind, personality and future that I never really thought about how I would feel without it. Most of the time it feels so good; to be alone in peace, or with friends and have room in my mind to actually laugh, engage in conversation and critically think about everything other then what’s on or not on my plate; it’s so freeing. But then again, it’s challenging because I am trying to understand who I am and what other parts of myself I can now become friends with that I ignored for so long.
There is this perception that fixing an issue will fix the whole problem. I don’t think that’s the case. Fixing an issue gives you moments of freedom but it also creates more time to work on other difficulties impacting the problem. People are complex, eating disorders come from years of development and are found in layers of who we are. This is not meant as discouraging, this is meant as liberating. Yes, there is always a challenge to overcome, but new challenges mean progress from the last challenge and that you are building the skills to help yourself, to really get to know yourself - and hopefully learning to love yourself.
Wedding, D., & Corsini, R. J. (Eds.). (2019). Current psychotherapies (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage.
My name is Kassie C. I am in my late twenties and am trying to live what I preach - picking yourself first and that loving yourself really is the best medicine. It’s not always easy and it definitely is not always pretty but it’s real. I hope joining me on this journey will provide perspective, connection and solace. So, here’s to life because for good or bad we are all in it together :).
*Photo credits: Kassie C.