Suffering With Meaning

by sensitivestorm

“Despair is suffering without meaning.”
~ Viktor E. Frankl

Part I: Happiness?

We all share the same common struggles of existence. You aren’t the only one that feels anxious and miserable. You, however, are the source of your own misery. We all feel anxious, depressed and miserable. We all think about death and it’s possibilities. It’s healthy to think about these things.

Unfortunately our culture fails to allow us a range of emotion. It wants us to just “be happy”.  Nobody wants to deal with anyone else’s misery. Doctors pass out pills. Therapists suggest drugs. (Not all, but work with me here) We read books about how to be happy. We have the concept of happiness shoved down our throats daily. If you ask people what they truly want in life most would say I just want to be happy. 

A friend from high school recently contacted me on Facebook. He wanted my opinion on a dream he had. That conversation led to an even deeper one and he told me he’s been anxious about death lately. He had a heart attack two years ago and he had an appointment with his cardiologist the next day. He is worried because he started dipping again and nobody knows, not even his wife. He said he isn’t sure why he started dipping again but it started about a year ago. I suggested he might be depressed.

He then informed me that he smokes weed daily and that it helps him feel less anxious. I asked if his cardiologist(s) know and he said one doesn’t and the second cardiologist told him it wont hurt his heart and to keep smoking and if it helps alleviate anxiety he can keep smoking. I encouraged him to tell his OTHER cardiologist. The one he had an appointment with this week. He contacted me today and said he is going to start calling me “Claire” (for clairvoyant) because his cardiologist told him to lay off the smoking until they can figure out what else is happening with him.

It’s not really clairvoyant to see that a person having feelings of anxiety may abuse a substance that is a depressant in order to alleviate symptoms. It’s not difficult to see there’s an underlying issue that relates to anxiety. It’s 2013. People know what to alleviate anxiety in healthy ways. Don’t they? We are our choices. That’s what my friend Existential Psychotherapy says. And that’s what I say too.

I’m arguing that happiness is irrelevant. What do you think will make you happy? Do you know for sure that it will work? Have you tried it? Have the previous outcomes turned out to be what you expected?

Part II: Existential Depression

Anyone that has any depth to them {my reading audience, of course, has plenty of depth} has no doubt had some sort of existential crisis. I experienced an existential depression when I was about 25 and it lasted for several years. Sometimes it comes back but now I know how to deal with it. To me, existential depression is kinda like being able to critically think about your own depression. It sees the bigger picture. It forces us to answer the questions about finding meaning and direction in our lives. Where are we going? Why are we here? What’s my purpose? What if I don’t fulfill my purpose? What’s the point of my life?

Many famous artists have experienced this type of depression. Hemmingway, Virginia Wolf, Sylvia Plath, Abraham Lincoln. There is a certain type of person that is privy to this special little gift. Usually it’s gifted individuals. Idealists.

My depression kept me suffering and confused and continued for years. I had tons of questions and it took me many years to find the answers. I finally reached a place in my life where I was able to accept this will sometimes be part of my life as I search for and experience truth. I’ve accepted it I don’t try fight against it anymore.

Part III: My Existential Outlook

Existentialism gets a bad rap. First of all it rose out of the “anti-psychiatry” movement, which I appreciate. People view it as negative or morbid because it challenges people to consider things like death, depression, loneliness, evil, our “dark sides”. It challenges us to accept all parts of ourselves. ALL parts of self, without denying who we are. It also says we are all alone. Of course we want to be close to and connect to others but, in the end, we are alone and we can’t rely on others for validation. We make our own decisions. We must only rely on ourselves. The point is we must rely on our own validation rather than searching for it from others. The constant search for external validation makes us miserable.

I had a therapist tell me once his goal for me was to be “self-validated and intentional”. I pretty much hated him when he told me I was an unwanted child (my mom got pregnant with me when she was 17. My grandparents tried to get her to have an abortion) and I’d never have the relationship I’ve always wanted with my mother. He also added that she’d never love me the way I wanted to be loved. Then he just looked at me and said “and that’s sad”. Do you think that was mean? I don’t. Not anymore. I did at the time so I never went back.

About a year later I realized the dude was a genius! Funny thing about this guy, besides the fact that he’s awesome…My friend Charles invited me to a mediation at the Unity so I went. My old therapist was leading the group. He said…you look so familiar. Ha! I told him I saw him a few times. Maybe he remembered. Who knows. Who cares.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re going to allow yourself to suffer…do it with meaning.


The End.