Every Crisis is Existential

Are you overwhelmed? I certainly have been for the past few weeks. Though I am seeing my clients (by teleconference), my energy when not counseling clients has lagged, and my focus has been “off.” I have watched a lot of you-tube videos about how to sew a face mask (and I do not sew), and yes, I have watched the Tiger King series and baked a lot (gluten-free soda bread or yeast rolls anyone?).

Global events since mid-March have highlighted that in any physical or health crisis, in any disaster, in any economic crisis, there is also an existential crisis. In addition to responding to pandemic material and health challenges – we are also called to examine our emotional-spiritual response, our deepest values.

We have to discover how we move on in a new and modified way. We have to learn how to move on in a world that looks very different than it did just a few weeks ago, how we think about things, how we interact with others for whom we care. Perhaps the changes are not permanent, but it is a shock because everything is suddenly so very different and so very scary.

What is the antidote to this worldwide existential crisis? To me, there are several steps and qualities but that we can use to reflect and find ways to move through. One solution is to time that we have, maybe sequestered, but use it to sink deeper into understanding what is essential. Can I explore the values that are at the core of who I am as a human being?

By examining our responses, by looking deeper, we do not end the anxiety. However, we find a more profound way to move forward. We continue moving in a meaningful direction regardless of what’s happening around the world, irrespective of how different our interactions might be, how limited we might be in our mobility, how our leisure pursuits may be changed. There are no sports on TV, so we’re not able to watch that anymore. There’s no just getting up and going to the theater, that those things are, at least for now, limited. How does that impact us? And how do we not let that just trigger more anxiety but trigger a more in-depth self-evaluation of what is vital?

You might want to use this time to do more reflection, journal more about who is central in your life, what activities are significant, what you want your life legacy to be. Reflecting on these hidden meanings will not dissolve the anxiety, at least not immediately. Reflection will not do anything in terms of the disease, social or economic processes. But it does is helps you resonate more clearly with who you are supposed to be, the values with which you most fully connect. So, take advantage of the time to reflect, regardless of what’s happening in the world. Use this crisis as an opportunity to get more in touch with what’s important. Discovering meaning is the challenge that each of us has in front of us.

Michael Winters is a Psychologist in Houston focusing on marriage counseling and therapy. Michael received his PhD from the University of Memphis and has been practicing since 1991.