Existential Angst

I was introduced to this term by a friend recently. He described it as a state of depression with just being. I took it to mean a contemplative frame of mind constantly fixed on the topic of the futility of life. As in why would anyone ever worry about the future if we are going to die anyway? A disillusionment with being alive.

Now my friend is what some like to call an emo. But i think he just thinks a lot. And he differs from most people i know in that respect (as in based on what he thinks about). And something that probably makes people who think a lot depressed is that most other people don’t seem to do so. Other people, quietly obsessed with the nitty gritties of life and happily pre-occupied with the daily grind appear to hardly give any thought to things beyond the general vicinity of their noses.

So the masses who dont think beyond their noses get on the nerves of those that do. Or those that think they do. And this frustration is possibly increased by a feeling of being built differently and thus being an outcast from regular human life. You draw satisfaction from this knowledge celebrating your superior capacity for thought while at the same time also drawing satisfaction from a masochistic instinct that takes pleasure out of torturing your own self with the knowledge that you’re an outcast.

That’s part of the glory of being a self proclaimed outcast; the angst. It’s addictive.

But what I’ve come to realize is that this is probably a phase in every human being’s life. Thoughts and feelings such as these are extremely private and chances are that it usually takes a person with a similar mental construct to understand where you’re coming from when you experience these things. And such people are hard to find. But even they only manage to scratch the surface in getting what you’re feeling anyway. So pretty soon you seem lost in an understanding of the world that seems true, futile and unique at the same time.

But the trick in rationalizing the whole thing is to realize that everyone goes through it, i guess. Its part of the natural order of things almost. At least, that’s what I’ve come to realize. Hitler, in Mein Kampf, introduced me to this German word Weltanshauung, the closest English word that can translate it is ‘worldview’ but it means a lot more than that. Wikipedia calls it

the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy, fundamental existential and normative postulates or themes, values, emotions, and ethics

So existential angst is simply what you go through ’til you discover the purpose of your existence; your weltanshauung. Your own comprehensive world view. Your reason for living, your visions and your ambitions. I suppose most of us will be lucky if we manage to figure all of that out before we automate into economic machines.

  1. sabbyaz said:

    I guess the course of ‘figuring our life mision, vision and etc’ gets us even more depressed so the cycle continues.
    As you said, while some choose to spend time and figure it out, others are happy just making do with how it is on a day to day basis. That IS whats frustrating…why should you obsess about this when others are clearly okay with not looking too deep into their own lives.
    I don’t know if it creates a sort of elitist complex but I wont be surprised if it does.
    Good post, thought provoking to say the least.

  2. i’ve mentioned to this said friend myself that it is a phase we go through. like you said it is something we all go through. and i don’t see this angst as necessarily a bad thing, albeit an annoying one for those who aren’t in such a state. anyways it’s a very interesting philosophy to read up on and when you do get the chance read some creative works that have been inspired by this movement.There’s this book called ‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus, which is a brilliant piece of fiction i recommend reading. and also on this thing called “Absurdism” which stemmed from existential thinking. and this play by Samuel Beckett called ‘Waiting for Godot’. probes in to some very interesting aspects about life and existence. ok so i think i got carried away there! 😀

  3. Chavie said:

    “You draw satisfaction from this knowledge celebrating your superior capacity for thought while at the same also drawing satisfaction from a masochistic instinct that takes pleasure out of torturing your own self with the knowledge that you’re an outcast.” – very interesting observation… 🙂

    • so does that make the person an “intellectual emo”?
      much like an intellectual snob?

      I find that statement rather warped, probably the weirdest part of the post…

      We all have capacity for thought, no one is superior, there’s nothing to celebrate. It’s just that some use it more than others. I don’t think everyone who goes through this thinks of themselves as an outcast, at least not in the general context of the word. An observer, maybe, but why would one torture oneself with that? I don’t agree with that statement, sorry :/

  4. I think you’re right about it being a phase that every human being goes through. Those who don’t exhibit existential angst could be those yet to experience it, or those who have experienced it and have now accepted their situation…I don’t mean that in a defeatist sense, but more in a realistic sense.

    This leads to a series of superiority complexes – those with no concept of existential angst label the others as ’emos’, those who have passed that stage consider the others immature, and those currently experiencing it consider the others ignorant. I don’t think these are positions that can be reconciled easily.

    I do think, however, that it is rather difficult to be a ‘thinker’ in this ‘doers’ society, unless you’re somewhat masochistic.

  5. DESHAN said:


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