Andrea writes on various topics from dating, couples, astrology, weddings, interior design, and gardens. She studied film and writing.
What Is Existentialism?
Existentialism is defined as "a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will."
Therefore, we have an existential crisis when the very nature we excel in and accept is challenged, whether from outside or inside forces. Every person on this planet will go through an existential crisis. You can't depend on your natural inclinations every time. Facing yourself and figuring it out might help prevent a major midlife crisis.
You may feel existential when questioning traditions, when you feel like you don't fit in, or when a strongly held belief no longer works for you. Sometimes existentialism helps you to redefine and better understand yourself. You can better prioritize what you value and what doesn't have meaning.
Meaning vs. Happiness
There are two camps in this world: those seeking meaning and those seeking happiness. Studies show that those living lives after meaning have more constructive lives. They have humility, they work hard, they don't look for money as much, and they make sacrifices. Those who are seeking happiness tend to have more destructive habits, feel less connected to others, and become more easily selfish.
Existentialism is one of the many tools you have as an individual to help you divine meaning. Embracing it can give you a more full life, even if on the surface it seems like you are detaching from life.
Confronting Crises Based on Myers-Briggs Type
Below, we'll take a look at the biggest existential crisis that each of the Myers-Briggs personality types may face. Please note that this is slightly tongue in cheek.
NF Idealist Temperaments
The idealists work together in this world to bring about peace, harmony, and creativity. Those with idealist personalities have preferences for intuition and emotional reasoning. Intuition has to do with pattern making. You tend to think about the past, present, and future. You also like to think of things in metaphors or in the abstract.
These people are not typically grounded or practical but seem to process information, especially abstract information, with precision. Emotional reasoning has to do with understanding your own moods and also having empathy toward others. You can come to conclusions in a group setting by understanding the logic and perspectives of others.
Idealists care about the humanities, healing others, what is the soul, and what makes a difference in the world. These are your Mother Teresa, Jesus, and Gandhi-like souls. They want to address others' needs while also providing health. They have existential crises frequently because they see a lot of evil in the world that they know needs to be redirected. They feel confused that people don't focus on recovery but rather judgment.
The dreamer is overcome by emotions. They do not correlate why they have to make decisions that cause them to give up on other decisions. Instead, they get lost in a whirlwind of half-baked ideas – surfing costumes for penguins, llama farming, and pop-up art stores.
The INFP is disillusioned by the way people aggressively take on life and how their sometimes passive and aloof approach isn’t working to solve things. They zig-zag back and forth between wanting to please everyone and having no clue what others think about them and even spending days, weeks, months locked in their bedrooms depressed on flickers of emotions.
The INFP suffers from “extreme tunnel vision for love”; they believe in love to a fault (they’re martyrs). It is hard for them to abandon love when it would be better for them to do so. INFP does not do well in moments that require hard and decisive decision making, places where they have to compromise the emotions of others, or be focused on theory alone.
The counselor believes in things through the abstract, not in what you can actually reach out and touch. You’ll have great battles in the depths of your introspective self. You may flutter around to less traditional things in the pursuit of God, magic, the supernatural. You need to test the limits of a metaphor, not the strength of your wall holding your pictures.
You have great concerns about what is to be discovered and hasn’t been found by language yet. You’re trying to figure out what’s hidden and out there. You may delve through conspiracy theories to see what crazy ideas are out there to come out holding onto a few concepts here and there. The INFJ is an analytical creature by nature that asks nihilistic questions while at the same time finding idealism. Honestly, you may be the epitome of existentialism.
The champion sees everything from the corner of the universe until it finally barrels down into their body. The ENFP forgets their body. What's the point of a body in the middle of the universe? The body is quite counterintuitive to the ENFP who just wants to move through ideas.
They can find the highest ethical reason hanging off a planet in a distant solar system—but they may have difficulty explaining it, especially when it comes as the point of an argument. They wish they could explain it better, but they'll just keep repeating the same thing as if to reassure themselves of their own spiraling craziness.
The ENFP is depressed that their body can’t keep up and sometimes they neglect to feed it, sleep it, or take it out for a walk. The ENFP can get confused by very rigid relations and may find themselves lost when someone is trying to tie them down. The ENFP allows themselves to settle down, nothing else can stop them. The ENFP does not do well in a hermit mode. The ENFP needs to be around others to champion them. Without that extroversion, depression is an impulse away.
I am an emotional addict; feed me your emotions! Without emotional insanity all around them, the ENFJ goes numb and slightly psychotic. An easy fix? Have them watch romantic comedies, soap operas, and listen to romantic music. They need to be around people, but they also get overwhelmed by people. They are the shy-extrovert at times.
If they have a sudden breakup, they will spiral into madness. This personality does not do well to be single at all. They may sift through a number of suitors to balance out this aspect in their psyche. ENFJ is a wonderful person, who can sometimes please the crowd too much and instead not know how to please themselves. They are in constant search to make others happy.
When they can focus in on the self and know other goals outside people (which is near impossible) they’ll be more at peace. But they should not sacrifice their extroversion to mimic an INFJ. The INFJ has a different value system since they have a preference for introverted-intuition. The ENFJ has a preference for extroverted-feeling. A place without expression is the ENFJ’s worst nightmare.
NT Thinker Temperaments
Let's continue with the existentialism that can befall our rational thinkers.
The mental machine that is INTJ can often baffle people in a similar way that the INFJ does, except the INTJ will have the same misgivings with a touch of emotional oddity. The INTJ existential crisis comes from the nihilism of conflicting paradoxical ideas to solve world problems. The INTJ resolves that the world will eventually fall into the pit of the apocalypse. They've already imagined everything vanishing a million times.
Sometimes the INTJ has issues with some of the smaller social interactions between now and the end of the world. They may be highly, if not entirely, confused by dating. They like someone, keep it to themselves, and have difficulty often expressing it. Many INTJ really, really want a relationship. They love their alone time, but they'd like to bounce their ideas off of someone. They feel existential voids about love, peace, and whether many of the things we praise actually matter.
Where the INFJ sees things through the lens of spirituality, the INTJ can make that lens without having to press it through God or spirituality. They can be more scientifically sound. They sometimes copy and paste that approach to too many things and corner themselves.
Force an INTP down into a meeting and make them hear about all the mundane things of life. Repeat this 17 times in one day. Suddenly you'll see them with a dark, frothy look on their face. Yes, frothy. Because that totally makes sense. The collapse into crankiness will let you know that they're bending and drifting into existential madness. They may create something fantastic in order to counterbalance all the stupidity around them.
The INTP is considered the most intelligent of all the personalities. Unfortunately, intelligence can be taxing. The INTP has trouble with: connecting with others, upholding norms and traditions, and their insatiable curiosity that can (and will) get them into trouble. INTP, like INTJ, can corner themselves. But INTP also has the capacity to magically get out of mayhem... but only to introduce more problems.
I see a lot of INTP mayhem in the show Rick and Morty—where Rick addresses the universe with precise intelligence, but often sacrifices connections... connections he frequently respects and loves but displaces.
When people ignore your commands for a perfect society. You have everything down to the minute of what needs to be done, but no one gives a damn. Instead, they will go willy-nilly and ruin your perfectionistic dream. You’ll try to get people to listen to you, but they won’t. Instead, you are now like a blank wall that may one day fade into nothingness.
It bothers you when people won’t follow sound plans or advice. A world where you can’t move and shake things with your vibrant extroversion isn’t a world you like or enjoy. A solitary retreat doesn’t work for you like it does others. You need lots of people, conquests, and charisma flowing through your veins. A world without order isn’t one you enjoy or understand. You will force order into the world and make it happen.
Without an argument, do I exist? I’ll keep making up stuff to instigate and eventually ruffle someone’s feathers… ah, now I feel better. The ENTP, perhaps more like the ENFP than the ENTJ, also needs people in order to come across and exchange philosophical ideals. ENTP doesn’t understand disconnection with others, poor arguments, or tightly wound up scenarios.
ENTP needs freedom to explore thought. If an ENTP was held hostage and forced into a routine, the colorful world of the ENTP would collapse. Consider Deadpool without people to playfully mock and embrace.
SJ Guardian Temperaments
Next, let's look at our sensing-judging guardians and where they can run into existential angst.
Say the ESTJ finds themselves without a group to lead. They’ve run into a hole of poorly structured, inefficient, and abstract nonsense. The ESTJ finds that even though they’ve followed every rule of practicality, midlife crisis was in fact inevitable, and buying a fancy car doesn’t fix the hollow hole in their heart. This may turn into excessive micromanagement on pointless things or harassing people into your devilish plans.
You may become obsessed with your body, your house, your bills – anything to distract you from the hole in your heart that would take too much introspection to delve into, and introspection is too slow for you to handle, and lonely, and inefficient.
This is the ENFJ counterpart and the ISFJ counterpart -- they need to embellish in large emotional, arguments and also nurture the hell out of everyone they see. They are the queen mother of us all. Without emotional intensity, romance, and connectivity -- they might drop you.
If you disagree and go against an ESFJ, they'll drop you. They can be harsh people sometimes. But they have goals, emotional goals -- and lists, and games, and arguments. What the hell is a philosophical discussion and why am I here? But the real deep unearthed sadness happens when someone leaves them. This feels like a big slap of failure to the ESFJ. Value your ESFJ, don't abandon them.
Without nurturing those around them, the ISFJ feels no purpose. This could lead to them inventing ways of serving you or even harming you to serve you. The ISFJ is the ultimate martyr. Without lots to do around the house, making stuff in the kitchen, and helping out children -- they really become quite sad.
Empty nest syndrome is a terrible thing for this personality, when all the kids grow up and leave the home they might need counseling. It can really baffle the ISFJ who feels the need to nurture and protect. They need a strong partner to support them through this rather than leave them in the dust.
Facts, facts, facts, and accounting. The ISTJ is in a no man's land when it comes to creativity. If you take out all the normal goals of getting married by a certain age, having a certain career, and retirement -- you will destroy an otherwise healthy ISTJ. The ISTJ needs all that normal junk -- questioning them gives them an adrenaline rush of social anxiety.
Don't force them outside of their world of normalcy. They need tradition, they need a sound work ethic, and they need routine. Don't shove them into a world of too much dalliance.
SP Artisan Temperaments
Finally, what existential crises do our sensing-perceiving artisans tend to encounter?
Think Fight Club. The world doesn’t have the sprawling war you think would define you. Instead, it’s wall-to-wall consumerism, but all you really want to feel is a kick to the face, adrenaline, the thrill. You get bored with everything. EVERYTHING IS BORING, MUNDANE, AND WEAK.
You’ll trade everything in on a dime for drugs or cheap thrills. You may suddenly abandon all your connections to find that sensual thing you know is here on this planet. You can feel everything in the physical plane that other less developed sensing personalities take for granted. You're annoyed with being in a cubicle to make money because it’s pointless to skydiving.
This personality is in constant need of adrenaline. Without sparkling insanity, clubs, mountain climbing, escapades, and affairs — this personality doesn’t really get what exists outside of them. Trying to force them into a philosophical discussion without lots of sparkles will end with them being very bored or pontificating some strange psychological ideas that are more sensual than practical or even intelligent.
Everything is sensual to the ESFP. They see the underlining sex in just about everything. Tell this person not to have sex for a year, and they’ll be very confused about themselves and others. (Hello Blanche Devereaux.)
The ISFP is always existential. Always. Have you seen their art? They're existential. They constantly are rearranging thought and creation to get at a greater whole. They step back and look at things to see the poetry in everyday things. They can honestly overwhelm themselves by how much poetry they see in everything.
The mechanic needs something to tinker with. Without a process to unmask, the ISTP becomes self-indulgent, somewhat a menace to others, and destructive. This could lead to random divorces, moving out, chasing after dreams -- or mulling in the dark pointlessly. Without a cog in the machine, the ISTP sees nothing. They need something to work with their hands.
© 2015 Andrea Lawrence