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When we talk about an "existential crisis," we are usually talking about a struggle for a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction in life when faced with the anxiety of life being meaningless (or a deep feeling that because death is so certain and uncontrollable, there's no point in trying to do much of anything in the meantime). For people who haven't faced this struggle, that kind of anxiety or immobility can seem silly. It's not. It actually comes from having a human brain that is able to imagine, worry about, and contemplate our own death. Like flying in an airplane, most people would agree that it's best not to focus too much on what's actually going on if we want to enjoy ourselves. But sometimes life sets us up with a kind of awareness that takes away our comfortable denial and leaves us at a loss to know what to do with ourselves (Ernest Becker wrote a book called The Denial of Death about this). Want the nutshell version of this kind of crisis? Read Kafka's The Metamorphosis .

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Jason Seidel, Psy.D.

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