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Existential Loneliness is a new concept in existential philosophy and psychology. This sense of emptiness and void is really a problem within each person, not a lack of meaningful relationships. But we are very familiar with beliefs about loving relationships.
So we often believe that our deep deficiency is an interpersonal problem.

But existential loneliness is deeper than either
(1) the absence of a specific person we love
or
(2) the lack of any meaningful connections with others.

Because existential loneliness is so easy to confuse with problems of love or problems of having no relationships, we might spend a few years of our lives
struggling with existential loneliness using methods that are appropriate only for interpersonal loneliness.

We might discover that no matter how good our personal relationships are,
we still feel 'empty' and 'lonesome'. If so, perhaps we are really struggling with our Existential Malaise disguised as a complex of problems in personal relationships.

If you have already tried to solve this problem by improving your relationships,
and if you already know that love is NOT the answer to our Malaise, perhaps you are ready for this alternative approach.

The Internet resources listed below take as their first task separating interpersonal loneliness from existential loneliness. Then they probe more deeply into our Existential Predicament and seek ways beyond existential loneliness.


Interpersonal Loneliness

1. Human isolation, separation,
lack of relationship.

2. Results from being alone;
social cause.

3. Comes and goes with the
rise and fall of relationships.

4. Limited to the interpersonal
dimension of life.

5. Solved by communication,
sharing, closeness, love.

Existential Loneliness

1. Incompleteness of being,
lack of wholeness.

2. Primordial incompleteness of self;
inward source.

3. Permanent lack of completeness,
even within love.

4. Taints every aspect of life;
cannot be isolated.

5. Cannot be overcome by love;
incompleteness, unfulfillment continues.



I been feeling/thinking this for as long as I could remember. Am I alone in my way of thinking? Anyone relate?
 

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I really miss myself sometimes. I haven't seen him in years.
 

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I really miss myself sometimes. I haven't seen him in years.
I feel the exact same way. It's like somewhere along the way I completely lost myself. I don't even know who I was, let alone who I am now.

And you definitely aren't alone. I've always felt a little empty inside and all of that that I read sounds exactly like me.
 

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I really want to meet my other half. I imagined she was a person, that best friend I would find someday, but I think she might not exist and is just the other part of me. I think she is too much of the same but opposite of me that she can't possibly exist. And even if I did meet her, I would still feel lonely. I don't think I can ever be completely un-alone. I don't really know what it is.

I just realized the slogan for Personality Cafe was "A place to find yourself".
 

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MOTM Feb 2010
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Some would argue that this is an ancient concern. Take David Loy's Lack and Transcendence: The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism and Buddhism. In this book, he very neatly spells out the problem of existential "lack" or the feeling that you're missing something or that you are intrinsically incomplete. Long story short, it is because of how you choose to perceive the universe that this sense of lack arises. Reorient your perceptions and the lack disappears. Too easy! :laughing:
 

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To avoid "Existential Loneliness" I choose one of those options listed in "Interpersonal Loneliness" , well except 3. :) Works like a charm!

Of course it's easy to define "it" and "that". "Change you perception", "It's all up to you" ..this is what you tell when you don't have enough arguments. Though, good advice is always a good advice and ,yes, I usually am "thankful" and still standing on the ice on my own, because I chose it! Masochism at it's best. No excuses. :laughing:
 

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MOTM Feb 2010
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To avoid "Existential Loneliness" I choose one of those options listed in "Interpersonal Loneliness" , well except 3. :) Works like a charm!

Of course it's easy to define "it" and "that". "Change you perception", "It's all up to you" ..this is what you tell when you don't have enough arguments. Though, good advice is always a good advice and ,yes, I usually am "thankful" and still standing on the ice on my own, because I chose it! Masochism at it's best. No excuses. :laughing:
Whoa, maybe I'm being sensitive here, but did you just call me out for not having enough arguments? I was going for brevity here so that I wouldn't have to spell out the entirety of Loy's book. Due to time constraints, I'll let the internets argue for me today...

Lack and Transcendence: The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism. By David Loy. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press International, 1996. Pp. 248. ASIN 0391038605. US $49.95. Reviewed by Michael F. Stoeber
Catholic University of America
[email protected]

In the concluding chapter of his book, David Loy briefly outlines what he considers to be three dominant cultural paradigms of transcendence: the transcendental other-worldliness of India, the social group merging of China and Japan, and the subjective individuation of the West. Professor Loy argues that all three paradigms fail to integrate transcendent needs and universalist, worldly values -- what he distinguishes as sacred and secular needs. Rather, he advocates in his book a Buddhist paradigm of transcendence, one which is exemplified in the myth of Indra's Net.

In the Avatamsaka Suutra, the myth pictures Indra's heaven as including a net of infinite proportions, with a jewel located in each of its eyes, glittering magnificently. Each jewel reflects not only the brilliance of the other jewels in the net, but also the very reflections which each of the individual jewels reflect of all the other jewels. Francis Cook explains that in the Hua-yen school of Mahaayaana the myth symbolizes "a cosmos in which there is an infinitely repeated interrelationship among all the members of the cosmos. This relationship is said to be one of simultaneous mutual identity and mutual inter-causality" (p. 90). Loy argues that this common core identity in the Hua-yen experience of not-self amounts to an identification with the whole which issues forth in universalist values, thus integrating sacred and secular needs (p. 172). "Ethical behavior is not so much the means of salvation as the natural, spontaneous expression of genuine enlightenment" (p. 107).

Loy does not explain how or why such a realization of simultaneous mutual identity of karmic traces should issue forth in an active ethical orientation and concern, which seems a most significant question given the absence of substantive entities as the loci of moral relationship and the lack of moral content in such a transcendent, self-less condition. But he does provide in his book a helpful and illuminating discussion of pratiitya-samutpaada, "suunyataa, nirvaa.na and other basic Buddhist doctrines relevant to his idea of authentic transcendence. Crucial to this idea is the notion of "lack." It is in this transcendent experience of not-self, argues Professor Loy, that we solve the problem of a fundamental and universal sense of lack.

He begins in Chapter 1 with an exploration of this sense of lack, through a rather rambling but complex analysis of the psychology of Freud, Ernest Becker, Irvin Yalom, and many others, as this applies to the question of death-anxiety. Focussing on the dynamics of repression and transference, Loy gives a Buddhist spin on traditional psychoanalytic patterns, suggesting, for example, that the basic impetus behind the Oedipal project is an innate desire to become self-sufficient -- to satisfy an inherent sense of lack. "The basic difficulty is a sense of lack which originates from the fact that our self-consciousness is not something self-existing but a mental construct" (p. 11-12). Transference is understood in terms of the need to secure one's sense of independent self-consciousness via others, but existential anxiety is inevitable given the fact that there is no possibility of a substantive sense of self to satisfy this sense of lack. Indeed, in Buddhist psychology "death/nonbeing-terror is not something the ego has, it is what the ego is" (p. 21). Our deepest fear is not fear of the death of our ego but the terror of accepting one's permanent lack of real or genuine being.

Loy delves more deeply into the nature of this existential pain in Chapter 3, the central and longest chapter of his book, outlining the nature and defense mechanisms (projection, transference) of ontological guilt, basic anxiety and existential anguish that is proposed by such thinkers as Kierkegaard, Karen Horney, H. S. Sullivan, Rollo May, Otto Rank, Jung, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and Sartre. Some of the various ideas proposed by these theorists are adapted to fit the framework of Loy's Buddhist sense of lack. Contemporary psychology and existentialism has shown how existential guilt, anxiety, and anguish are inherent to the human condition -- are "intrinsic to the ego" (p. 101) -- hence illustrate well the Buddhist problem of du.hkha. However, Loy looks especially to Nietzsche to support his argument that all of these various thinkers fail to appreciate the futility of striving in primary desire (t.r.s.naa) which itself is the source of du.hkha, to overcome this sense of lack. Schopenhauer and Sartre, for example, tend to "reify our sense of lack by building their ontology upon it" (p. 82). Nietzsche saw clearly the complete extent to which our world is constructed rather than discovered. He showed how the spiritual realm, religious and moral values, God, and even 'truth' itself are but created props, intended to bring security to a datum (primary will or desire) that itself is but a created illusion. But even Nietzsche failed to carry his insights to their logical conclusion and ended up postulating a "heroic-ego which overcomes its sense of lack" (p. 102).

Loy insists that one can never overcome this sense of lack because it does not really exist. But there is a solution to the inherent pain of human existence, one that is given in Buddhist transcendence. This sense of lack can never be satisfied, but it can be deconstructed: "If we can realize that there is no delineated ego-self which is alive now, the problem of life and death is solved" (p. 24). The truth of the matter is that there is no ego, so there is no lack. Anxiety dissipates in the realization of this ego-lessness, so the existential problem is really one of cultivating this awareness.

Besides references to the Hua-yen perspective mentioned above, Loy's development of Buddhist doctrine is drawn primarily from Maadhyamika, Ch'an, and Zen. He takes special care to emphasise that such ideas are merely heuristic devices, intended only to solve the problem of du.hkha, not to provide a metaphysical system. Buddhist explanations like the five skandhas (physical and mental factors) and pratiitya-samutpaada (dependent origination) break reality down analytically into various inter-dependent traces which serve to deconstruct the fictions of a self-existent ego and its correlative lack. Buddhism is a therapeutic intended to rid oneself of all false perceptions through the cultivation of an awareness of the way things really are: unsubstantial, impermanent, and selfless, and therefore free of the pain associated with a sense of lack which could only exist if there were some "thing" as the subject of the lack.
Loy supplements this basic argument of Chapters 1, 3, and 4 by drawing the idea of the sense of lack into very dense, critical dialogue with Heidegger's views of authenticity, temporality, and eternity in Chapter 2. He also provides in Chapter 5 a strong critique of popular misdirected attempts to compensate for our sense of lack. "The pursuit of fame and money are attempts to real-ize oneself through symbols; romantic love tries to fill in one's lack with the beloved; technological progress has become our collective attempt to ground ourselves by 'developing' the environment into our ground, until the whole earth testifies to our reality" (p. 134).

As a critique of contemporary modes which pervert genuine spiritual aspirations, I find Loy's social concerns to be well-put, cogent, and timely. Moreover, I think the fundamental argument of his book is insightful and creative, if not a bit contorted in overall structure and presentation. The book is loaded with the most provocative aphorisms that sometimes clamor for context and extensive commentary, and his references to so many, sometimes very disparate, non-Buddhist thinkers to illustrate and support his Buddhist view can leave one's head spinning. Moreover, the production of the book leaves much to be desired: the font size is very small and varies inconsistently throughout the text, subheadings are not easily discerned, and the ink does not stand out well on the paper.

Despite these limitations of presentation and production, Loy provides an interesting synthesis of key ideas of psychotherapy, existentialism, and Buddhism, which should appeal especially to those scholars inclined toward post-modern deconstruction. His claims of the superiority of his interpretation of Buddhist transcendence are forthright and well argued, and his development is quite helpful in comparing such spiritual aspirations with views of transcendence in other mystical traditions.

It is in such comparative contexts that I think one can begin to question the intelligibility and cogency of some of Loy's claims. For example, he says the bodhisattva acts compassionately not out of regard for others but because "one is the situation, and through oneself that situation draws forth a response to meet its needs" (p. 126). I do not doubt that bodhisattvas act compassionately. But I doubt very much that they act this way because they are the situation. I wonder if such a claim has any meaning at all, even for a bodhisattva. I also wonder why simultaneous mutual identity follows from or is an aspect of an impermanent, selfless condition, and why ethical action should issue forth from such an awareness.

Loy insists that we are self-less, impermanent, and unsubstantial beings. But there are numerous mystics from other religious traditions who, though they agree that we are not independent and self-grounded and that we are interrelated at an underlying level of consciousness, would deny such radical claims of impermanence and insubstantiality. Rather, they say that our inherent sense of lack finds its satisfaction and fulfilment in a most painful surrender of a narcissistic ego to a divine reality that is both transcendent yet immanent and, in some absolute sense, love. Compassion, they suggest, is a natural expression of one who has been transformed in this union and who has become aware of a fundamental interconnection of all created things in and through this love.

No doubt Professor Loy would reject this theistic view as inherently and destructively counter-productive to genuine transcendence. Yet such counter claims of transcendence resemble in many ways Buddhist transcendence and seem more intelligible and plausible to me than his account of the matter. In any case, I find his book a helpful and provocative resource as I continue to wrestle with these and other issues of comparative mysticism.

http://www.buddhistethics.org/coprite.html

For further information, please see the following internet sources.

9 Jhanas - The Dhamma Encyclopedia
Stages of Buddhist Meditation
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 3.4-3.6: Samyama is the finer tool
nirodha
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/anapanasati.pdf
Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference (DN 22)
 

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Existential Loneliness is a new concept in existential philosophy and psychology. This sense of emptiness and void is really a problem within each person, not a lack of meaningful relationships. But we are very familiar with beliefs about loving relationships.
So we often believe that our deep deficiency is an interpersonal problem.

But existential loneliness is deeper than either
(1) the absence of a specific person we love
or
(2) the lack of any meaningful connections with others.

Because existential loneliness is so easy to confuse with problems of love or problems of having no relationships, we might spend a few years of our lives
struggling with existential loneliness using methods that are appropriate only for interpersonal loneliness.

We might discover that no matter how good our personal relationships are,
we still feel 'empty' and 'lonesome'. If so, perhaps we are really struggling with our Existential Malaise disguised as a complex of problems in personal relationships.

If you have already tried to solve this problem by improving your relationships,
and if you already know that love is NOT the answer to our Malaise, perhaps you are ready for this alternative approach.

The Internet resources listed below take as their first task separating interpersonal loneliness from existential loneliness. Then they probe more deeply into our Existential Predicament and seek ways beyond existential loneliness.


Interpersonal Loneliness

1. Human isolation, separation,
lack of relationship.

2. Results from being alone;
social cause.

3. Comes and goes with the
rise and fall of relationships.

4. Limited to the interpersonal
dimension of life.

5. Solved by communication,
sharing, closeness, love.

Existential Loneliness

1. Incompleteness of being,
lack of wholeness.

2. Primordial incompleteness of self;
inward source.

3. Permanent lack of completeness,
even within love.

4. Taints every aspect of life;
cannot be isolated.

5. Cannot be overcome by love;
incompleteness, unfulfillment continues.



I been feeling/thinking this for as long as I could remember. Am I alone in my way of thinking? Anyone relate?

I'm greatful you posted this. :) I actually complained to a councelor about that feeling. But I didn't know what it was called. I kept saying, "I'm good at so many things! I'm good at academics, sports, music, I have a seemingly healthy social life, I get invited to go places, I'm in clubs, but I feel so alone! What am I missing?" And then I decided I needed more friends. Which is stupid. I don't think I could handle that many amigos.
 

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I have just started my own study of loneliness as a long-term sufferer and had an "aha" moment when I came across the idea of existential loneliness. Like most people I only thought of loneliness in terms of interpersonal relationships, and cringed at the advice to "just get out more." I have had more of the no-one-understands-me kind of loneliness.

One site broke loneliness into three spheres (1) interpersonal (2) intrapersonal and (3) existential.

I'm not sure I quite get the distinction between intrapersonal and existential. Both exist internally. However, existential loneliness seemingly gets lumped with end-of-life crisis; whereas, intrapersonal deals more with isolation based on present belief systems and traumatic experiences. Intrapersonal may come about from a divorce other traumatic events.

I want to explore more the intersection between the two or three spheres. What impact does existential loneliness have on the interpersonal brand, etc? Anyway, thanks for the forum. I have stated writing on the topic with the hope of finding my own clarity and hopefully helping some others.
 

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Existential loneliness. Yes, that and likely intrapersonal loneliness are the most daunting of my hurdles. I've discovered rather recently that people can't fill this damned void. I think I've been losing to every hurdle since the dance had been initiated. I'm almost not holding up defense anymore
 

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Existential Loneliness is a new concept in existential philosophy and psychology. This sense of emptiness and void is really a problem within each person, not a lack of meaningful relationships. But we are very familiar with beliefs about loving relationships.
So we often believe that our deep deficiency is an interpersonal problem.

But existential loneliness is deeper than either
(1) the absence of a specific person we love
or
(2) the lack of any meaningful connections with others.

Because existential loneliness is so easy to confuse with problems of love or problems of having no relationships, we might spend a few years of our lives
struggling with existential loneliness using methods that are appropriate only for interpersonal loneliness.

We might discover that no matter how good our personal relationships are,
we still feel 'empty' and 'lonesome'. If so, perhaps we are really struggling with our Existential Malaise disguised as a complex of problems in personal relationships.
?
Actually, this is not a "new theory." It was Viktor Frankl's theory which is also called "Logotherapy" ultimate truth therapy. In Greek, Logos means "ultimate truth." Frankl was a holocaust survivor who had worked with Freud, Jung and Adler, and had created this theory before the war began. In time, because he was Jew, he was sent to the death camps. He miraculously survived, and tried his therapy in the camps. He rationalized, if it worked there..it would work anywhere. Later, after the war, he came back to his hometown, and wrote several books. Amazing man. His most famous book is: "Man's search for Meaning."
 

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Fantastic. Just what we need, more definitions.
You know there's actually no point defining problems so much. Sure, it helps you feel better and less "alone" and all that, but ultimately the problem can't be scientifically explained because it has the grain of personal feeling within it and that differs for each person.

Ideally, you should sit by yourself and think, without naming your problems, what you want and what you don't have, and focus on getting it. Though these definitions are all very nice, I've realized they don't help as much as finding it yourself without too much rationalizing and categorizing.

But hey, whatever works for you. Only don't waste your time on bullshit because it subjugates the independent thinking part of your brain and makes you far too receptive to information.

Idk man, sometimes it's better not to think at all.
 

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@Inanna

Thanks for mentioning Frankl, I am going to look into his works. I am with you on not naming the whole concept of existential loneliness something new. If a certain extent of feeling or being lonely is existential, it's not something new, it has already been there forever, from the beginning of you as a person. Why else call it existential?

Erich Fromm wrote about the existential struggle of human kind also. He wrote that on the one hand we're a biological part of nature, but how we are partly also part of non-physical consciousness on the other hand. We feel disconnected from nature - like being thrown out of the garden of Eden (first story in the bible). He then goes on to describe how regression - trying to loose our consciousness, is the wrong way to go, and how developing human potential is ... better. Love over hate, growth over regression, consciousness and awareness over ignorance etcetera.

The topic at hand made me think of Fromm. I figure existential loneliness could have something to do with what he is talking about.
 

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Well one thing that needs pointed out is that existential thought relates to the meaning of existence, if we don't figure out the meaning, we are left feeling meaningless. It relates to the feeling of loneliness, or an isolating feeling.

It is helpful when breaking old habits or traditions, but without meaning, it is very hard.

This is why the existentialist writers always end their books with things such as the heart must make a leap of faith to be content.

Something like, no universal truth, but a truth that works for me personally.
 

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Actually, this is not a "new theory." It was Viktor Frankl's theory which is also called "Logotherapy" ultimate truth therapy. In Greek, Logos means "ultimate truth." Frankl was a holocaust survivor who had worked with Freud, Jung and Adler, and had created this theory before the war began. In time, because he was Jew, he was sent to the death camps. He miraculously survived, and tried his therapy in the camps. He rationalized, if it worked there..it would work anywhere. Later, after the war, he came back to his hometown, and wrote several books. Amazing man. His most famous book is: "Man's search for Meaning."
This book profoundly influenced my life several decades ago. It is time to resurrect it and let it works it's magic once more.
 
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It's been all-pervasive much of my life but on the rare occasion, a person will come along that
seems to connect me to what feels my core self and I feel more whole an less lonely.

At first I thought that I needed the person's presence to feel this way. But I think they are a
catalyst and that I need to learn to be in this state without them.......haven't figured out a way
to do it yet.
 
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