ForumTouchy Subjects ► How to Cope With Existential Dread
Other than "don't think about it" because it invariably pops back into my train of thoughts every now and then. Has anyone ever accepted their mortality and place in the universe and become at peace with the understanding that you'll one day cease to exist? I dunno I think it's terrifying because
  
Within my time in the last two years of reading, I found myself wrapping my whole lifestyle around Stoicism. I think honestly it saved my life. Accepting that the universe is inherently chaotic and has no moral compass suggests Murphy's law is just inevitable. Stoicism, in my opinion, really helps dial down on how to accept things for the way they are. Most importantly, to live in the moment. Most if not all people experience the present, but their mind is never truly there to begin with. Instead, their minds are moments behind trying to process everything around them living in the past. Example, I was in a car accident yesterday. Instead of thinking about how lucky I am and how bad of a situation it was or could of been, I am spending my time relaxing and being somewhere I enjoy. Surrounding myself with something that grounds me. No point in worrying about the car crash. I didn't die, nor did I go to the hospital. I wrote my police statement and everything is okay. All is right in the world because I can only do things within my control. So realizing this I can wake up and know that it is going to be a good day no matter what because I know as long as my eyes open up, there is a sunrise through my window. :)
  
I'll give it a try. Thanks for your response.
  
You are welcome! I could also recommend if you wanted some reading material, "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius is an amazing one. Keep in mind, Marcus was an emperor by age 15 (or 16... or somewhere there) and he had so much stress in his life. He was known as one of the good Emperors of Rome. I think what he wrote about is very relatable to youth and young adults even today... Especially today. lol
  
Poor Marcus
  
Within my time in the last two years of reading, I found myself wrapping my whole lifestyle around Stoicism. I think honestly it saved my life. Accepting that the universe is inherently chaotic and has no moral compass suggests Murphy's law is just inevitable. Stoicism, in my opinion, really helps dial down on how to accept things for the way they are. Most importantly, to live in the moment. Most if not all people experience the present, but their mind is never truly there to begin with. Instead, their minds are moments behind trying to process everything around them living in the past. Example, I was in a car accident yesterday. Instead of thinking about how lucky I am and how bad of a situation it was or could of been, I am spending my time relaxing and being somewhere I enjoy. Surrounding myself with something that grounds me. No point in worrying about the car crash. I didn't die, nor did I go to the hospital. I wrote my police statement and everything is okay. All is right in the world because I can only do things within my control. So realizing this I can wake up and know that it is going to be a good day no matter what because I know as long as my eyes open up, there is a sunrise through my window. :)

I see this type of content often on the internet when it comes to Stoicism, and I personally find that this reads more like a religion, trying to sell itself in a very simple, diluted, misleading way. Also false. Stoicism is hardly about “forget the past, it’s old news”. If anything, there’s tremendous focus on the past. If this is what you took from your study on it, I would recommend studying further, or going back and reading again.

Also, Meditations is an exceptionally embarrassing and boring book. I would recommend Epictetus or so instead.
  
Considering I’m giving advice to someone who is having troubles dealing with existential dread, and this response to it is rather abrasive, I choose to keep my stance. I have read Epictetus as well. Epictetus wrote about things that consisted of enjoying pleasures and those around you instead of filling them with possessions. He also wrote about how to cope with death and the loss of things considered valuable. The art of living talks a lot about the cycle of “things returning from which they came”. I respect your opinion on the matter, however I may remind you that this material helped me through some of my darkest times. Yes, it may be simplified immensely. This does not warrant such brash comments.

The topic of how it came off religious is also pointless. I’m not starting a church, nor am I invoking prayers or ritual or any constrictive lifestyle based on words from an invisible sky daddy. They are merely principles on how to think about life. In fact, I am not even religious myself so I don’t quite understand.

When concerning existential dread, stoicism does remind us to bring ourselves to the present. Things outside of our control cannot be handled and must be regarded as something that just is. A volcano erupting just is. People being mad or rude just is.

There are many aspects to philosophies that we could talk about in great details and more formally. If you would like to educate me privately, I am open to that. Maybe there are things I have missed. But I choose to take a passive stance on combating you on which philosophical material is better here. I will discuss philosophy, not put it down or attack it. I love all of them personally, and they have helped me immensely regardless.
  
one thing that's kind of helped lately is the guy who made the fuckin

simpsons

FUCK

uhhh

Don Hertzfeldt's world of tomorrow films that explore the alternative to dying

and upon learning about those films i think it has become easier for me to accept my mortality

at least when comparing it to the alternative. so yeah i don't feel as bad about it anymore. i've also come to accept my fear of what was it that one guy in the qna said?
madness? mental decline? he said he had somewhat overcome that fear and so have i, to an extent

after puzzling over it for the past few weeks
  
I had a moment of existential peace today, which I guess is the opposite of dread. Perhaps this is relevant as far as how to cope with it, this is what I wrote to journal the experience:

I'm feeling peaceful.

I made a great connection at work, a friendly helpful guy was letting us borrow his chalk line.

Later he approached me and was like, "Hey, are you Pheo?"

I'm like, "Yeah, wait, where do I know YOU from?"

Turns out we were teenagers fifteen years ago, neither of us look remotely like we did, nor did we end up probably where either of us expected.

He was WAY different, night and day different. I realized he really wasn't the same person as he was back then, not even close.

And I thought about myself, and I'm not even a fraction similar to what I was then.

And I thought about the impermanence of life, of ourselves, and of things in the past I still hold onto, people I remember, places, etc.

And I realized those people and those places, even lovers, are no longer the same person they were back then. Like, I've always known this, but how drastic the changes are really hit home today.

But, instead of feeling sad, I felt peace. Not joy necessarily, but this kind of relaxation and "aha" moment, that the people and the memories I hold onto are just that, memories.

Although many of us are still alive, the people we used to be are dead and buried in the past and there is no going back.

We're in this constant state of fluctuation and change. I realized I have died many times just by being alive, dying to who I was, becoming something new.

Anyone I knew from the past and anyone who knew me know each other and yet we don't know each other.

We know who we are, but we don't know what we are until we become reacquainted.

The ebbs and flows of the currents shape and hone us, adding and removing from our beings.

And it was perfect I was pleasantly tired from physical activity, the breeze rolled in, and I sat down on a cinder block and looked at trees swaying in the wind, and the clouds rolled through the sky under a cyan canopy.

I closed my eyes,

I let go.

And I smiled.
  
you should write ab ook
  
i want to know

am i the only one who feels a heightened sense of existential dread at night? it might just be because im alone with my thoughts when im trying to sleep
  
I think most of us do. Why that is who knows? Maybe sleepy chemicals are also depressed chemicals?
  
yeah
  
yeah its a little sad

but i have a long time to think about it over the course of my life so thats why i tell myself i shouldnt lose sleep over it now
  
Grayseff said:
I think most of us do. Why that is who knows? Maybe sleepy chemicals are also depressed chemicals?
I got really curious about this so I started reading a little bit. I'm gonna keep this up for a little while, but I'm on one paper* that suggests it could have to do with the impaired attention we all get at night.
You have an area of your brain called the basal forebrain* (on the left, marked with a superscript 1). This part of the brain uses a chain of reactions, a pathway/system, based around acetylcholine to control the parts other parts of the brain that are more directly involved in wakefulness, cognition, and attention.

I found one definition of attention in this paper* about the basal forebrain and acetylcholine that I really like: "Attention may be defined as the behavioral and cognitive process that allows us to select the information present in our environment on the basis of their relevance along with the ability to ignore irrelevant stimuli".

You know the way you sometimes feel kinda weird while you're falling asleep? Kinda half awake, half asleep, and your mind wanders all over the place and you might even start having a messed up sensory perception? That state is called hypnagogia, and I've noticed that these kinds of feelings happen to me mostly when I'm in that state or reaching/trying to reach it. Well the first paper I linked suggests that during hypnagogia, and even before while you're trying to calm down from the day to fall asleep, there's less activity of acetylcholine in the basal forebrain.

If attention is selective information processing, then this makes sense to me. No one really wants to think about things that cause a sense of dread or depression, but if those common themes for you, then it's not surprising they'd come out when you have less ability to choose what you think about, especially if relevance is involved because there's nothing relevant to sleeping about thinking a lot.

At first I thought possibly it had to do with something like more activity of serotonin because it can cause intense changes in thought patterns (think along the lines of a religious experience like a vision) if it binds to certain neurons in the brain, but that wouldn't make sense because a lot of drugs that induce sleep inhibit these neurons.

Anyway, as for coping with existential dread, at risk of sounding like a douchebag keyboard philosopher... I mean... I don't know how I did it, but around the time I was 18-19 I kinda just accepted it all and found peace in it. It's nice knowing that one day I'm gonna die. I would hate to die young or have things cut short, like I want to live as long as I can until I reach the point of needing permanent hospitalization to stay alive, but at the same time I'd hate to live forever even if I'd never age past where I am right now. There's something kinda nice in thinking that there's not much grand or lasting meaning to the things we do on earth. I love this planet and the people on it and I want to do whatever I can to help right now and leave some sort of impression that might aid the future, but even if I don't, fuck it, it's not like humanity or sentient life is gonna last forever. So really, as I see it, there's nothing wrong with having a somewhat nihilistic outlook if that helps. Being religious also kinda helps me out too because it's not life on earth right now that I'm ultimately concerned with. Really all I can tell you for now is good luck because you'll find your own ways of coping with it all eventually.

*Probably no one actually wants these links but eat my ass, forum, they're there.
  
thanks antimony that was helpful

also i noticed that hypnagogia too
  
It's good to know it helped. It's hard to tell sometimes if giving my outlook on it helps or not because it basically amounts to "Sure, you can frame things as meaningless, but who cares?" But really, who cares? There's a lot of cool and fun things in life that have nothing to do with meaning or the fact that we all die one day or anything like that. Like plants, man.

If you're open to a religious text, it was this that helped me out a lot.
  
All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full.

I know what you're talking about Titan, about that falling asleep bit. Its plagued most of my life.

Lately, though, it hasn't happened really that way.

I'm reading and trying to understand what you explained, antimony, its very eye opening to me, especially this possible bit,

"but if those common themes for you, then it's not surprising they'd come out when you have less ability to choose what you think about"

Perhaps the reason I don't get the dread at night is because I don't get the dread during the day. I am constantly bombarded by the fell clutch of unhappy circumstance during the day so to combat defeat and despair I am nigh constantly trying to choose thoughts and perspectives that amp me up, make me grateful, and make me feel like I am capable of rising to the same challenges day after day after day.

So, now, when I drift off, these automatic positive thoughts keep coming to me as I sleep.

Thoughts like, "I'm doing my best" and "I accomplished a lot today" and "I'm ready for tomorrow" and stuff like that rather than thoughts that worry about the eternal list of things I don't have time to do, like I used to worry about.

I'm gonna pay attention tonight and see what kind of feeling I get as I lay down to sleep, but I am optimistic I haven't noticed anything too bad anymore, or maybe I'm too tired to be awake long enough to find out.
  
"I'm gonna pay attention tonight and see what kind of feeling I get as I lay down to sleep, but I am optimistic I haven't noticed anything too bad anymore, or maybe I'm too tired to be awake long enough to find out."
I mean, I definitely wouldn't recommend focusing on negative things while you fall asleep. But hey try to fight off the impaired attention at night and see what happens. Remember though that sleep, when it happens, is a, for lack of a better word, powerful change. Pretty comparable to a drug. It might be hard to try to fight off the impaired attention during hypnagogia without straight up fighting off the sleep.

I still do sometimes get a sense of dread when I'm falling asleep but it's nothing existential. It's just good old fashioned fears grounded in reality (maybe?).
  
Nihilism. We're one planet of billions. We don't matter, so why care? I found that helpful as a kid.
  
okay thanks antagonist
  
Nihilism. We're one planet of billions. We don't matter, so why care? I found that helpful as a kid.
Hold up, no. That is not what I'm saying. You absolutely should care about the effects your actions have on everything and everyone around you. What you shouldn't do is worry about the effects your actions have to such a degree that it causes you intense distress daily to such a point that you want to kill yourself because it doesn't really matter in the end. At least, you know, that's one of the tons and tons of reasons you shouldn't kill yourself but if you need a really really easy philosophical answer, then there you go.
  
Hold up, no. That is not what I'm saying. You absolutely should care about the effects your actions have on everything and everyone around you. What you shouldn't do is worry about the effects your actions have to such a degree that it causes you intense distress daily to such a point that you want to kill yourself because it doesn't really matter in the end. At least, you know, that's one of the tons and tons of reasons you shouldn't kill yourself but if you need a really really easy philosophical answer, then there you go.

That's not what you're saying. It's what I'm saying.
  
Now you are confusing me. Mufucjka what r u sayin??/!1
  
Answering the OP.
  
Forum > Touchy Subjects > How to Cope With Existential Dread