Existential aloneness -- and it's opposite
Not long ago I reviewed a piece written by Emory Cowan on existential aloneness. It was a hopeful piece dealing with a Cowan's subject matter that is usually seen as being by some as being dark and bleak. It may seem that existential psychology focuses just on the idea that it is so hard and lonely to be human. It can be. But the existential or existential humanistic perspective is not just focused on the pain of being human. That is a misconception. The givens in life can also be transformative and amazing.
For each difficult aspect of being human there is a joyous experience that counters it.
In regards to Cowan’s piece, I wanted to offer the counter to aloneness and that is connection.
Yes we are alone but we are still a part of a larger community.
There is still a world around us filled with people that we may or may not have a connection. There is still community. It is this community that helps us to deal with the more shadow givens of life; isolation, death, and suffering.
There is one given that I was introduced to some time ago, and that was the concept of being “a part of” and “a part from”. We are alone in as much as we are connected. That is we live in both mutuality and individuation. Being with others is a given in life as well.
There are some people who never feel alone. That may be due to the fact that culturally they do not share the idea of individuation that is dominant here in the United States. The thoughts of “oh – I’m alone” never crosses their mind since it not their worldview. But what may be their worldview that is a part of existential psychology is the opposite, interconnectedness or mutuality.
Existentialism is not just about being alone, it includes the concept that we do not want to be alone. We seek others and form community. I believe that community, family (birth and of choice) and friends can help to ease the confusion and anxiety related to meaninglessness. Being with others can help someone make it through another plight of humanity, tragedy.
In light of the numerous natural and human generated disasters that have happened in the past year, our survival through all of this has been helped by our own desire to connect with others and create community.
Interconnectedness is our response to the isolation, tragedy and even death. The givens within existential psychology include both isolation and connection, not just one or the other. Each concept is interdependent upon on another.
Cowan’s Zen like journey through aloneness is a part of the existential thought as well as the open heart desire for human connection.
-- Makenna Berry