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For some people conscious existence is too burdensome, uncomfortable, full of anxiety, outright maddening or some combination thereof. You see this in everyday life too, albeit in benign quantities - watch a kid after you tell him he can do nothing for the next hour.

I had read Phil Katz's story before and I read it again today - it wasn't any less painful the second time around. I think if we were to debug it - there doesn't seem to be any one unmistakable conclusion, rather a combination. It would all depend on how severely one reacts to their emotional trauma. Some people are numbed, some are able to move on, some find healthy diversions in hobbies, people, achievements and some like Phil just plain fail to function well and have to resort to drugs and alcohol in order to run away from the living nightmare. I think at some point existence becomes rather more painful than death for some - that's the only way you're able to kill yourself without regard.

Humans are puzzling as a species - all the years of conditioning, the everyday conflicts and contradictions we have to face, the constant need for asserting our existence through external means, the need for relations, the child/parent and then spouse systems and all the things that can go wrong with them, all the other uncertainties - amazingly many live through this but some just can't escape the dread.




Your comment reminded me of an essay George Scialabba wrote a couple years ago, "The Endlessly Examined Life" [1], where the author gathered over 40 years of mental health records from his therapists (mostly seeking treatment for depression and anxiety), unable to draw a real conclusion

>I am as puzzled and frustrated by the above records, and by the rest of my psychiatric file, as any casual reader could be. So much earnest effort, so much expert knowledge, so little success. The world’s most common disease is still this opaque.

Having read half a dozen compelling depression memoirs—Styron, Jamison, Millett, Solomon, Kaysen, McMurtry—I was skeptical, when The Baffler proposed publishing extracts from my file, that there was much more to say. Maybe there isn’t, at least not in that register. But maybe it’s enough just to keep talking.

[1] http://thebaffler.com/salvos/endlessly-examined-life


> For some people conscious existence is too burdensome, uncomfortable, full of anxiety, outright maddening or some combination thereof.

Reading this gives me immediate anxiety. I have times during the day where just seeing things and being alive is almost unreal, like I can't deal with, and the thought of doing this for N number of years more is overwhelming. As I'm getting older life is just even more surreal, I sometimes wonder if I have the mental fortitude to make it to old age. This isn't a cry for help, you just touched a nerve with that sentence.


Phew, I'm not alone. Word for word, to the letter.


Probably more common than you think.

One old saw has it that when a man is starving he forgets even the urgent promptings of a full bladder. A newer old saw claims that religion is the opiate of the masses (with its uncoined analog regarding fetishism & the ruling classes).

The quoted OP railed against wasted time and effort, but his views on the despiritualization of the modern man are not clear. A non contemporary would likely diagnose a 'spiritual crisis' for the existential angst of the uncommon non-aristocratic unbelieving modern man.


You're not alone. I sometimes wake up at night, with a sudden realization and shock that I am existing.


+1. It took meditation to make me realize how much we suffer and react to it without realizing it a such a regular basis. It is so part of the everyday life, and anybody does so: children, adults, old people, rich, poor, healthy, sick, etc. We manage to feel that "conscious existence is too burdensome, uncomfortable, full of anxiety, outright maddening or some combination thereof" in any context, which is a hint that we, as a specie, are part of the problem. And we invent so many ways to distract ourself to avoid feeling it we became masters at it. Some never master it, and instead of hiding the dirt under the carpet, they decide to leave home for good.


I don't think it inherent to the species, just to the way we've organized society. Only the privileged few among us truly get to self-actualize - to become our true selves and leave our marks upon the world before fading into oblivion a scant 8 decades after our arrival.

It is no wonder then that so many find a life of ultimately meaningless toil and distraction so dreadful, and akin to those words by OP.


I think it a great delusion to asscoiate self-actualization with privelege and leaving a mark on the world. It is the grandiose fiction playing out in the minds of many to design that a true self must leave a mark upon "the world". What a dependency. Truth is our brains are complex little machines composed of smaller machines cooperating and at times fighting for the primacy of resources. We exist. Creators create. Let that be enough. Judgment and opinion of our creation is largely beyond us. A person of no privilege can know his existence the same as one of great privilege. The mind is always obscuring reality with its machinery, noisy with the remnants of evolution. See past it friend.


Anything in particular that made you start? I know meditation would be helpful to me, I've known it for years, I just can't seem to bring myself to start for some reason


Curiosity. I asked Buddhist friends if they heard about a technic I could use without the religious part, no mantra, book or shrine since I'm an atheist. There are many of them.


This is me. I know madness and it's horrible, it's not scary it's an emotion of pure confusing intensity. I've been able to medicate away the intolerable symptoms, and it was never so severe as to be debilitating, but if I had to live like that day-in and day-out I would end my life quickly.

Until I experienced the emotionless emotions/feelings I couldn't have imagined it. We take for granted that our brain functions properly, even depression and other ailments are comprehensible, it's the incomprehensible emotions that can't be lived through.




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