Self improvementPsychology

The existential vacuum along Frankl

Animals live simply - they have natural instincts that tell them what to do. They do not have any special desires and aspirations, except for their own needs. As for people, here everything is not so simple. A person has desires and aspirations, and they are often formed by the society in which he lives. Therefore, earlier it was like this: there were different traditions, religion had a strong and dominant position in society, and a person always had a spark that led him forward. In the modern world, everything is much more complicated, and very many people begin to experience an existential vacuum. What it is? This is exactly what will be discussed in this article. You will understand what an existential vacuum is, determine its main causes, learn about its consequences, and get an idea of how to overcome this vacuum.

What it is?

So, first of all, naturally, it is necessary to give the definition of existential vacuum a definition that will allow you to further navigate in the information that you will receive with the help of this article. The first who introduced this term was Victor Frankl, who designated it as the opposite of the peak experience that Maslow previously described. So what is it?

The existential vacuum is a state of internal emptiness experienced by a person who has lost all the goals of his life and does not see the meaning of his existence. Frankl described this as "experiencing the abyss," that is, a person finds himself in the abyss of meaninglessness of existence, experiencing the existential crisis of the most serious form. It may surprise you, but very many people experience this vacuum at one time or another in their life, and this has various causes. Frankl himself identifies a few basic ones, to which you should orient yourself, if you want to understand this phenomenon completely.

Differences from animals

This article began with a description of how exactly the animals exist, and this was done for a reason. For them, an existential vacuum is something that can not be manifested by nature. Why? The fact is that animals have certain natural instincts and aspirations, which are programmed in them at the genetic level. All these aspirations are basic and primitive, that is, animals want to maintain their existence with food, water and sleep, they need a safe place to stay overnight, where dangerous predators can not reach them, and they are eager to breed. They do not have any higher-level values that can be acquired and lost. Accordingly, animals never feel an existential vacuum, as their desires and needs are always satisfied. An animal can not stop wanting to eat, because if it does, it will die.

People are different. They have values and aspirations of a higher order, without which a person descends to the level of an animal. But here everything is not so simple, because, being at the level of an animal, a person retains his developed intelligence, and therefore feels that in his life there are no values of a higher order. It is this feeling of emptiness that is the phenomenon considered in this article. Unlike the basic instincts that are programmed in the head of every animal and person, higher-level desires are not genetically laid, so there are no mechanisms in the body that suggest that without them a person will be ill. That is why there is an existential vacuum, existential frustration, existential emptiness and so on. But this is not the only reason, so you should prepare yourself to deal with several other factors that affect this phenomenon.

Traditions and values

The existential vacuum of Viktor Frankl also manifests itself for the reason that modern values, traditions and agreements can not tell a person the right way. This was also briefly mentioned at the beginning of the article. The fact is that in the past the system of people was very different from what is observed today. Previously, there were clear value systems, various vowel and private agreements, as well as centuries-old traditions, which people had to adhere to. As a result, he always had a pattern, there was always a purpose in life. Now all this is greatly weakened over the past decades, so traditions and values can no longer serve as a concrete guide for a person. Accordingly, he can not make independent decisions. The existential vacuum for Frankl is a very dangerous condition, since it can lead to serious mental illnesses. Even on such a serious scale, we can safely say that this vacuum can have a very negative impact on a person's social life. How exactly? Frankl himself described that the result of this problem is that people turn to conformism or totalitarianism, which affects their lives.

Conformism and totalitarianism

As V. Frankl wrote, the existential vacuum is a void created within a person by the absence of any goals and aspirations. But the person himself is not in a vacuum at the moment of such weakness, therefore various external factors influence him. And this has an impact on the psyche. The most frequent direction of a person suffering from such a vacuum is conversion to conformism or totalitarianism.

In simple terms, conformism is a view of life in which a person does the same thing as everyone around him. Conformism is the most popular trend in the West, and a person who does not have any goals and values is drawn to it with a high probability. He begins to look for these values on the side, referring to what is most popular at the moment. Naturally, this is better than the mental disorder that the vacuum considered in this article can lead to, but a person who turns into conformism gradually loses his personality. He becomes part of the crowd, which is not a full life and inevitably leads to a negative impact on the psyche.

As for totalitarianism, then, unlike conformism, it is a more popular consequence of the vacuum in the East. Totalitarianism is a view of the world in which a person does what others demand of him. The essence remains the same, but the impact is even less enjoyable, as a person actually becomes a slave to others, doing what he does not even like. But since he does not have his own views and values, he does what other people demand from him, since that is how the hierarchy system in the East is arranged.

So now you understand how dangerous an existential vacuum can be. In psychology, this phenomenon is considered very active, since in modern society the spread of vacuum occurs much faster than at any other time.


Along with conformism in the West, the cause and effect of the existential vacuum is also such a thing as reductionism. What it is? This is a rather interesting phenomenon, which is most common in the United States America. Within the framework of reductionism, a person is viewed not as a rational being capable of having his own thoughts and ideas, making decisions and doing something to achieve his own goals. It is seen more as a set of drives and instincts, that is, they are unable to make independent decisions, and all their actions are dictated by a reaction to external factors, as well as protective mechanisms. Naturally, such an approach can not provoke positive reaction in people, and stronger individuals are able to abstract from these reductionist opinions of the public, following their own path. But most people are not strong people, therefore reductionism is one of the most important and decisive factors in the propagation of the existential vacuum in modern society.

Now you know most of the necessary information about what an existential vacuum is: what it is, what the causes of this vacuum may be, and what it can eventually lead to. But this is not all that can be said about this phenomenon.

Neogenic neurosis

Now you have an idea of what an existential vacuum is, and also about its causes. Now it's time to look into its consequences in more detail. It turns out that they can be much more terrible than conformism. Therefore, it is worth looking at a new term that you may not yet know is a noogenic neurosis. The existential vacuum and noogenic neurosis are strongly interconnected, and the latter is a negative consequence of the former. What it is? This is a specific neuroticization of a person, which appears not on a psychological basis, like most traditional neuroses, but on a nuological one. This means that the disease manifests itself in the spiritual realm of human existence. Now you know what an existential vacuum and noogenic neurosis are, so you have to start to understand how serious this problem can be. The fact is that this neurosis arises from the inability of a person to have goals, high values and, of course, the meaning of life. Accordingly, it can cause serious problems, so it must be treated by medical means. If a person simply experienced an easy existential crisis, he is more likely to get out of it. But if the problem has already reached such a high level, then the intervention of a specialist is necessary.

Features of the disease

One of the main features of existential emptiness is the fact that a person may not be aware of its presence. As already mentioned above, emptiness often tends to fill itself, but it is not filled with what it would cost. Full-fledged goals, aspirations, values and meanings are replaced by false ones. This happens in a rather primitive way: a person starts to get involved in alcohol, drugs, some people show it in the extreme stages of workaholism, and someone strives to tickle your nerves to feel alive, endangering everything that he has. Frankl himself stated that 80 percent of alcoholics and 100 percent of drug addicts pass through the state of existential vacuum, which is why their dependencies are formed.

Logotherapy - what is it?

But how, after all, is it to struggle with the existential vacuum, since it is so dangerous? Doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists continue to seek the best treatment options to this day, but one of the most effective now is the one that was invented by Frank himself, who defined the very concept of such a vacuum. This method is called logotherapy, and its main purpose is to help the patient regain the meaning of life. Simply put, a doctor should help a person to gradually discover the lost meaning of life, demonstrating that this meaning is not lost completely, but only lies on the distant shelves of consciousness and waits for the moment when it will finally be realized. Also, the doctor should help the patient to regain the will to the meaning of life, since it is she who plays the most important role in ensuring that a person can again function fully.

What is not logotherapy?

However, you should understand that logotherapy is not a standard approach, which existed a long time ago. That is, the doctor does not act as a specialist who helps the patient to reflect on the meaning of life, he also does not read any sermons to him. Logotherapy presupposes the awareness of the man himself of the world of meaning and values.

Key literature for those interested

If you are interested in the subject of existential emptiness, then you definitely should read the professional literature on this topic. Naturally, first of all we are talking directly about Frankl's works themselves, which are the source of this phenomenon, as well as the source of all logotherapy and understanding of the noogenic neurosis. Of course, other authors also contributed to the study of this field. For example, Alexei Bolshanin published a very important book called "Emptiness and Existential Vacuum: Perspectives of Existential Therapy." From the title you can already understand what is going on here: the author describes in detail this phenomenon, and also expresses his opinion on how to treat such a problem and, naturally, predicts how this sphere will develop in the future. So, if you are interested in logotherapy, existential vacuum and noogenic neurosis, you will have plenty of literature to familiarize yourself with.

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