This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


Meaninglessness: an opportunity for a new beginning

Ishita Upadhyay — Allahabad University, Allahabad


Mainstream Psychology has looked upon meaninglessness as detrimental to one’s mental health. This research work attempts to understand meaninglessness as a potential stage for the inner growth. It is taken as a manifestation of an existential crisis. Existential crisis is a state of mind in which the individual fails to find any substantial purpose to his being. Existential crisis is sometimes triggered by significant events or changes in a person’s life. Usually the event in some ways makes the person reflect on his/her mortality. Examples of such events could be death of loved ones, a life threatening experience. In a nutshell, existential crisis occur when the answers to the questions about the meaning and purpose of life no longer provide satisfaction, direction or peace of mind to an individual. It has its roots in the spiritual conscience. As the self cannot be identified with the ego, even conscience cannot be identified with the superego.

Narratives were conducted from cities like Mumbai, Pune and Panchgani of individuals (age 30-45) who despite doing well, failed to find meaning in their life. The present study has traced the nature and occurrences of meaninglessness. The initial reflection upon the data through the grounded theory approach reveals the development and nature of meaninglessness. The process of unfolding the roots of one’s meaninglessness paves the ground for self-enquiry, initiating a search for meaning. This search of meaning begins from looking within indicating that spiritual journey has self-inquiry at its core, playing a pivotal role in resolving the existential crisis.

Email the author, Ms. Ishita Upadhyaya, at