the Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment: The Paradox of Meaning

According to NASA, the image above covers an area of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length.  That’s a crazy thought.  That speck reveals thousands of galaxies.  Thousands.  And that’s galaxies, not stars!  The estimated average size of a galaxy is 100 million stars.  You get it.  The number of stars in the universe is mind-bending.  It’s simply incomprehensible.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) provides breathtaking images.  Similarly, looking into the night sky can evoke a profound sense of awe and wonder.  However, contemplating the vastness and sheer number of stars in the universe opens another door of contemplation:  our place in the universe.  That thought threatens a profound sense of insignificance, making human life, let alone individual lives, seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  This sense risks a slide to “What’s the point”?

Even so, at the same time, JWST is a testament to humanity’s insatiable curiosity.  The accomplishment of creating such a powerful eye into the universe and its past is amazing in itself.  It reflects a powerful search for understanding.  Many find a profound sense of purpose in that type of search and fulfillment in each success or achievement.

JWST represents the paradox of meaning:  we desire purpose and significance but live in a world devoid of overt meaning.  Navigating this paradox is a challenge in life. 

Many patients enter therapy struggling with boredom, emptiness, despair, etc.  They struggle with a lack of meaning, for instance, from the loss of a job (“the meaning of my life”) or the loss of faith and a transcending purpose (“the meaning of life”).  Sometimes the problem is in plain view, while at other times, it’s lost, like a star in the sky, among numerous other issues.  Watch for it.  Talk about it.  And support removing obstacles to finding meaning.  And consider for a moment the work is likely part of the meaning of your life.  

Links to Related Blog Posts:

Read more posts about meaning making in E-H therapy on EHI’s blog.

Read more posts about the existential givens in E-H therapy on EHI’s blog.

Read all the Existential Moment series posts on EHI’s blog.

Author Existential Moment Series: Scott Gibbs, LMFT, EHI Board Member-at-Large | Website: www.mscottgibbs.com | Twitter: @Novum_Organum

Share this post

Related Posts:

The Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment: The “Good Enough Mother”

The “good enough mother” (later “good enough parent”) concept is not just a cute catchphrase but a powerful view into the parent-child relationship. It describes a mother who provides an environment that meets the child’s needs adequately but not perfectly, allowing the child to experience and manage frustration in a safe setting. This approach, often overlooked or assumed, plays a pivotal role in helping children develop resilience and independence as they learn that the world will not always cater to their needs immediately or perfectly. Winnicott argued that being a ‘good enough mother’ is crucial for healthy emotional and psychological development, as it balances care and challenge, enabling children to grow into well-rounded adults.

Read More »
The Existential Moment typographic logo

The Existential Moment – Focus on the Interpersonal

Say what comes to your mind!

Researchers have unveiled a powerful adaptation of the classic Rorschach inkblot test in a groundbreaking development that some say is set to revolutionize therapeutic diagnostics. Dubbed “The Existential Rorschach,” this innovative tool is designed not only to probe the depths of the unconscious but to directly confront individuals with existential angst and the most profound existential givens: the inevitability of death, the quest for meaning in a seemingly indifferent universe, the terror of freedom, and the weight of personal responsibility. Using computational models based on chaos math and non-linear dynamics theory, a carefully curated series of AI-generated inkblots resembles cosmic disorder and the intricate patterns of life.

Read More »
  • Search EHI's Blog

    Upcoming Events

    Ongoing series on Existential & Humanistic therapy

    Get Updates

    Join our mailing list and get the latest in news and events.

    Blog Archives