In June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union. The decision plunged the five million EU residents in the UK into a toxic abyss of fear, anger, shock and shame. Suddenly they were ‘citizens of nowhere’ in a country they regarded as home and faced having to move back to their country of origin and start life again, often without their British partners and children. In 2019, a virus born in a little-known Chinese city over-ran the entire world, causing many millions of deaths and bringing national economies and people’s usual ways of life to a standstill. So much of what we took for granted crumbled to ashes as countries locked down and families mourned their dead. In this book, leading existential theorist and practitioner Emmy van Deurzen explores how we handle such existential crises, and how and what we can learn from them to better prepare ourselves psychologically for the future. Inevitably, we will face many more such calamities due to climate breakdown and the consequent international instability, she warns. One of those five million EU citizens, Emmy had to fight for her right to stay. Here she draws on her personal experiences of such crises, the accounts of others and on her extensive clinical, theoretical and research knowledge to argue that such events need not spell the end of life as we know it. Rather, they can open the door to different, richer and more thoughtful, relational ways of being in the world.
Introduction – What is existential crisis?
1. Experiencing existential crisis
2. Brexit: shattered lives and identities
3. Joan’s breakdown
4. Lucie’s despair
5. Making sense of life and loss
6. Existential explorations
7. When crisis destroys meaning
8. Surviving a global pandemic
9. Living with existential courage
‘A major contribution to thinking and writing about the impact of political phenomena on the bodies, minds and souls of individuals.’
Professor Andrew Samuels, author of The Political Psyche and A New Therapy for Politics?
‘With a rare blend of audacity and authenticity, van Deurzen acknowledges the genuine anguish that arises when lives fall apart, whether through extreme personal adversity, system-shattering socio-political events or an ineluctable and impersonal global pandemic. Her book comes as a wake-up call amid the rumble of the mundane to reclaim our lives…’
Professor Robert A. Neimeyer, Director of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition
‘The stories contain a universal message of hope, resilience and overcoming in the face of adversity. Whatever happens to you, it’s what you do next that matters.’
Rogers Casale, Secretary General, New Europeans