Yeah, like this matters

Just watch me shrug:

According to a survey conducted by Austrian research psychologist Tatjana Schnell, an unexpectedly large proportion of Westerners feel that their lives have little meaning, and they don’t really care, reports Miller-McCune. Sampling more than 600 Germans, Schneller’s research found that “35 percent [of the sample] were ‘existentially indifferent,’ those who ‘neither experience their lives as meaningful nor suffer from this lack of meaning’,” and only 10 percent of that group were bothered by their own existential apathy.

I don’t think I’d necessarily equate “Germans” with “Westerners,” but I can’t say I’m particularly surprised by this. Then again, it may depend on what the meaning of “meaning” is. If your particular definition of self demands a satisfying romantic relationship and the job of your dreams and getting paid something like NBA rookie scale, your life might seem less meaningful than a box full of old press releases — but I’d give odds that you’d be concerned about it.

Not that those are the only choices:

The academics identified 26 “sources of meaning” in their study, and noted that the indifferent lacked sources like love, social commitment and unison of nature. They were especially low in self-knowledge, spirituality, explicit religiosity and generativity, even compared to those in a crisis.

And, says Dr Schnell:

Without commitment to sources of meaning, life remains superficial. But superficiality is not necessarily a state of suffering.

Sometimes it’s a way to make a living.


  1. Tatyana »

    4 December 2010 · 8:29 am

    Logically speaking, it’s those who postpone their satisfaction, aspiration and dreams onto an “beyond the grave life” – i.e. people high on so called “spirituality” or religiosity , who should be apathetic about achievements and meaning of this one.

    As to “self-knowledge”…psychologists and psychotherapists a little too invested in providing assistance in that regard, aren’t they? It smacks of banal marketing trick: create dissatisfaction with a product. condition or state of affairs, then claim you know the cure: bingo, you have new customers!

  2. fillyjonk »

    4 December 2010 · 9:24 am

    I wonder if this pervasive feeling (if it exists) is why so many people seem to act as if what they are doing is so very important, when it really isn’t. Or people making a big deal out of stupid things that don’t matter, giving meaning to something that doesn’t have it. Or in general, leading to a certain degree of unhealthy self-centeredness.

    I dunno. These days my life philosophy pretty much boils down to “don’t be a jerk” and “try to help other people when you can.” I find I feel like things are more meaningful when I am trying to help people. I suspect you’d see a higher sense of meaning among, I don’t know, the lady who goes around to the homes of elderly diabetics and helps them care for their feet, than the young woman sitting in a cubicle approving tps reports all day long.

    Another thing: I get those Miller-McCune magazines. I didn’t subscribe to it, they just send them to me. Most of the stories in it annoy me so I don’t bother to read it any more.

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