I’m reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and there is a superb section on the ‘existential vacuum’ and it resonates quite deeply with my experience.
Frankl is the father of logotheraphy, more literally translated meaning therapy. Unlike other forms of psychoanalysis, Frankl’s logotheraphy sees the locus of human problems as the lack of meaning in life, especially in suffering and death. Logotheraphy seeks to address the basic human need for meaning; humans posses a will to meaning, the desire to make sense of the world and their experiences within it. The therapist who practises logotheraphy encourages the individual to face their unique and irreplaceable position in life.
Frankl speaks of the existential vacuum that he sees present in many of the patients he has worked with. The existential vacuum is simply defined as “the feeling of the total and ultimate meaningless of their lives.” (110) People who live with this existential crisis “lack the awareness of a meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness, a void within themselves; they are caught in that situation which I have called the ‘existential vacuum.'” (110-111)