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Existential Wellbeing

Research group
01.01.2021 -
School of Theology, Philosophical Faculty


Existential wellbeing (EWB) can be characterised as finding personal existence meaningful and oneself as competent to cope with difficulties that life brings (see Visser et al. 2017; Macdonald 2000). As a larger research group ExistentialWellbeing examines varieties of perspectives linked to meaning in life (as distinct from meaning of life; see Martela & Steger 2016). It could be generalized that studies aim is to comprehend the personal experience of what makes life meaningful or how meaningfulness could be supported when crises of meaning occur (see e.g. Park 2013; Schnell 2009).

Meaning in life is firmly intertwined with individual wellbeing (see Heintzelman & King 2014; Ryff 2012; Steger 2009 for a review; Deci & Ryan 2012). As a concept, meaning in life includes sources of meaning, meaningfulness and crises of meaning. Sources of meaning are part of human personality: these partly unconscious sources guide an individual’s basic orientations, actions and commitments. Sources of meaning form from aspects and elements that provide an experience of coherence for being in the world as well as ideals for personal commitments in life. Further, ultimate ideas of humanity, society and the world impact sources of meaning. For instance, health, wellbeing, relatedness, self-actualisation and dimensions of transcendence may form these sources. When life is in balance, sources of meanings are hardly pondered upon, and life is found to be meaningful. When life can be embraced with experiences of coherency, significance, direction and belonging, meaningfulness is experienced (e.g. Schnell, 2009). Crises are likely to shake up the experience of meaningfulness. Such crises of meaning draw an individual into meaning-making, which follows the distress that arises from the violation of sources of meaning. To cope with crises of meaning, a person seeks new sources of meaning and finds remaining sources of meanings more important. (e.g. Baumeister 1991; Schnell 2009; Park 2013.)