Phenomenological and Process Dynamic Characteristics of Existential Identity Crisis
Lyudmila Viktorovna Senkevich*
Department of Psychology of Labour and Official Work Russian State Social
University, Moscow, Russia
- Corresponding Author:
- Senkevich LV
Associate Professor, Department of
Psychology of Labour and Official Work
Russian State Social University, Moscow,
Tel: +7 863 464-04-87
Received date: March 24, 2016; Accepted date: April 05, 2016; Published date: April 15, 2016
Citation: Senkevich LV. Phenomenological
and Process Dynamic Characteristics of
Existential Identity Crisis. Global Media
Journal. 2016, S2: 19.
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This article presents the results of empirical research of the problem of experiencing by an individual of the existential crises. The author presents its original methodology and the testing results. Through the use of a questionnaire consisting of 10 scales, there will be established the existence (absence) of an existential crisis and the manifestation of its components, such as: viewing of life as meaningless, unsatisfaction with oneself and one’s life, the problems of freedom and responsibility, as well as heavy emotions. In the process of testing of the methodology and empirical researches there was conducted a comparative analysis of the three risk groups - persons with alcohol and drug dependencies and suicidal behavior - and the control group - individuals with normative behavior. In total the study involved 987 respondents of different ages. There was established the absence of existential crisis in the “norm” group-individuals featuring a standard (adaptive) behavior, and the presence of existential crisis of varying degree of manifestation among representatives of different groups of individuals featuring a destructive behavior. It has been evidenced that the most manifested existential crisis was registered among the drug-addicted persons. Individuals with a chronic alcoholism has featured the most discernable unsatisfaction with their present, the problems of freedom and responsibility and a number of negative experiences, and individuals with a history of at least three suicide attempts - hard feelings, such as: despair, suffering, and guilt.
Existential crisis; Meaning of life; Emotions; Chronic alcoholism; Drug
addiction; Suicidal behavior; Loneliness; Attitude to death
Existential problems accompany a human’s life since the moment
of a “second birth of an individual”, that is, adolescence,
and to the end of life’s journey. Most frequently four basic
contradictions may lead to an existential conflict: the awareness
of a finitude of one’s existence and the desire to prolong it; need
for a structuredness and organization of life and the awareness of
lack of such structuredness and organization, one’s freedom and
responsibility for creation of one’s personal world; awareness
of the fundamental isolation-loneliness in the indifferent world,
and need for the contacts, protection and affiliation; need for
meaningfulness of life and the perception of the world where an
individual has been “thrown”, as meaningless .
The central problem will be that of searching for life purpose.
According to the philosophical and religious position, it gives
the individual an opportunity to live according to one’s spiritual entity . In psychology, the problem of meaning of life and
searching for life purpose has been connected, first of all, with
the phenomenon of self-transcendence of human existence.
As noted by V. Frankl, “this notion has to do with the fact that
a human existence will always be oriented outwards... to a
sense that must be implemented, or another person to whom
we are drawn with love. In serving the cause of love to another
person an individual realizes oneself… and to the most extent
becomes oneself” .
The absence of life purpose will lead to an existential
frustration or existential vacuum. The existential vacuum will
often result in the growing aggressive impulses and focus
on pleasure and entertainment. Any attempts to obtain the
feeling of happiness bypassing the realization of sense may
lead to alcoholism and drug addiction.
The serious hard-to-solve existential problems would create a special condition which is usually called an existential crisis. An
existential crisis may be age-related or be a unique stage of an
individual’s life journey. Age-related existential crises are usually
those crises of 30 and 40 years-a time when one would sum up
the intermediate life results and get an opportunity to change
the life path in a certain aspect, in the field of the professional or
family life. Sometimes the teenage and old ages may be regarded
as crisis ones, when a process of reflection on one’s life and
oneself would take place, and also the youth as the period of
building particular life plans and formation of personal identity
Existential crises of individual life path may occur during the
“spiritual awakening”, inclusion into an internal conflict of basic
values on which the life plan would be grounded, in situations
of grief, loss, violence, severe marital conflict, betrayal, infidelity,
professional exhaustion, etc. [8-11].
Methods of Research
For the purpose of establishing the presence or absence of
experiencing an existential crisis by representatives of different
age categories and risk groups we have developed the method
EEC-Questionnaire “Experiencing of an existential crisis”. The
method is aimed to identify the existential crises on different
stages of development of an individual, starting from the youthful
age. The theoretical base for this method has been the ideas of
V. Frankl, E. Erikson, I. Yalom, A. Langle about the substance and
manifestations of the existential crises [1,4,6,12].
That is why the main “cluster” has become “the meaninglessness
of life”, uniting the three scales-“Meaninglessness of social
connections”, “Meaninglessness of occupation, profession,
career”, “Depreciation of human life”. This cluster is directly
connected with the following two-“unsatisfaction with oneself
and one’s life” (which includes three scales: “Unsatisfaction with
oneself”, “Unsatisfaction with the past”, “Unsatisfaction with
the present”) and “the problems of freedom and responsibility”,
which form a separate scale. The manifestations of existential
crisis were “the heavy emotions”; this cluster consists of the
three scales-“Despair, suffering, sense of guilt”, “Loneliness”,
The first scale - “Meaninglessness of social connections”-reflects
the negative ideas about surrounding persons, first of all-about
their aggressiveness, inability to understand and sympathize;
negative ideas of the most close relationships, i.e., love and
friendship, which will be depreciated in the perception of an
examinee. Deep relationship will be rejected or cause the fear
and will be substituted by the role relations.
The second scale -“Meaninglessness of occupation, profession,
career”-demonstrates the absence of work as avocation and the
search forone’s vocation; professional activity would be seen as
a vacuous and routine activity that provokes irritation and leads
to personal deformations. The substantial fullness of professional
activity will be depreciated as well as the career growth. The
interest to an occupation, self-improvement and other socially
significant motives will be replaced by the motive of earnings.
The third scale - “Depreciation of human life”-presents the idea of
life deprived of both the human content and the divine purpose.
A depreciated human life will lead to boredom and emptiness,
and suicidal intentions.
The forth scale - “Unsatisfaction with oneself”-reflects the low
self-esteem, perception of one’s unattractiveness in terms
of appearance, sexuality, intelligence, self-control, initiative,
success, and also experiences of one’s sinfulness.
The fifth scale - “Unsatisfaction with the past”-traces the
unsatisfaction with the overpassed section of life path, the
established relations back then, family as well as friendship
ones, the experience of absence of achievements that had been
planned in youth, and the abundance of unrecoverable errors.
The sixth scale - “Unsatisfaction with the present”-reflects
those disappointments of the actual living situation: the lack
of satisfactory close relationships, interesting occupation,
significant achievements, sentiment of envy to a more successful
The seventh scale-“Problems of freedom and responsibility”-
includes the contradictory tendencies: on the one hand-worries
in connection with lack of choice, vulnerability to manipulation
by others, on the other hand-the fear of making an independent
choice and taking responsibility for its consequences.
The eighth scale - “Despair, suffering, sense of guilt”-represents
a complex of heavy emotions accompanying the existential crisis:
the feeling of guilt towards parents, other relatives and oneself
for a failed life, frustration, the fear of life and fear of death.
The failures, losses and suffering would be considered as origins
destructing the life and one’s personality, but not as the necessary
conditions for accumulation of life experience and wisdom.
The ninth scale - “Loneliness”-reflects the sentiment of isolation
from the immediate surrounding and the society in general,
the experience of being misunderstood and the lack of a due
appreciation of one’s merits and personal qualities, the feeling of
falling out of the age cohort.
The tenth scale-“Insecurity”-presents the sentiments of
abandonment, helplessness and uselessness. Insecurity would
base on the lack of a social support, which may be not the
objective but a purely subjective phenomenon.
Each scale consisted of 10 opinions. In total, the methodology
contains 100 statements, each of them requiring one of the 5
answer options, which would be evaluated by points (-2) to (+2).
The received testing results of this original methodology have
allowed specifying the three levels of manifestation of existential
problems: the scale indexes within the interval from (-20) to
(-6) points evidence the low degree of manifestation of such
criterion; the indexes within the interval from (-5) to (-1) points
mean the average degree of manifestation of the criterion; and
the indexes within the interval from 0 to 20 points-high degree of
manifestation of the criterion.
Moreover, the research has engaged the scale of existentiality,
which represents a questionnaire consisting of 46 items; an
examinee should give the answers thereto evaluating oneself and
one’s present life in different aspects.
The final index of General performance will be the sum of the
intermediate indexes in the four subscales: Self-distancing, Selftranscendence,
Freedom and Responsibility. This research has
also involved the methodology “Attitude to death” elaborated
by I.Y. Kulagina and L.V. Senkevitch in 2011. The methodology
represents a questionnaire consisting of 10 closed questions.
Since the attitude to death may be, as it is demonstrated
in psychological literature, inextricably connected with the
satisfaction with life, the first two questions will be relevant to
this aspect of the problem. When choosing the answers to the
given questions, an examinee in 8 cases would chose 1 answer,
and in 2 items they would choose 2-3 statements. 18 answers
reflect the optimistic attitude to life and death, and another 18
answers-the pessimistic one. An examinee may give maximum 13
During the construction of this questionnaire the expert
evaluation method was used. Among the involved experts there
were psychologists and clergymen-representatives of Christian
confessions, including Farther S. Morgalla, PhD, A.P. of the
Institute of Psychology of the Pontifical Gregorian University
Another organizational and methodological instrument of the
conducted complex research has been the test for loneliness-a
method of the subjective experience of loneliness by D. Russell
and M. Ferguson. This diagnostic test questionnaire is aimed to
define the level of loneliness, i.e. how lonely an individual would
The phenomenon of loneliness consists in experimenting a feeling
of loneliness as an acutely subjective, purely individual and often
unique sentiment. One of the distinctive features of loneliness
is the specific feeling of utter absorption in oneself. The feeling
of loneliness differs from other experiences; it is holistic and all
Loneliness is the complex feeling that would bind together
something that had been lost in the inner world of an individual.
Feeling of loneliness would encourage an individual to an
energetic search of means of confrontation to this “disease”,
since loneliness would act against the basic expectations and
hopes of a person and, therefore, will be perceived as a highly
Organization of research
Among the respondents of the first series of the empirical
research aimed to detect the presence or absence of the
existential crisis in the examinees and conducted by means of
the original questionnaire, there were 619 conditionally healthy
respondents with criterion behavior, 68 individuals with chronic
alcoholic dependence, 170 drug addicted persons, and 130
respondents with the past history of 1 to 4 suicidal attempts. The
group of respondents conditionally defined as “norm” included
representatives of 5 age periods-youth (17-23 y.o.), young people
(24-35 y.o.), maturity (36-60 y.o.), old age (61-75 y.o.) and senility
(76-88 y.o.). The groups of alcohol dependent and drug addicted
people were represented by three ages: youth, young people and
maturity. The group of suiciders included respondents of youth,
young, mature and old ages.
The “norm” group-on evidence not experiencing the existential
crisis-included the students of programs of professional retraining
and advanced training courses, as well as their relatives and
friends; among which 305 men and 314 women; 405 respondents
with higher education, 42-with incomplete higher education
and 172-with secondary education. The so called “risk groups”-
alcohol dependent, drug addicted and individuals featuring a
suicidal behavior-were gathered on the bases of Psychiatric
Clinical Hospital, Narcological Clinical Hospital of Department
of Health of the city of Moscow, and Moscow Research Institute
of Psychiatry of Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. All
the examined at clinical sites have featured absent endogenous
symptoms. The sample of individuals featuring the alcoholic
dependence consisted of 43 men and 25 women; of which 33
examinees with the secondary education, 16-with higher and 19-
with incomplete higher education. The group of drug addicted
individuals included 93 men and 77 women; 25 respondents
with higher, 85-incomplete higher, 42-secondary, 18-incomplete
secondary education. The group of individuals with suicidal
behavior included 45 men and 85 women; 78 of the examinees
had higher and incomplete higher education, and 52-secondary
The research has been conducted individually in all groups; in
the “norm” group-by the professional psychologists in domestic
conditions, in the risk groups-in the hospital, the psychologist's
office or a staff lounge. Each examinee received a standard
instruction and a blank form for filling, and had the opportunity
to ask questions to a psychologist during their work within the
The empirical study of the subjective feeling of loneliness
(second series of the empirical research) and attitude to death
(third series of the empirical research) in the so called “groups
of risk” and in the norm group was conducted during 2011-
2014. In total the research has involved 1,345 respondents of
youth, young and mature ages. The norm group consisted of
948 conditionally healthy examinees with the criterion behavior,
437 men and 511 women, of which the number of individuals
of youth age (17-23 y.o.) amounted to 241 people, the sample
of young age (24-35 y.o.) included 259 people, and the number
of healthy respondents of mature age (36-60 y.o.) amounted to
448. The three groups of risk were represented by the individuals
featuring addictive and suicidal behavior in the same periods
of ontogenetic development - youth, young age and maturity.
The sample of alcohol-dependent respondents consisted of 103
people of youth, young and mature ages, 78 men and 25 women.
The group of individuals with chemical dependences included 57
representatives of youth, 70 respondents of young age and 43
respondents of mature age, in total - 171 examinees with opium
and poly-drug dependences, of which there were 94 men and
77 women. The third group of risk consisted of 123 suiciders
featuring 1 to 4 attempted suicides in their lives, 41 respondents
of youth age, 43 young people and 39 mature individuals, in total
45 men and 78 women.
It is important to note that on the background of drug or alcohol
psychoses or attempted suicides all respondents were diagnosed
with the absence of endogenous symptoms, which was evidenced by patient histories, pathopsychological and neuropsychological
medical reports and the results of interviews with the attending
physicians and medical psychologists. At the moment of research
all the addicted individuals were brought out of psychoses by
means of adequate and efficient psychopharmacotherapy and
featured clear consciousness.
Results of the Research
Results of research on the features of experiencing
the existential crisis by individuals of the “risk
During the testing of this methodology there were obtained the
results evidencing the absence of existential crisis in the “norm”
group and the presence of existential crises of varying degree in
the risk groups (Figure 1).
In the “norm” group the manifestation of indexes would fall
within the range minus 7 to minus 12 points. Representatives
of this group will be most successful in such parameters as
“unsatisfaction with oneself” (-11.8 points), “meaningless
of social connections” (-11.2 points), “meaningless of an
occupation, profession, career” (-11,1 points), “unsatisfaction
with one’s past” (-10,9 points). The weakest point in the system
of personal resources which contribute to the avoidance and
overcoming of existential crises, will be the problems of freedom
and responsibility, however, in this respect the representatives of
“norm” group would still remain rather successful (the index of
“problem of freedom and responsibility” was registered at -7,2
points). This data will be considered as a reference.
Major manifestation of the existential crisis has been registered
within the group of drug addicted. All indexes fell within the range
plus one to plus six points, in which the most manifested have
been unsatisfaction with one’s present (+5,3 points), problems
of freedom and responsibility (+4,8 points) and negative feelings, such as despair, suffering, sense of guilt (+4,7 points). The less
manifested were the unsatisfaction with oneself (+1,4 points)
and consciousness of the meaninglessness of social connections
The received data reflecting the global existential problems
within this very group of risk conform to the idea of a so called
narcotic personality. “The change of the semantic sphere of the
personality of a drug addicted person is manifested in its literal
"drop out" from the holistic context of life in the situational
context of a univocally aimed activity… A drug addicted person
always knows what he or she would have to do. It releases them
from the search of the goals, aims, meaning of what’s happening
and, in the end, their life purpose” .
The lower indexes registered in two scales are as well of interest,
which univocal interpretation would not be possible without a
special additional research. The lower level of unsatisfaction
with oneself may be related to various factors-from fluctuations
of state of health (including the periods of increase in pain
threshold, utter physical comfort accompanied by euphoria) to a
comprehension of one’s ability to survive in a dangerous and cruel
world of illegal drug turnover. The fact that the social connections
will not be the most meaningless in life of a drug addict, may
be determined by their dependence on the social system “drug
dealers-groups of drug consumers”, as well as by perceived and
accepted social support during the remission periods.
In the case of chronic alcoholism the existential crisis will be
expressed more poorly than in case of drug addiction, and
existential problems therein may be considered as problems
of average level of manifestation. The least acute problem for
alcohol dependent individuals will be the problem of acceptance
of oneself: unsatisfaction with oneself is manifested weakly (-4,8
points). This, apparently, may be explained by the “elective noncritical
thinking” of the patients with chronic alcoholism, their
inflated self-concept, and the impoverished idea of themselves [14,15]. Representatives of this group of risk who tend to
overestimate their abilities and react aggressively to anything
that might impede them to satisfy their pathological need, will be
rather satisfied with themselves.
Figure 1: Manifestation of existential problems among the respondents of different categories.
The most problem areas in case of chronic alcoholism will
be unsatisfaction with the present (+1,3 points), freedom
and responsibility (+0,5 points), and also negative emotionsdespair,
suffering, sense of guilt (+0,2 points)-same as for drug
addiction case. We may suppose that in the course of disruption
of mediation and hierarchy of motives the development of
existential crisis would start or would mostly be manifested in
these aspects. A particular note should be made for the presence
of negative experiences associated in case of drug addiction with
the emotional intolerance and general anxiety .
Existential problems of individuals with suicidal attempts history
will not be as difficult and global as those of the drug addicted.
For the existential crisis in this group of risk the least manifested
will be the central problems of meaning of life-social connections
(-3,7points), occupation, profession, career (-3,6 points). Besides,
rather small will be unsatisfaction with oneself (-3 points). The
weakest point when experiencing an existential crisis will be heavy
emotions-despair, suffering, and sense of guilt (+0,7 points).
Research results for features of experience of
loneliness by the individuals of the “risk group”
The Table 1 and Figure 2 represent the average indexes of
loneliness in the norm group and the groups of risk. As seen
on the Figure 2, the highest degree of the subjective sensation
of loneliness (36,32 points) was registered in the sample of
individuals with opium and poly-drug addictions, and the lowest
one (18,47 points)-in the norm group.
Statistical analysis has evidenced the significant, at the high level
of significance, differences in the indexes of subjective sensation
of loneliness between the norm group and the three risk groups
(Table 2): loneliness in the sample of conditionally healthy
respondents with criterion behaviour has been considerably
lower (with р<0,001) than in the groups of respondents with
alcohol and drug addictions and suicidal behavior. Besides,
significant differences were revealed in the indexes of loneliness
between the group of drug addicted and all other samples: the
subjective sensation of loneliness significantly (with р<0,001)
higher in the drug addicted group than in the groups of norm,
alcohol addicted and suiciders’ sample.
Thus, drug addicted individuals to the greatest extend will be
prone to experience the subjective loneliness. The analysis of
protocols of answers of these respondents to the “Loneliness scale” has evidenced that in most cases the following statements
of the questionnaire were marked as “often”: “I feel the lack
of friendly communication”, “None of the surrounding people
would share my interests and thoughts”, “There are no people
around me who would sincerely be ready to support me”, “I have
no deep affections (deep emotions)”, “I am unhappy because I
miss communication with the understanding and interesting
people”. Pairwise comparisons have evidenced the absence
of significant differences in the degree of loneliness between
the two groups of risk: alcohol addicted and suiciders: average
indexes in both samples have been quite equal (27, 07 and 29, 82
|Group of theexaminees
Table 1: Average indexes of degree of loneliness for conditionally healthy,
alcohol addicted, drug addicted, and respondents with suicidal behavior.
Within the norm group the low degree of loneliness has been
registered, and in all groups of risk-the average one. Now, let
us analyze the age-related dynamics of loneliness in all four
samples. Figure 3 illustrates the age differences in indexes of
loneliness in the norm group, the groups of alcohol addicted and
drug addicted and in the group of suiciders. Healthy respondents
without signs of deviant behavior feature a sustainable low level
of the subjective sensation of loneliness in all three stages of
their ontogenetic development: youth, young age and maturity.
There is a slight decrease in the level of loneliness from youth to
young age period and then again a slight increase of this index in
maturity period. No significant age differences in the indexes of
loneliness have been revealed in the norm group (Table 3). There
have been revealed the differences at the level of trend for this
parameter between the healthy respondents of the young and
mature ages: within the norm group young people featured the
lowest index of the subjective sensation.
In both groups of alcohol addicted as well as drug addicted
respondents the age dynamics of experience of loneliness will be
similar: in youth period in both risk groups with addictions there
were registered the lowest indexes for this parameter; in young
age the indexes of loneliness will increase and the yet higher level
of loneliness in these samples will be registered in the mature
period. With this, when in the groups of individuals with alcohol
addiction, as well as in the norm group, no statistically significant
age differences in the indexes of loneliness were registered (the
differences inthe level of trend have only been revealed between
the alcohol addicted examinees of young and mature ages), in
the sample of examinees with opium and poly-drug addiction
the significant differences were registered between all age subgroups (Figure 3). High-level significant (р<0,003) differences
have been registered among the drug addicted individuals of
youth, young and mature ages. Also, the significant differences
(five percent significance value) were revealed in the indexes
of the subjective sensation of loneliness among the young and
mature drug addicted patients (Table 3). Whereas with the drug
addicted respondents of youth and young ages the indexes of
loneliness have not exceeded the average level, the chemical
dependent individuals of mature age have featured the high level
of the subjective loneliness (the average index in the subgroup
of middle-aged drug addicted exceeded 43 points). Another
age dynamics of loneliness has been registered in the group of
suiciders. In this sample there have also been registered the highlevel
significant age differences for this parameter: among the
respondents of youth and young (р<0,001), and youth and mature
(р<0,001) ages. However, within this group of risk a higher limit of
loneliness has been registered in the youth subgroup of suiciders
(41,46 points), when in the subgroup of young suiciders this index
has been almost two times lower (26,25 points).
Figure 2: Levels of subjective loneliness in the norm group and the groups of risk.
|(I) Group of the examinees
||(J) Group of the examinees
||Significance of differences
|Based on the observed average indexes.
Margin of error-Average square (Error) = 129,087.
|*Average difference significant at the level 0.05.
Table 2: Differences in the indexes of loneliness.
||Significance of differences
|Group of alcohol addicted respondents
|Group of drug addicted respondents
Table 3: Significance of age differences in the indexes of loneliness in the norm group and the groups of risk.
Therefore, the existential loneliness might be one of the main
factors for suicide precisely in the youth period.
Results of the research of attitude to death in the
mixed-aged and mixed-culture groups
According to the data for Central Russia (Moscow), in youth age
the students of the humanitarian universities would feature the
optimistic attitude to death, though a low-level one: the average
point has been-3.29. When considering the population dynamics
from young to mature ages, it can be noted the level of attitude
to death would slightly decrease, which lead to the ambivalent
index among the professors of humanitarian universities: average
point-2.55 (Table 4).
In the Caucasus region (Yerevan) the attitude to death has featured
a lower level: it has been ambivalent in young and mature ages-in
students and professors of humanitarian universities. Analogous
dynamics can be noticed-slight decrease of level of attitude to
death from youth (2.26 points) to mature age (1.81 points). Same
as in Central Russia, in Armenia the age differences have been
statistically insignificant (Table 4).
Similar indexes and general trend of age decrease of attitude to
death in Moscow and Yerevan may be connected with the existing
ideas of life and death inherited from the pre-perestroika times.
This assumption may be to some extent enforced by significant
differences registered between the indexes of students and
professors of the humanitarian (secular) university units in Italy.
In Italy (Rome) the optimistic attitude to death will be slightly
higher in youth (3.46 points) and considerably higher in mature
age (6.37 points), than in the post-Soviet space-in Central Russia
and Armenia. The dynamics will be reverse here: the substantial
increase in the level of optimistic attitude to death in mature age.
The age differences will be significant at the high level (р<0.001)
As seen from Figure 4, the age differences would manifest
differently in different regions. Therefore it is of interest to define
the significance of differences among the indexes of respondents
of each age group in Moscow, Yerevan and Rome (Table 5).
For youth period the statistically significant differences have been
registered only in the indexes of attitude to death of Yerevan and
Rome (р ≤ 0.05). Optimistic attitude to problems of life, death and
dying that had featured Rome students has been considerably
higher than the ambivalent attitude to these problems of the
students in Yerevan. At the same time the differences in indexes of
youth respondents in Moscow and Yerevan, and also in Moscow
and Rome, were statistically insignificant.
For mature age, when the level of attitude to death will decrease
in Moscow and Yerevan and increase in Rome, there have been
observed significant differences not only between the indexes
in Armenia and Italy, but also between Central Russia and Italy
(р ≤ 0.001). The ambivalent attitude to death characteristic of
university professors in Moscow and Yerevan had a nearly level,
so there have been no significant differences for these indexes
Thus, the major regional differences in the attitude to death
would appear just in maturity age.
In order to define the gender differences we will consider the
features of attitude to death in youth and mature ages-in different
There have been no registered significant differences in the
attitude to death among young men and women (Table 6).
However, a certain trend will appear in Central Russia and
Armenia, i.e. on the post-Soviet space: in their experience of
problems related to death young men have been more optimistic
than young women (Figure 5). Young women in Moscow and
Yerevan have featured more anxiety in perception of these problems, and their attitude has become ambivalent. These
data may be explained by their earlier personal maturation
compared to that of the young men, and their more serious
attitude to the evaluation of a rather short life path, their
relations with relatives and attitude to the issues of religious
context. Apparently, young men of 18-23 years old would
make a simpler and easier judgment on these problems,
which can be the result of lack of a special interest to
existential moments as well as the defensive reaction, not
allowing them to immerse into the traumatic content of life.
Figure 3: Age differences in degree of loneliness in the norm group
and in risk groups.
Table 4: Differences in the indexes of attitude to death between the age groups of Moscow, Yerevan and Rome (average indexes, Mann — Whitney
Figure 4: Age differences in the indexes of attitude to death(average
|Comparison of indexes
|W statistics Wilcockson
Table 5: Regional differences in the indexes of attitude to death among
the respondents of youth and mature ages (pairwise comparisons,
Mann-Whitney U-test, W-criterion by Wilcockson).
At the same time such trend has not been registered among
the Italian youth. In Rome both young men and young
women will be rather optimistic. Getting a secular and not a
religious education, and living in better social and economic
conditions compared to their age-mates from Russia and
Armenia, they probably consciously or unconsciously would
avoid the analysis of the hard side of life (Figure 5). A rather
comfortable and happy living in Rome would reflect mostly
on the attitude to death of men and women of middleage.
Both men and women would feature an increased
level of optimistic attitude to death-from 3.52 points in
youth period to 6.67 points in mature age for men, and-
3.36 points in youth period to 5.93 points in mature age
for women (Figures 5 and 6). Although the Italian women
would feature a slightly lower level of an optimistic attitude
than the men, there will be no significant gender differences
(Figure 6). The reverse trend has been registered in Central
Russia and Armenia: instead of increase of optimism, there
is a decrease and aggravation of the ambivalent attitude in
men in Mosc ow and w omen in Yerevan.
Figure 5: Gender differences in the indexes of attitude to death in
the respondents of youth age(average indexes, points).
Figure 6: Gender differences in the indexes of attitude to death in
the respondents of mature age (average indexes, points).
Discussion of the Results
The data received during the course of the first series of the
empirical research reflecting the global existential problems
within the group of drug addicted individuals, conform to the
idea of a so called narcotic personality. “The change of the
semantic sphere of the personality of a drug addicted person is
manifested in its literal "drop out" from the holistic context of life
in the situational context of a univocally aimed activity… A drug
addicted person always knows what he or she would have to do.
It releases them from the search of the goals, aims, meaning of
what’s happening and, in the end, their life purpose” .
According to the obtained data of the first series of the empirical
research, the suiciders would feature a safer value-semantic
sphere than the individuals with chemical addictions. However, at
the same time they will be immersed in current adverse situation
evoking the negative emotions of great strength. It is known
that in youth period the suiciders would feature depression,
anxiety, high level of everyday stress, and the preference for such
inadaptive coping strategy as the avoidance [17-19]. It is possible
that these personal characteristics will be preserved at later
age stages and will contribute to the maintenance of negative
experiences, suicidal thoughts and intentions.
During the second stage of the empirical research the analysis
of answers to the questionnaire “Scale of loneliness” of the
individuals with alcohol addiction and the respondents with
history of suicide attempts has evidenced their unsatisfaction
with family life, lack of necessary social support, sensation of
being misunderstood and isolated from the surrounding people.
Moreover, the answers of suiciders’ group have featured the
feeling of inability to handle relationships with other people,
and the tendency not to reveal the depth of their feelings and
experiences to anyone.
According to the results of the third stage of the empirical research, the attitude to death of multicultural groups will differ
on the significant level of differences [20,21].
Table 6: Gender differences in the indexes of attitude to death in the respondents of youth and mature ages of different regions (average indexes,
It bears reminding that according to the statements of S.L.
Rubinstein and representatives of the existential-humanistic
trend in psychology, which has been reflected in the problems of
this original methodology, the attitude to death would depend
on a number of factors-satisfaction with life, acceptance of
its finitude, absence of the substantial fear of death and dying
process, confidence in one’s courage in the face of death and
in the nearest social surroundings capable of supporting in the
final stage of life. Such high indexes of the optimistic attitude to
death registered in Rome will probably evidence the presence of
most of these factors in the mind of this category of intellectuals.
Perhaps, the satisfaction with life in mature period would be
related, in particular, with the external conditions, which would
be rather favorable in an economically developed European
The increase of ambivalence among Moscow male humanitarians
that was revealed during the third stage of the empirical
research, would be related to the unsatisfaction with one’s life
in the expensive and maximally socially stratified metropolis.
The decrease of the level of attitude to death and aggravating of
existential problems among women in Armenia could be explained
by the traditions of Caucasus region (where a woman would be
less focused on social achievements and mostly dedicated to
a family and household), as well as the specifics of the current
social and economic situation in the country, when men are often
forced to leave their families in search of better earnings, and the
burden of considerable family difficulties would lie on the women
on the background of the recurrent loneliness. It is precisely in
Armenia where there were registered the statistically relevant
gender differences in the attitude to death.
The conducted theoretical analysis and the empirical researches have evidenced that the existential crisis could be considered as
a stage in the individual life path which is accompanied by the
sensation of meaninglessness of life, unsatisfaction with oneself
and one’s life, the problems of freedom and responsibility, and
manifested in such heavy emotions as despair, suffering, sense
of guilt, loneliness and insecurity. By means of the original
methodology there has been conducted a comparative research
of the features and manifestation of the existential crisis in cases
of chronic alcoholism, drug addiction and suicidal behavior. It has
been evidenced that the major existential crisis was characteristic
for drug addicted individuals. Healthy respondents with criterion
behavior of all youth, young and mature ages have featured the
absence of the existential crisis; they also featured a low level
of the subjective sensation of loneliness. It is important to note
that in case of alcohol addiction loneliness would increase from
one stage of ontogenetic development to another: the growth
of the alcoholic defect will be accompanied by the loss of social
contacts, destruction of professional, friends and family
relations, the social network would narrow considerably,
due to the dominant biological motivation. However, the age
differences in this risk group will be expressed at the level of
The drug addicted individuals with the increase of years would
feature the increase of sensation of isolation, separation from
the surroundings, and feeling of helplessness, hopelessness
and personal inadequacy. The distinct age differences in
manifestation of the existential crisis will be characteristic for
individuals with suicidal behavior; with this the level of the
subjective sensation of loneliness within this group of risk
will reach the maximal indexes in suiciders of youth age, and
would decrease considerably from youth to young age. Thus,
the received empirical data would establish the certain logical
correlation between the experience of the existential crisis
and its consequences, which dictates the need for further
researches in order to develop the efficient programs of
psychological assistance to individuals of the groups of risk.
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