Existential isolation (EI) refers to the sense of one being alone in one’s own conscious experience. This feeling can arise in at least two ways. First, the feeling can arise through experiencing the world differently from others (e.g., a new friend group member feels put off by a joke that made everyone else laugh). The same feeling can be experienced through a sense of discrepancy between reality as it appears in one’s mind and reality as it truly exists (e.g., a commuter mistakenly passes a familiar exist while lost in thought). Noticing that our experience of the world is distinct from that of others, or that our experience of the world is distinct from the world itself, reminds us that we are alone in the wholly subjective realities we inhabit, resulting in the feeling of EI.
Researchers have begun to explore the effects of feeling existentially isolated from the experiences of others. Generally, people who feel EI from others are more anxious, more depressed, less likely to seek mental health counseling, and less certain about their construals of events than people who feel existentially connected. However, the effects of feeling existentially isolated from the world itself remain unknown. The focus of my research is to elucidate the unique antecedents and outcomes of this kind of experiences.