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What Can Existentialism Teach Us About Anxiety And Depression?



Pass the Mic Podcast Series is an unscripted group discussion born out of AcornOak’s belief in the power of many voices.


Each episode begins with one expert - an open-minded and passionate individual who has spent a great deal of time investigating and researching a certain topic. During our hour, a small group of 4 to 6 people will explore complex and difficult concepts with curiosity, uncertain beliefs and the willingness to objectively listen and learn from the shared insights of others.


Our fourth episode discusses Anxiety and Depression with an attempt to answer the following question: What can Existentialism teach us about anxiety and depression?


Starting the Conversation

As the podcast host, Virginie Glaenzer, paved the way for this conversation. The group conversation was led by Melissa Nada Viviana, an author focused on Existentialism.


Welcoming Our Guests



We were honored to welcome our panel of special guests eager to discuss mental health issues and their implications in today’s culture and society.


Melissa Nadia Viviana is an existentialist author and Beat Philosopher who writes satire, memoir, philosophy of the mind, and existentialism.

She spent the past 8 months traveling through the U.S. with her Dalmatian and hosts two brand new podcasts: “The Beat Philosopher” which discusses memoir, psychology, and philosophy of the mind, and “Calm AF Existentialist” which explores Eastern Philosophy and wisdom.


Gordon Marino, PhD - Professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf.

Having earned his PhD University of Chicago, MA University of Pennsylvania, and BA Columbia University, Gordon Marino ‘s areas of specialization include the History of Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, and Kierkegaard. Professor Marino is the author of The Existentialist’s Survival Guide, Kierkegaard in the Present Age and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard. His articles have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal, American Poetry Review, and many other periodicals. Marino is also the Curator of the Hong Kierkegaard Library.


Eric Zimmer, Behavior Coach and Host of The One You Feed Podcast

Eric is the host of The One You Feed podcast, which was named an iTunes Best of 2014 podcast and called "One of the Best Health Podcasts of All Time" by The Huffington Post. The One You Feed has been listened to over 2.5 million times. He also does extensive life-changing, one-on-one coaching work with clients.


Scott Stossel, National editor of The Atlantic magazine

Scott is a journalist and editor of The Atlantic magazine, and previously served as executive editor of The American Prospect magazine. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind, which has been short-listed for the 2015 Wellcome Book Prize, and the award-winning Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver.


Yannick Jacob, Existential Coach

Yannick is an Existential Coach (MA), Positive Psychologist (MA), Coach Trainer & Supervisor, Mediator (conflict resolution) and the former Program Leader of the MSC Coaching Psychology at the University of East London (2015-2018). He specializes in happiness, optimal human functioning and all things wellbeing as well as the depths and complexities of the human condition and how they show up for people, particularly in the coaching room.


Listen to the tour de table of our participants,


Key Shared Insights & Perspectives

We started our discussion exploring the base level of unhappiness to being human and how the entire existence of the mind is crafted around the ability to suffer.

Today, there is a really strong invitation out there to not think about our pain and challenges and instead seek medical treatments which don’t address the causes and invite us to think of ourselves as objects.


Could anxiety or other various forms of mental illness not actually be illness but an adaptive response to the way the world is?


The Dizziness of Freedom

Some of the major themes in existential therapy are responsibility and freedom.

How does the idea that we're responsible to create our own meaning build a foundation for positive mental health?

Listen to Yannick share his view on the question.

Coping Mechanisms

There are no free rides with medications and although sometimes they might be needed on a short term basis to be able to function, learning to manage our anxiety is the path to true freedom.

Coping can include physical exercise, as Eric suggests, “Depression hates a moving target.” Listen to Eric’s personal experience and the distinction he draws between depression and anxiety and his tactics for dealing with each.


Mind over Mind

Before our group passed the mic to share their discussion take-aways, Melissa described her personal theory about an interesting paradox in human nature involving the subconscious and conscious minds.


Individual Take-aways

As we came to the end of the hour, our group closed the discussion in the same way we started, with a tour de table. Each participant had the opportunity to reflect on what they heard and share their take-aways from the conversation.

Listen to the last 10 minutes of the episode.



Final Thoughts to Consider

It seems that no one is immune to feeling anxious and even depressed during their lifetime. Some people are better equipped and have learned at a young age to be more resilient than others.


However, today, learning how to cope with these feelings is a personal responsibility and a path to freedom and personal growth. After all, one can wonder if pain is just a problem to solve or perhaps a message to translate?


Existentialism is, in a way, a form of learned optimism helping us make sense of something that happened or is happening now.

If this short summary resonated with you, go to YouTube to view the entire discussion or listen on iTune, Spotify, Speaker or SoundCloud.