The Desire To Simply Not Exist

Ben Thomas
4 min readDec 29, 2021

I think that a rarely discussed but commonly felt desire is to simply not exist. This should of course be distinguished from its far more violent and permanent cousin; an act that admittedly still holds tightly to this longing for nothingness. But the former sensation is far more vague. To not have to experience this anymore. To never have been born. To go to sleep forever. I feel it when I’m embarrassed or ashamed. House-parties with strangers. Social rejection. Isolation. Sometimes, at its heaviest, it springs forth from the paranoid pondering of solitary thought: would I want to live on a dying Earth? Am I a burden to others? Am I enough?

And sometimes I simply find myself condemned within a mind of misery and anguish, with no apparent point of origin to these insufferable feelings. Within me emerges a deep longing to not be there and, sometimes, to not be anywhere. In these moments the hypothetical comfort of losing all awareness and sensation can be a little too inviting.

Which is quite strange in a sense. In the presence of immense suffering and discomfort, we find this capacity to fetishize oblivion. “Fetish” is an appropriate word here as it denotes the obsessive and frantic pursuit of a fantasy that will likely fail to live up to its hype. However the pursuit itself, the fetishization, is already of such an immense degree that this promise of dissatisfaction is soon forgotten. And the struggle continues. But with this unique pursuit towards nothingness we reach a radical attempt at this fantasy of non-being. If we succeed, we will never experience it fully. And that’s the point. We won’t be satisfied. We simply won’t be anything.

But the escape hatch is always there. All that’s needed are a few carefully drawn out plans and more often than not some substance of pacification. The idea that one could step out, the fetishized alternative-to finally exit-lingers at every corner of self-hatred and boredom and despair and fatigue. I suppose it’s this feeling that we have some autonomy despite it all. We have a say in the matter.