Feelings of Being is the first ever account of the nature, role and variety of 'existential feelings' in psychiatric illness and in everyday life. There is a great deal of current philosophical and scientific interest in emotional feelings. However, many of the feelings that people struggle to express in their everyday lives do not appear on standard lists of emotions. For example, there are feelings of unreality, surreality, unfamiliarity, estrangement, heightened existence, isolation, emptiness, belonging, significance, insignificance, and the list goes on. Ratcliffe refers to such feelings as 'existential' because they comprise a changeable sense of being part of a world In this book, Ratcliffe argues that existential feelings form a distinctive group by virtue of three characteristics: they are bodily feelings, they constitute ways of relating to the world as a whole, and they are responsible for our sense of reality. He explains how something can be a bodily feeling and, at the same time, a sense of reality and belonging.He then explores the role of altered feeling in psychiatric illness, showing how an account of existential feeling can help us to understand experiential changes that occur in a range of conditions, including depression, circumscribed delusions, depersonalisation and schizophrenia.
The book also addresses the contribution made by existential feelings to religious experience and to philosophical thought.