Tenet 4: Why We Search for Meaning

by Pam England

4.   Life events and outcomes have no inherent meaning. Instead, how we define an experience determines its meaning, thus meaning can be changed as the storyteller and story evolve.

“If there is a meaning in life, then suffering must have meaning. Suffering is an eradicable part of life, even as fate and death,” Victor Frankl wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. He observed a human life cannot be complete without suffering and death.

After living through an ordeal entwined with unavoidable difficulty, suffering, and sometimes ill-treatment or betrayal, we spin in confusion and a range of emotions; at first, the center of attention is in our emotions. When assumptions are tested and expectations fall flat, we try to understand what happened to us, then within us. For a while, our mind ruminates over what happened and why or whose fault it was. Finally, new meaning emerges when we constructively explore old and emerging belief systems.

More than what happened, our attitude and what we tell ourselves about what happened determines whether we will yoke ourselves to a story of suffering and disappointment or a quest story leading to personal growth and meaning more significant than ourselves.

Life has no meaning a priori… (e.g., from a knowledge that requires no evidence, not based on previous experience). It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

copyright©2023 Pam England. All rights reserved.

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