Meaning in Life
Are you battling chronic pain and feeling defeated? Diagnosed with incurable disease and worried about the end of life? Or have your partner and kids walked out and you have lost a sense of purpose in life? We often rely on relationships, health, and material prosperity as sources of happiness and meaning in our lives, and sometimes without them we feel lost. As a result, we attach ourselves to people or situations that provide direction and meaning to our existence.
The truth is that life is always changing. A healthy and young body will age and become ill one day, a long-term relationship can break, and a job we love can be lost. The more we crave stability and security, the higher our chances for suffering, and when it becomes difficult to keep up with change we end up feeling hopeless and confused. However, the beauty of time is that it allows us to have a chance to redeem our options that we did not achieve prior to our condition. As result, we are always presented with choices.
There is always meaning in life even under harshest conditions. It may look like we do not have choices under difficult circumstances but the truth is we do. Choices are attitudes that determine our day to day life. For some, being diagnosed with an incurable disease and the news that death is near is the point where their life begins. For others, after a loss they find a chance to get to know and develop a relationship with themselves. In each situation, the person chooses how to creatively respond to changing conditions and live life by constructing meaning regardless of their circumstances.
Meanings in life can take many shapes and forms, but the most important one comes from one’s own values. For example, if you live your life valuing honesty, truth, and kindness, you can draw meaning from those beliefs and live by them.
In Logo therapy there are three ways to meaning:
The giver offers meaning to the world through creative tasks. It can be as basic as baking cookies for a neighbour to writing books about how to cope with chronic illness. The giver manipulates the situation as such so that it gives him/her a purpose or a goal to achieve in life.
The taker knows the mortality of human life makes the best out of his/her time remaining by incorporating experiences they value. For instance, learning how to sing or pursuing knowledge within a subject one is passionate about. The taker understands that there is freedom to shape their life the way they desire as they are an autonomous being.
When an experience a person is going through is inescapable and the circumstances cannot be changed, the goal can be how to make the journey more meaningful. The conditions brought upon may not be under the person’s control, but the choice of how to respond to is under their control. For example, for a spiritual person, living with an incurable disease might be part of life and therefore their spiritual attitude towards suffering provides them meaning.
Life conditions such as death, loss, and disease come upon us, but thankfully we as humans have freedom to choose how to respond to them. If you are struggling with finding meaning and purpose in life, book an appointment with your therapist and together explore your values and what choices you can make today to change your life.
Khobi Attai, MA, specializes in mindfulness and being present, as well as a variety of other subjects. For more information on Khobi and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.