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On the Meaning of Meaning: What Are We Really Looking For?

https://positivepsychology.com/meaning/

positivepsychology.com

On the Meaning of Meaning: What Are We Really Looking For?
The meaning we're concerned with when we're talking about the meaning of life, is it's 'relevance, significance or value'. Thus, to avoid confusion, a...

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The Meaning Of Meaning

The Meaning Of Meaning

The meaning of life generally means the relevance, significance or value of the same.

The quest for meaning is not a simple one, but a rabbit’s hole of further queries, making the concept of ‘meaning’ confusing even for positive psychologists.

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Terrestrial Vs Cosmic Meaning

The question of meaning can be applied both to the individual (Terrestrial) and the world (Cosmic).

  • Terrestrial meaning tries to offer an answer to the question of the meaning of one’s own life.
  • Cosmic meaning delves into life in general, with religious and spiritual dimensions, looking at the macro-view.

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"A Meaning" Vs "The Meaning"

  • ‘A’ Meaning is the fluid, ever-present and ongoing mechanisms of cognition, behaviour and life-cycles.
  • ‘The’ Meaning, on the other hand, is concerned with the integrated reference point inside the individual, helping him or her navigate life.

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Meaning: Big And Small

The big picture, or the larger reality consists of ‘big’ meaning but in a subjective way, inside the mind of the individual.

Small meaning is the everyday details that make us experience a moment, like seeing one’s daughter smile.

If the moment is filled with something complete within itself, like a sunset or a flower, then it becomes suchness meaning.

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Meaning: Global And Situational

  • Global (or ultimate) meaning talks about the intrinsic meaning of life as it is, and is a functional way of understanding the world around us. It works on the notion that ‘ignorance is bliss’.
  • Situational meaning is more dynamic and can be applied to every moment in our lives, looking at it as a separate, meaningful event.

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Living Meaning

Living Meaning is the objective view of reality, and is based on our relationship and interpretation towards the object, person or information. It is focused on the thoughts, feelings and actions that are evoked once we see an object or face a situation.

Example: The car in your garage has a living meaning because it influences your life in a certain way by existing.

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Personal Meaning

An interpretation of living meaning is related topersonal meaning, which looks at the personal significance and the unique interpretation of life situations, objects and events that an individual experiences.

Example: Praying at a church or temple has a different, personal meaning for each one of us due to our unique life experiences and circumstances that shape our lives.

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Life Activity

Life Activity is the combination of living and personal meaning, which eventually forms belief patterns in an individual, according to the specific set of circumstances, events and situations that are experienced.

The resulting meaning is a combination of objective and subjective meaning, forming a relationship between a phenomenon and subject, while being highly contextual in nature due to the many variables involved.

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Meaning is the associations that our minds draw

Our brains invent it as a way to explain all the crazy shit that is going on in the world around us. This helps us predict and control our lives.

Types of Meaning in Life

1. Cause/Effect Meaning primarily involves the logical parts of our brain: You kick the ball, the ball moves.
2. Better/Worse Meaning has to do with the nature of our values and relies mostly on the emotional parts of our brains: Eating is better than starving.

Meaning is nature’s tool for motivation

It’s how evolution made sure we got shit done. When there is great meaning attached to something, we will go to insane lengths to make things right. 

Questions about the meaning of life contain assumptions:

  • “What’s the meaning of life?” Assumes that there’s a single meaning.
  • “Does my life have meaning?” Assumes (or at least hints) at a “...

Problems of meaning=problems of insufficient value

Those who think life is meaningless feel that there is a gap between their expectations and reality: between the degree of value that life should have and the degree of value that it actually has. - Iddo Landau

To find meaning in life, we can either:

  1. Add more value: identify activities that are valuable to us  or we can remove activities that reduce value.
  2. Change our thinking: Perhaps our life already has sources of value, but we just aren’t looking at things in the right way.