I feel like a late developer when it comes to discussing the meaning of life… Every time someone mentions such a thing I just start to childishly snigger at images wafting through my mind from the Monty Python film of the same name… Maybe Mr Creosote insisting that he really can’t squeeze in another “waff-urr theen meent” after he has eaten everything on the menu… Or the family in the English council estate where the mother coughs and has another baby to add to her collection.
Yes indeed, I used to poke fun at the philosophy students when I was at University playing football, testing my alcohol consumption limits and chatting up girls… I would mimic the guys with the goatee beards and very long Dr Who-style scarves sat around the table in my local student bar, clutching onto their half a shandy saying things like “Yeah man, so how do we know this is actually an ash tray? I mean, it is just what we are told, right?” While the others on the table nod in ‘freethinking’ fashion.
I rue that a little bit today, honestly… and as I spent several of my adult years consuming as much Nietzche as I could, reading Adam Smith, Descartes and even Plato and friends, loving Ayn Rands novels, I finally caught up with that book that everyone in the self-improvement world seems to have read long before me…
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
So what’s all this got to do with self-hypnosis? Let me explain…
Man’s Search for Meaning has a different ideology for many people who read it, however, I tend to think of it as an exploration and illustration that when we have meaning, purpose, or even hope of meaning and purpose, we tend to thrive and survive better — survival even of a concentration camp in Nazi occupied history, such as Victor Frankl experienced.
Here’s a quote for you to kick us off…
“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the
meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.”
Could you imagine for a moment, Adam and Eve, in their more mature years, sat around their stone dinner table and Adam getting all dogmatic about the state of the Eden today… “Blimey Cain, your generation really does not have the respect like we had in my day… Isn’t that right Eve?” The Old testament even seems to be full of woe about the poor state of affairs of the human soul, doesn’t it?
If this is the case, has there ever really been one of those golden ages, or halcyon eras that our parents and grandparents refer to? Where things really were much better?
Every generation seems to have the perception that it occupies the
absolute pit of human concern for morality and meaning. It seems to be that for the entire time that we have existed, we have been on a slippery slope into total perversion and depravity… We’re all going to end up on one of the circles of Dante’s inferno, that’s for sure!
For the sake of todays blog, let’s say that the esteemed Vaclav Havel is
right and we are bothered less and less by the question of meaning in
our lives…is that bad?
Several decades of research have been
conducted on this question, and the evidence is strong. Not having
meaning is not good. Though researchers really need to get more progressive and term it — Having meaning is good.
So for example, as I think we all tend to know and understand… People who feel their lives are
meaningless are more depressed, are more likely to abuse substances,
and think about killing themselves more often. Criminals and
disruptive students share a tendency to think their lives are less
meaningful than the typical person.
Excuse the generalisations… I have worked with many, many housewives who used to take valium to numb the lack of meaning in their lives once they had raised children and starting seeking something more…
So then, on the upside, if your life feels meaningful, you’re much more likely to feel
pleasing emotions like love, joy, and vitality. On top of that, you’re
more likely to be satisfied with your life, and more accepting and
satisfied with yourself. In addition, you’re more likely to feel like
you have an active hand in shaping your own life, and are likely
looking forward to a bright future… Which is stuff at the core of having good self-esteem, no?
In short, you’re probably doing well in your pursuit of happiness… Whatever that may be for you.
I am not donning my Dr Who scarf this morning, I am not popping on my beret, or wedging a pipe in my mouth to discuss this subject in minute philosophical detail… heck, I did enough putting the world to rights on my boys night last weekend!
Neither am I not looking to test the big
question of whether there is such a thing as “The Meaning of Life” (beyond the Monty Python film and what they said in the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy — the answer is 42).
What I am after… Are the answers people develop about the meaning of their own
lives… That at least people are encouraged to look at how to develop a sense of purpose that fulfils them and enriches them somehow.
You see, when people start to discuss the meaning of life, rather than getting into some self-hypnosis state of needing to get philosophical, why not take a purely subjective stance on the entire thing?
As you know self-hypnosis is my favourite thing in the world, I use it daily to help me fulfil my various senses of purpose, but we need to pull ourselves out of the trance that believes life’s meaning is just some deep thought process reserved for the erudite and egg-heads.
Flicking through my big dictionary, the first definition
of the verb “to mean” hones in on how we use meaning to talk about how
we’re supposed to interpret something.
So, when driving, I look up and wonder, “What does that
road sign mean?” I’m asking what information I’m supposed to get from
it. When I start driving the wrong way into a parking garage and hear
my tires explode on the roll of spikes guarding the entrance, I clearly
have interpreted the wrong thing, haven’t I?
This definition of meaning gets at
the sense people make of the things around them. The second definition focuses on how we use meaning to talk about the intention behind something. When I ask, “What is the meaning of this roll of spikes?” I am hoping to find out why anyone would create such a thing. I want to know what its purpose is… Other than to damage to prized sports car!
So by looking at our own meaning in life, we are looking to understand the sense that we make of our lives and the actions that drive us to act purposefully in the world.
Man oh man, the data from four decades of research are clear, meaning matters. Go research it for yourself, you’ll see what I mean!
Without meaning, our experience erodes, our lives hollow out, and we’re starting to be a zombie or a sheep… Niether of which I have tried, but wouldn’t fancy as much as being human…
At the very least, explore what meaning you have and what that means to you 🙂
Just about to blaze up one more pipe-full before I crack on with my day….