Our Making Meaning Tendencies
It is a natural response to life, to make meaning of situations and experiences. In times of tragedy often making meaning about continuing can be very helpful. After extremely painful or traumatic events, we need to make sense of it and often the events themselves don't make sense so we need to make it mean something.
Making meaning is a very natural response although it isn't always helpful. Sometimes we can allow situations to mean something about our worth or value in this world, we can allow situations to reaffirm unhealthy self-beliefs.
Although making meaning out of situations is natural, it is within our scope what meaning we make of any given situation. Do we use it to heal and move forward or do we use it to excuse and justify where we are?
The meaning we make of anything can come from a place of denial, hope, settling, confusion but more often than not the meaning we make fulfils a belief we are comfortable being proved right. Even if the belief is negative or unhelpful, we pick to serve what we believe regardless of whether we want it to be true or not.
Some examples of how we make meaning and the meaning we make will impact our next moves...
Someone ignores you on the street do you decide that that means they are avoiding you or that they didn't see you. What different responses would you have for each "meaning" and which would serve you best?
A friend is angry and in your company, do you decide they are angry at you or that they in their own right is angry? What different responses would you have for each "meaning" and which is more effective?
You didn't get the job, does that mean you aren't good enough or does that mean you don't have the skills they needed or that a better job is waiting? What different responses would you have for each "meaning" and what would work best?
When we attach meaning to a situation, we are assigning our own set of values to something outside of us and in doing so we act according to the meaning we assign. Whether or not it is true?
There are times when we need to ask the direct question and uncover the actual meaning such as following an interview, "why didn't I get the job?" will help you move forward and be more practical than assuming you are just too fabulous for the role.
However, I rarely come across people who are too optimistic, on average most of our meaning-making is based on our negative biased and previous hardships. This is why I encourage all my clients to take more effective meaning making from difficult decisions and focus on WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THIS NOW? rather than "Why me?".
What meaning could you make that might work for you rather than against you?
Hint .. the one that motivates you rather than deplets you!