Meaning and Purpose

We are about half way through the distress tolerance module for DBT group. We are working on the IMPROVE skills, the second of which is meaning.

Viktor Frankl said (actually quoting Nietzsche I recently discovered. Learn something new every day!) – to paraphrase – if you have a why to live you can pretty much survive any how. Much of life is in meaning and purpose.

We put up with all sorts of nonsense when we know why, have a personal reason, we are doing it.

When something happens that rocks us at our very foundations – let’s say sight loss, just for devilment👿 – we can really start to wonder about our purpose in the world and the meaning in our lives. Some people find the problem takes up so much of their time and energy they cannot break free to do anything else. They have thought they have no meaning for their existence.

Frankl came up with an answer to that question. To quote (exactly this time!): “The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – under even the most difficult circumstances to add a deeper meaning to his life.”

In other words, sometimes the meaning that is in your life and that will allow you to endure is the grace in which you accept and deal with your fate. You don’t have to be finding the cure for cancer or saving orphans from raging flood waters, all you have to do is be an example of acceptance and endurance.

Acceptance and grace in the face of some truly crappy circumstances is the basis of several world religions. Frankl did not use the imagery of taking up your cross by accident. Some of the allure of the Easter story is Jesus’ example of acceptance and grace in a nasty situation. Being able to say “Thy will be done” is actually pretty impressive when you think about it.

So one of the things that any distress – including vision loss – can do for us is to give us the opportunity to develop grace, to transcend through acceptance (not approval or resignation). The meaning in your life becomes your quest to transcend.

Another thing distress can do is build mental and emotional “muscles”. I have one client who has endured heavy duty mental illness. He amazed himself with how tough he could be. The meaning he gained through his trials was “I learned how tough I truly am”.

To quote Nietzsche once again, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger”. Or at least it makes us aware of the strength that was there all along. Perhaps the meaning in your pain is “I’m tough, I’m bad. Even this nonsense cannot defeat me.”

So, meaning and purpose can both be helpful in allowing you to accept and endure distress. Maybe your meaning is nothing more than showing yourself and the world you can weather the storm with grace and strength. That’s okay. “The way a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails…gives him ample opportunity…To add a deeper meaning to his life”. 

Next: coming soon!

Home

Ratings

  • Rate this
  • Summary
Current Average Ratings
Overall quality
Avg: 0/5
Applies to topic
Avg: 0/5
Helpful to me
Avg: 0/5
Meaning and Purpose
Total Avg Rating: 0.00 out of 5 with based on 0 rating(s)
Overall quality
Applies to topic
Helpful to me