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Resilience and Meaning

February 11th, 2019 · No Comments · resilience and meaning

Resilience and meaning have a lot to do with each other. Much more than we might at first think.

resilience and meaning
In a way, this post is almost “Part 2” to last week’s post, Anxiety and Dealing with Uncertainty in Life. We’re likely much more aware of the linkage between resilience and anxiety, and to realize that building up your capacities and challenging yourself can help you deal much better with anxiety-creating events in life. But how could meaning be connected to this?

It’s striking when we see research of to-day that validates the powerful insights of an earlier time. Dutch psychologists and trauma experts including Prof. Rolf Kleber of Utrecht University conducted research on veterans of wartime and peacekeeping service. Their work revealed that, after military service, those veterans who were better able to process and find meaning in their military experience had higher levels of resilience. This included a greater capacity for personal change and lower levels of distrust of other people, within a general climate of valuing of the self, a broad optimism and a sense of control.

These findings seem very similar to the observation of existential psychologist Viktor Frankl, who saw that, even in the extreme environment of a Nazi concentration camp, individuals who could find meaning or hope stood a better chance of survival than those who lacked these things. Similarly, C.G. Jung emphasized the key importance of meaning in one of his most famous statements:

It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves. The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.

Resilience and Meaning in My Life

In fact, much of Jung’s work as a psychologist centers around the great importance of people finding sustaining meaning in their lives. As Jungian Andrew Samuels tells us,

The question of meaning was central to Jung and to all that he undertook as person, doctor, therapist

Samuels, Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis

Jung makes it clear, though, that each individual has to find what it is in life that is particularly meaningful to him or her, and that this differs a great deal from individual to individual. It could be found in religious or philosophical or ethical values — or in the particular hobby that suits me best. But it’s only this individual sense of meaning that will add resilience and a sense of value to my life

Masquerading as Meaning

We can sometimes get misled by things that seem like they carry real meaning for us, when they actually don’t. The current of popular fads, fashions and trends can often seem seductive, and like they carry us toward deep and real meaning. Yet if, in the end of the day, they have nothing to say to me about the value and direction of my own unique life, then what will last through the most difficult parts of life? These are questions about what really deeplyhttps://www.briancollinson.ca/index.php/about-psychotherapy-counselling-services/midlife-transition matters when we go through loss, grief, major life transitions and midlife transition — things that require great resilience.

On The Quest for Individual Meaning

What kind of meaning will last through life? Often, it is the most difficult times in life that make us ask that question at its most profound level. Individual meaning, things that are invaluable to me as an individual. The symbollic

Resilience and meaning go hand in hand. To find a sense of individual meaning is to gain the sense that my individual, particular way of being myself in the world matters, makes some difference, counts.

To find what is meaningful, and to align myself with it, to live in accord with it, is one of the most important pieces of work that a individual will do in the course of life. It is also, often, one of the most sustaining, because of the intimate link between resilience and meaning. In the normal course, it becomes one of the most important aspects of an individual’s work in depth psychotherapy.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2019 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS: Holly Lay (Creative Commons Licence)

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