Although we live in conditions and enjoy a quality of life that our parents would not have even imagined, we all have to deal with the obstacles of day to day, with our own limitations and with the difficulties inherent in the condition human. Our era characterizes a society forced to live in a more open and reflective way, depersonalized by various technologies, which faces risks and uncertainties daily, and is made up of social and cultural forms that offer little emotional containment and personal stability, unlike our ancestors.
Many have been the authors who have been interested in the meaning of life and our work, and the significant effect it has on people's well-being, their resilience and psychotherapy.
One author who contributed significantly to deepening the importance and role of meaning in humans is Viktor Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist. Frankl in his book "Man in Search of Meaning" exposes his own experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp between the years 1943 and 1945. There he realizes that having a vital sense had been the cause of his survival in the countryside. His book, written on scraps of paper that he collected from the field, gave him a vital meaning and, therefore, a reason to live. Frankl searched for ways to give meaning to his own suffering and to the suffering of others, concluding that only by surviving could he give meaning to his anguish. Other inmates wanted to survive for different reasons: because of their children or partner waiting for them; to be able to tell the world what he had lived; even to get revenge. Logotherapy emerged from this experience, which tells us that the struggle to find meaning in one's life constitutes the first motivating force of man.
In other words, the human being needs to endow his personal and work life with meaning, to endow it with meaning. The fact of living without it, without goals, objectives, values and ideals, seems to provoke many disorders. Having a clear sense of meaning and purpose alone cannot get us out of depression, misery or anxiety, but it will give us The motivation, optimism, and strength we need to prosper, and that is why it is so important in our lives.
How can we find this sense / meaning that we are talking about? Yalom, in his book "Existential Psychotherapy", describes activities that are intrinsically satisfying and they can provide human beings with a sense of vital purpose. These are some of them:
- Altruism. Making the world a better place, serving others, or volunteering are activities that provide meaning to many people's lives. We can see the effect of altruism on the meaning of the life of cancer patients in their last stage. Yalom observed that patients who have a deep sense of meaning live more fully and face death with less despair than those whose lives are meaningless.
- Consecration to a cause. There are many types of causes: the family, the State, a political or religious cause, etc., that provide meaning to the human being. Many causes have altruistic foundations, but others do not. Still, for an activity to have meaning it is important that the individual be raised above his own level, even if it is not an explicitly altruistic activity.
- Creativity: the fact of creating something new, original or beautiful, constitutes a powerful antidote against the lack of vital sense. We can see this in one of the most recognized musicians worldwide. Beethoven, when he was 32 years old, clearly stated that only his art prevented him from committing suicide: “There is little holding me back from ending my life. Only art. Oh my! It seems impossible to me to leave this world without having realized everything to which I feel inclined; this is why I accept to drag this miserable existence ”. Furthermore, creativity can also be equated with altruism in the sense that many strive to be creative to improve the condition of the world and to discover beauty not only for their own benefit, but also to provide pleasure to others.
- Self-realization. Another source of personal meaning is the belief that human beings must strive for fulfillment and take time to put into practice all their potential qualities. We have seen this concept in theories such as the well-known Maslow pyramid. This theory is based, mainly, on the hierarchy of human needs. The most basic (physiological) needs, which are at the base of the pyramid, must be met to make way for higher needs (protection, belonging, security, etc.). The last step for Maslow is self-actualization. This would be the motivation of our own personal growth thanks to which we can find meaning in life. Maslow says that “The human being is built in such a way that he struggles to achieve an ever more complete being; which means fighting for what most people call positive values, namely serenity, kindness, courage, honesty, love and altruism. " We live implicitly to fulfill our potential capacity. When the person is fully realized, she no longer cares about "self expression" and cares about caring for others or engaging in goals that transcend her own self.
Maria Jose Ortega