By Luis A. Marrero, M.A., RODP, LLP
CEO, Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose
… values cannot be taught; they must be lived. ~ Viktor Frankl
Sitting in one of London’s iconic black cabs on my way to Heathrow Airport, I considered the positive experiences of the past few days, feeling accomplished, at peace, and yes — still at the tail end of being in a different time zone — tired. I had just spent four wonderful days at the University of Roehampton, sponsor of the International Meaning Conference (30 June – 2 July ,2017). Two of the highlights of the conference were participating in a symposium and facilitating a workshop.
The symposium – Employee Engagement and Organizational Effectiveness, included presenters and fellow members of the International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM), Meaning and Work Division’s (MAWD), Alice Ballantine Dykes, Sharon McCormick, Gordon Medlock, Ken Howard, Shizuka Modica, and I — Luis Marrero. I could not be prouder of my fellow presenters for their talent and dedication in bringing meaning to work and organizations.
The workshop, Coaching for a Meaningful Meaning, was well attended by an engaged audience. During the workshop, among other methods, I introduced meaningful purpose psychology’s (MPP) definitions for meaning, meaningful, meaningless, important and unimportant. I also explained, according to MPP theory, the construct of meanings,[i] and how the MPP Coaching method has benefited clients. As intended, participants had an opportunity to do skill practice. Yet, as a new theory and method, there was at least one person intrigued by MPP’s meaning construct. Here is the story of what followed the workshop….
The counselor was a bit intrigued by Meaningful Purpose Psychology’s (Logoteleology) meaning construct. Holding the workshop’s handout and a copy of my book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology, he approached me and asked, “You state in your book that meanings are made of six meaning types.” Reading from the book, he continues, “Such meaning types, as you call them, are ‘attributes, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, values, and aims’. How did you conclude that?”
For the purpose of protecting his identity, let us call the counselor “Fred”.
After encouraging him to review the sources, I asked Fred if he had ever dealt with a client or patient who suffered of what Frankl called the ‘existential vacuum’. Fred answered in the affirmative.
Here is the dialogue that followed:
Luis: Fred, when this person shared her situation with you, how was she feeling?
Fred: Sad and depressed. Despaired.
Luis: So, is it reasonable to believe that the meaning of her state included feeling sad and depressed? Do feelings mean something?
Fred: Yes, the meaning included feeling sad and depressed. Also, the feeling gave a subjective expression to her meaning state.
Labeling of a sensation is one way to define ‘meaning.’ ~ Sonia March Nevis, Gestalt Therapy
Luis: What was her attitude toward the situation or toward life? Think in terms of having a positive or negative disposition using a like / don’t like continuum.
Fred: Well, she had a negative attitude of defeatism. She was pessimistic about her prospects and view of life.
Luis: Is it possible that a way of uncovering and understanding a meaning is by paying attention to the attitude expressed by the client in some form? If you are able to discern the patient’s or client’s attitude about the meaning given to the circumstances, can you start deducing potential consequence?
Meanings in activities and experiences are easily perceived. More difficult to see is Frankl’s contention that meaning can also be found in attitudes when we face unavoidable suffering.”
…the most hopeful aspect of finding meaning [is] by a change of attitude.” ~ Joseph B. Fraby
Fred: Yes. I see where you are going. What about beliefs, attributes, values and aims? How do those show up?
Luis: Okay, concerning attributes, what does this person think about herself? What does she state about her identity?
Fred: Regarding the case I am thinking of, she attributes failure to herself.
Luis: So, Fred, attributions become part of a meaning construct. It helps a counselor, therapist or coach to gain a deep understanding of the client and her or his situation through the attributions the subject has as a part of his or her meaning. I will later say more about the relevance in terms of healing, and even the prevention of the existential vacuum. But for now, consider how what the client says about herself – her attributions — shapes the meaning of her current reality.
If we close our ears to words and concentrate on observing actions, we would find that each person has formulated his own individual ‘meaning of life,’ and that all his opinions, attitudes, movements, expressions, mannerisms, ambitions, habits, and character traits are in according to this meaning. ~ Alfred Adler
Fred. Okay. Keep going. What about beliefs?
Luis: What did your client believe to be true about her situation or her life?
Fred: That life had no meaning or purpose. Nothing she had done ended up making a difference. She felt unappreciated and alone. Her experiences led her to believe that she was worthless.
Luis: There are few meaning types in what you just said. First, she holds the belief that life has no meaning; that it is meaningless. Whatever she had done to gain some recognition, attention or appreciation had been in vain. It gained her nothing meaningful. In addition to her belief, she also felt unappreciated and alone. Third, she attributed “worthless” to herself.
According to Dr. Carol Dweck, meaning systems help ‘people develop beliefs that organize their world and give meaning to their experiences.’ ~ Luis A. Marrero, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose. Quoting Dr. Carol Dweck. Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development
How are we doing?
Fred: Good. This is interesting. Say more. What about the meaning type values?
Luis. What is important to your client? What value or norm is being violated that has her feel the way she does; that has her making such attributions, and holding such beliefs? What is the meaningful state – or value – lacking in her life or situation?
Fred: That life should be worth living. That she should be happy and that she should have her act together; to have control over her destiny.
Luis: So, Fred, your client has a meaningfulness standard that tells her what and how things should be in order to make her life worth living. Because we are logoteleological or self-regulated beings, values help us pay attention to — and follow — what we find meaningful. Values help us understand — and hopefully pursue — what is right and wrong. Values are ethical and moral standards that regulate behavior. As with the other meaning types, values can be clear, dissonant and incongruent, harmonious and congruent, strong, weak, and even missing-in-action. They also help us to reject or avoid (attitude) what is not meaningful to us. Your client is not happy (feeling) and does not find life worth living (belief) because her values – what is important to her, her code of fairness, what should be right about her life – are not being fulfilled.
“Values, defined by Frankl as ‘universal meaning’, under normal circumstances provide useful guidelines toward meaning.”
Nevit Sanford pointed out that educators must do more than emphasize values. They must stress the meanings behind values. ~ Joseph B. Fabry, The Pursuit of Meaning: Viktor Frankl, Logotherapy, and Life
“We fulfill the meaning of our being here — our being here is filled with meaning — always by realizing values” — Victor Frankl
Modern life offers people a wealth of some forms of meaning, but it doesn’t offer clear guidance about fundamental values. This ‘values gap,’ as I call it, is the single biggest problem for the modern Western individual in making life meaningful. ~ Roy F. Bauermeister, Ph.D
Are you still with me?
Fred: You have my full attention, and I follow you well. This is starting to make sense to me.
Luis: Okay, the last meaning type to cover is aim. What is the potential outcome given the meaning she has given to her life and to the situation? Did she share what she wants to do? Or at least shared what she sees as her options?
Fred: Well, unfortunately, this is one situation where suicide is a possible outcome.
Luis: So, is her stated aim to end her life?
Fred: It is the first she mentioned. I asked her about other options; and she was willing to consider them.
Luis: So, there is an end-game intent, and there could be other possibilities, hopefully more promising of a life worth living, right?
Fred: Yes. I can now see how they are all part of — and present in – a meaning. The aim meaning type is the conclusion of the content from — and the narrative story of — the other meaning types. Based on the dialogue amongst the other meaning types, aims conclude and decide.
Luis: Correct! Aims ask, “So what?” and “What are we going to do about it?” Aims generate a “telosponse” or a call to action. But we will discuss that another day.
[Carol Dweck] and others have researched and reported convincing findings about ‘how people’s beliefs, values, and goals set up a meaning system within which they define themselves and operate.’ ~ Luis A. Marrero, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose. Quoting Dr. Carol Dweck: Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development
As far as we know, at the time of publication, Logoteleology is the only meaning-based science with a meaning construct. The six meaning types are grouped to self-identify us (as in a psychological meaning DNA), and explain on-the-moment dynamics. Together they tell a narrative or story. Organized meaning types are called meaning sets. Meaning sets are made of meaning types and operators (e.g., if … then). Meaning set constructs are not random, accidental, or unsystematic. The construct has a specific organized pattern and subsequent agenda and aim. For the Logoteleologist, a meaning set carries a wealth of relevant information with application in therapy, coaching, counseling and consulting.
Since an identity is a set of meanings attached to the self, this set of meanings serves as a standard of reference for a person. When an identity is activated in a situation, a feedback loop is established. ~ Identity Theory, Peter J. Burke and Jan E. Stets
What is “Meaning”
In Meaningful Purpose Psychology, a meaning is a singular intention backed by reasons, motives, and justifications.
According to Meaningful Purpose Psychology, a meaning is a singular intention backed by reasons, motives, and justifications.Meaningful Purpose: A Primer in Logoteleology, by Luis A. Marrero and Daniel E. Persuitte; (2022)
Logoteleology is a practical theory. It strives to meet the criteria of defining why the problem or solution is relevant and merits attention and focus; what can be done to prevent or remedy the situation, and how the solution will be implemented and success measured.
In the Logoteleological method, full meaning awareness is a precondition to meaning analysis and eventual re-decision and change. The goal of the coach is to help the client or coachee become fully aware of the content of his or her meanings, and their consequences. Leveraging the meaning types (construct) and related questions, the client is guided by the coach to understand the narrative ‘story’ of her or his meaning of life. This allows the client to become more self-aware, and to use the meaning types (construct) to self-regulate with confidence and for meaningfulness.
Logoteleologists use the synergistic and rich spectrum of meaning content through the meaning types to empower the client to replace the meaningless with more meaningful options. So far, the use of this approach has shown promising results. This systemic view of meaning is not unique to Logoteleology. There are other respected author-researchers who subscribe to the idea that people do have a meaning-making system. (Kegan & Lahey, 2016; Dweck, 2000)
One constantly derives meaning after first making patterns out of unorganized experience. ~ Joseph Melnick, Ph.D., and Sonia March Nevis, Ph.D., Harvard University
THE AVR METHOD©
The process followed by Logoteleologists to help clients understand and improve the meaning they give to a situation, to others, to themselves, and to life is called The AVR Method©. It stands for
- Meaning Awareness
- Meaning Analysis
- Meaning Validation
- Meaning Re-decision
- Meaning Replacement / Realignment
- Meaning Reintegration
- Meaning Reinforcement and Sustainment
In summary, the logoteleological method posits that attributes, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, values, and aims are the “stuff” meanings are made of. Logoteleologists are trained and certified to leverage the rich and synergistic content of meanings to prevent and heal personality disturbances. Certified Logoteleology Coaches also use the AVR Approach © from meaning awareness to meaning sustainment to support individuals in their search for meaning in and of life, and to thrive through a meaningful purpose. The AVR Method© has also shown promising results in the field by maximizing client potential, internal resources, and strengths. Still, The Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose welcomes further research on the method.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To learn more about Logoteleology’s coaching approach and how to become a Certified Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose Logoteleology Life Coach please contact the author at Luis@Bostonimp.com, or leave a reply below.
[i] For more information, read Daniel Persuitte and my book, Meaningful Purpose: A Primer in Logoteleology.
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