Well-being Through Intelligent and Healthy Meanings

Luis A. Marrero, M.A., RODP, MLP

Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose

June 3, 2021

“True knowledge is knowledge of causes.”

Francis Bacon

I feel privileged collaborating with my colleague and Master Logoteleology Practitioner (MLP), Daniel Persuitte, to co-author the book Meaningful Purpose: A Primer in Logoteleology, which we plan to publish this year. It is an ideal sequel to my first book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology. This second book updates Meaningful Purpose Psychology’s theory and methods since the publication of The Path in 2013 and provides practical examples and exercises.

Writing the Primer has been intellectually stimulating and fun. Of all the fascinating topics, I selected to write this article on meaning intelligence and health.  Since only students seeking certification as Meaningful Purpose Psychology (Logoteleology or Logotelogy) Practitioners are exposed to an in-depth understanding of the theory, why not benefit you from insights about the upcoming book?  I will also explain why meaning intelligence and health are relevant and can positively impact your life.

Review of Fundamentals

Viktor Frankl defined meaning as “what is meant.” Building on Frankl’s definition, Meaningful Purpose Psychology (MP) defines meaning (Greek logos) as an intention or a goal backed by reasons, motives, and justifications. Nothing can happen without a cause. Hence, the quote above by Francis Bacon: True knowledge is knowledge of causes. MP practitioners are in the business of causes or why.

Also, as I wrote in a previous article

According to Viktor Frankl,

The Psychoanalytic school (Freud) pursues happiness

The Individual Psychology school (Adler) pursues power

The Logotherapy school (Frankl) pursues meaning

More current behavioral sciences, such as the Positive Psychology school (Seligman), pursues the good life or the positive aspects of the human experience.

In turn, Meaningful Purpose Psychology (Marrero) pursues truth and reality.  Without a grounding on truth and reality, previous schools’ worthy contributions cannot be fully maximized.

We applaud and endorse the empirical contributions of these schools.  However, we study and explain why, despite the amazing gifts of the previous schools, a significant segment of this world’s population is not thriving in well-being. If you have read my book or followed my articles here, by now, you should know the paradox that sparked the MP science.

Mankind, I concluded, does not suffer from a lack of answers. Rather, it suffers despite the answers being available.

Luis A. Marrero

Of course, the answer to the paradox is simple and commonsensical. If meaning is what is meant, and an intention or a goal backed by reasons, motives, and justifications, humans suffer because they mean to. Period.

“Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.” 

Alfred Alder

Again, we do not lack answers. Instead, we are flooded with solutions that remain ignored and rejected. How can this be?

Voltaire

Common sense is not so common.

François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

Can Meanings be Intelligent?

To unravel why people would follow what does not work we need to understand meanings at a deeper level. So, let us start by answering the questions: Can meanings be intelligent? If so, what makes them either intelligent or unintelligent?

In MP science, the degree of meaning-intelligence is determined by its empirical content based on truth and reality. Hence, empirically-based beliefs[i] are more intelligent than opinions, hearsay, gossip, manipulative propaganda, or ignorance.  For instance, the existence of the law of gravity is more clever and meaningful than the opinion that there are monsters in my closet.  Assuming my watch is accurate, reading that it is now 12:20 pm is more reliable than guessing it is sometime in the afternoon. Hence, as it is well known in psychology (yes, it is an intelligent affirmation to say), there are levels of intelligence and accuracy, as we can see in this continuum.

Intelligent <———————————-> Unintelligent

When working with my C-Suite clients of Fortune 500 companies, for instance, I pay attention to their critical thinking abilities and how well they are informed (e.g., intelligence). In most cases, their derailers and vulnerabilities are the consequence of faulty meanings. The exception to the rule is when underperformance is due to poor role fit (i.e., performing a job or task that does not align well with personal preference or personality traits); and because — despite honest intentions — they lack the skills.

Also, when training therapists, counselors, coaches, and consultants, I encourage them to test, first and foremost, the quality of their meanings before attempting to analyze and treat their customers’ meanings. This advice should not surprise therapists in particular. It is intelligent to say that meanings can be biased, misinformed, and missing in action through scotomas or mental blind spots. These biases, misinformation, and blind spots contribute to a lack on meaning intelligence.

“Every therapeutic cure, and still more, any awkward attempt to show the patient the truth, tears him from the cradle of his freedom from responsibility and must therefore reckon with the most vehement resistance.”

Alfred Alder

Meaning intelligence and health determine its quality.

Now that we know of intelligence let us move to health.

Can Meanings be Healthy?

The health of meaning is determined by its degree of intelligence. A meaning is healthy when it is prosocial. Prosocial relates or denotes positive, helpful, and intended behavior to promote social acceptance and friendship. [ii] A healthy meaning edifies and brings the best in oneself and others. In contrast, an unhealthy meaning is antisocial and, in some way, self-deprecating.

Healthy meanings are built on MP’s Five Meaningful Life Strivings. These strivings are universal states humans yearn for: love, peace, happiness, interest/engagement, and prosperity. Unhealthy meanings, in turn, yield to the Five Meaningful Life Strivings’ antonyms: lacking love, peace and peace of mind, happiness, exciting things to do, and advancing in life.

Keep in mind that we do know how to make these strivings a reality in our daily lives. I know, and they are genuine to me because I enjoy them every day of my life. And so can you! Yet, complete joy in life eludes the many.

Why would someone hold on to pain if a possible solution were available?

Dr. Robert Leahy

It is sobering to think that you and I can know about a social process that distorts our thinking and still be susceptible to it.

Dr. David G. Myers

Conclusion

I started this article by quoting the father of empiricism, Francis Bacon, where he stated that “True knowledge is knowledge of causes.” Meaningful Purpose Psychology helps people reach positive and significant lasting change. Our method reveals and addresses meaning-based causes through the study and promotion of intelligent and healthy meanings.

Suffering and social as well as mental disturbances are the outcomes of faulty meanings. The path to a meaningful life is founded on being guided by intelligent and healthy meanings – those that meet the criteria of the Five Meaningful Life Strivings: Love, Peace, Happiness, Interest/Engagement, and Prosperity. Failure and a mediocre life is an option. And so its success and a life worth living. As free-willed agents, we can continue doing what does not work or choose to succeed in life. Your meanings are what make a difference. Care for them by building their intelligence and health. Here are some actions you can take:

  1. Commit to intellectual integrity and to be honest. Make sure you operate from a healthy value system.
  2. Distinguish between truth, opinion, ignorance, hearsay, and propaganda. Don’t be gullible.
  3. Determine to always be open and thoughtful regarding new and better information. Seek proof and truth in what you learn. Build your intelligence
  4. Learn critical thinking skills and how to be empirical. You will be well-served having tools to help you analyze and ensure the veracity of information.
  5. Empathically help others who are mislead or misinformed to benefit from the previous points.
  6. Respect others’ view points, even when you disagree. Know when to walk away and not waste time.

 “Someone has to start. Other people might not be cooperative, but that is not connected to you. My advice is this: You should start. With no regard to whether others are cooperative or not.”

Alfred Alder

Please feel free to write comments and ask questions below. I would love to read your views and reactions.


[i] In MP science, beliefs are one of six factors in a meaning construct.

[ii] prosocial defined – Bing Accessed June 3, 2021

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