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Blocks to Meaning: The Calcification of Awareness

Leveraging Logoteleology’s Meaning Antecedent Analysis

Luis A. Marrero, M.A. RODP, LLP

Founder and Managing Partner, Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose

The Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose trains, certifies, and licenses coaches, therapists, and consultants around the world on Meaningful Purpose Psychology or Logoteleology (or its cut version, Logotelogy) methodology. This article, even though directed to our student cohort as a study guide, is shared with the public for the benefit of those interested in learning about logotelogy and its approach to therapy, coaching, and consulting. The article assumes students are intimately familiar with the terms of the Logotelogy science. For that reason, guest readers unfamiliar with Logotelogy’s concepts and definitions will benefit from reading my books: Meaningful Purpose: A Primer in Logoteleology

and articles in my blog: Also, here, as a class paper, we do not cite sources with the same rigor as we would in psychological journals. For those interested on the scientific sources of logoteleology, please read my books and subsequent editions.

Abstract: Based on Logoteleology theory, this paper discusses the role that meaning antecedents play in shaping the quality of self-awareness in personality. It lists some of the usual psychological suspects that block self-awareness, and how the AVR Method (c) is leveraged by Logotelogists in therapy, coaching, and consulting. The article introduces the concepts of meaning calcification and meaning-sclerosis.
Any fool can know. The point is to understand. ~ Albert Einstein ~

In my first book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology, I explained how identities and the meaning one gives to life are formed. To quote from the book:

“…identities come from our DNA, our family (psychosocial), culture (sociocultural), accumulated life experiences, and current situations or context. These make us biopsychosocial organisms.”

A family’s economic status, a child’s neighborhood cronies, even the seasonality of the weather in the region where someone is born into are all examples of circumstantial factors that could play a significant role in the formation of identities. As such, we refer to these shapers of identities as meaning antecedents.

“These meaning antecedents, which are unique for each human being, help organize people’s worldviews and give significance to their daily lives.”[i]

Throughout our development, we are shaped by genetic predisposition, our home experience, the influence of our cultural heritage, and what life has taught us through education, as well as our experiences interacting in the world. Logotelogy calls these “Meaning Antecedents” because — combined — they shape the meaning of life for an individual. This meaning includes the self, and also the self in relation to the social context and other environmental elements. In short, meaning antecedents shape who we are (and not), and where we belong (and not). Moreover, this “meaning of life” operates at the unaware level; at least until the individual follows a process to make it more overt, self-determined, and directive. In other words, everyone has an operating meaning of life; yet, most people are not fully aware of what that meaning is in an organized sense, or able to articulate it in response to the question, “what is the meaning of life?”

  1. Our biogenetic DNA

  2. Family (psychosocial) influence

  3. Culture (sociocultural) or following dominant social norms

  4. Accumulated learning and life experiences (biographic history)

  5. Current situation and context

The Bright Side of Meaning Antecedents

To Logotelogy students, meaning antecedents are helpful because, among other benefits to understanding personality, they differentiate us from others and underlie our uniqueness. Meaning antecedents too can help us to succeed and to thrive when we are true and aligned with our context’s social norms, traditions, and customs. For instance, about my uniqueness, in relationship to my siblings, I am the youngest, and my name is Luis. My brother and sister cannot make that claim. On the other hand, they each also have their own irreplaceable distinctiveness. Pertaining to norms, traditions, and customs, I was raised in a Spanish-speaking home which made it easy for me to communicate with members of my family and neighbors. There were also unique norms and customs embedded in me that last to this day. As an example, for the most part, it would be inconceivable for people in my culture – myself included — to leave a senior member of the family in a retirement home. In contrast, other cultures do not object to that.

The Dark Side of Meaning Antecedents

As you would expect, what had served me so well as a child did not always turn out to be helpful as an adult, especially when interacting out of my comfort zone. For instance, after high school, my first months studying abroad demanded a lot of adjustment on my part. An additional adjustment was required when I started to conduct business in other countries; and when I had to work with individuals with diverse backgrounds and nationalities even on my own turf. The problem was not confronting the differences when interacting with other cultures; at the end of the day, these contrasting realities proved to be of profound benefit to me. The dark side of my meaning antecedents was that — in my ignorance — I started judging others for not being like me, and for not following my personal and my inherent cultural standards and norms. I also started blaming others for what I now confess was the arrogant discomfort I felt being out of my comfort zone.

Have you experienced the same? Have you ever operated as if your standards should be the world’s standards, and that every decision must meet the criteria of your comfort zone and world view?

What I realized over time was that if I persisted with that view, I would be pushing others away and end up being a very lonely person; as well as windup a failed professional. Once aware of these potential consequences, and thanks to wonderful mentors, I started the process of becoming a truly global leader who thrived in diversity.

Self-awareness. Generally, the condition of being aware of or conscious of oneself – in the sense of having a relatively objective but open and accepting appraisal of one’s true personal nature. [ii]

The Story Behind the Story

This is a story about self-awareness. Logotelogy students and practitioners learn and use a tool called the AVR Method©. It has application in therapy, coaching, and consulting. The purpose of the AVR Method© is to help Logotelogy practitioners follow a proven and reliable process to support their clients. The first phase of the method and process is Meaning Awareness. Meaning Awareness is a critical step because without a clear, and unadulterated awareness of self, of others, and of consequence, the client will lack sufficient information to work with and to make the most of life. According to our findings, clients who have low self-awareness are more inclined to quit the therapeutic, coaching and consulting process before issues are resolved. It also explains why problems with known solutions continue to persist. Hence, it is indispensable that the Logotelogy practitioner is skilled in partnering with the client in “mining meaning.”

“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” ~ Abraham Maslow ~

Logotelogy’s Thesis and Meaning Awareness

As many readers know, Meaningful Purpose Psychology came to be because of a bewildering paradox. In my book I wrote, “Mankind… does not suffer from a lack of answers. Rather, it suffers despite the answers being available.” Think about it. We are swamped with knowledge and answers in the form of libraries and bookstores brimming with books and professional as well as academic journals, gurus, institutions of higher education, training and consulting firms of all types; and yet, as recent as 2013 the United Nations World Happiness Report declared, “We increasingly understand that we need a very different model of humanity…” [iii] Coincidentally, I published my first book “The Path to a Meaningful Purpose” in that same year, and I stated then “I also believe that at the heart of humanity’s inability to solve its fundamental problems lies a lack of understanding of who we are and what we are here for. As a species, we suffer from an identity crisis.”[iv] Reading subsequent United Nations Happiness Reports, the aspiration of reaching states of happiness in the world continues to be a challenge. Yet, I remain hopeful that the growing number of meaning-centered research and application publications will soon favor more meaningful choices.[v] The consequences of not embracing the meaningful[vi] are too unbearable to consider.

Blocks to Meaning Awareness

The obstacles to awareness are readily available in psychological literature. The usual suspects include (and particularly) self-justification theory, cognitive dissonance, repression, resistance, projections, blind spots, confirmation bias, psycho-physiological phenomena, transference, the use of sarcasm and other types of coping and ego-defense mechanisms.

Self-justification theory. A theory that seeks to explain why many people are motivated to justify and maintain the status quo even, despite the paradox, when the current state is one of change or incipient change.[vii]

It is not my intent to review all these potential obstacles here; neither is it valuable to rehash the stated and the obvious as if these were something new. Rather, my intent is to briefly explain blocks to meaning through a concept I label as meaning calcification. Again, I want to impress on the reader that we – as a human species — do not lack for information and solutions; including understanding the forces and phenomenon that prevent individuals and groups from seeing what is before them. For that reason, Logotelogy-centered methods are designed to help people understand:

  1. why despite the solutions being available the answers are not embraced; and

  2. how to genuinely and in a self-determined way chose to remain open to greater awareness and transformation

  3. what conditions or circumstances are most conducive to openness and transformation, and how to generate, reinforce, and sustain such environments

  4. how genuine self-awareness can trigger a willing disposition to improve, to gain competence, to build confidence, and hence to succeed

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. ~ David G. Myers, Ph.D., Hope College

The lack of transparent and unbiased awareness is not unique to individuals. It too has the potential to hamper groups, organizations, and whole societies and nations from seeing and accepting what is sensibly before them. These obstacles to perception and self-awareness prevent humans from understanding the significance and consequence of flying blind. As a result, as individuals, groups and as a species, we do not learn and continue to repeat the same mistakes. Human-made problems will persist as long as we continue to

  1. remain unaware

  2. choose not to follow what common sense and empirical evidence makes obvious

  3. do what has been proven not to work

…and all this despite the evident answers glaring at us as a blinding light.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein ~ To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic. ~ Viktor Frankl ~

Roots of Meaning Calcification

The dictionary defines calcification as a hardening or solidifying; rigidity.[viii] While being rooted in meaning can be viewed as a positive outcome for our worldview, this firmness can also lead to inflexibility. For instance, distorting how we interpret new and meaningful information. This has relevance for Logotelogists trained to perceive the moment in time when people face a problem, are dealing with a complex situation, or are confronted with the unbiased truth, yet are unable or unwilling to face up to it. Thus, the meaning of the situation demanded of the individual is not acted upon. Instead, the right meaning and response are replaced by another meaning with greater psychic influence (i.e. psychological script) tasked to uphold the block to reason, sensibilities, indisputable evidence, and common sense.

This inability, refusal or apathy to perceive and to respond to a sensible insight we call meaning calcification. Meaning calcification explains how a meaning set’s content[ix] is programmed to lock out some types of incoming information; particularly understanding how the client blocks his or her disposition to perceive and to gain penetrating insight (i.e. understanding consequence). It can be said, using computer language, that the flawed meaning set has a virus or “bug” to self-awareness.

Sources of meaning calcification are varied, and many – some referenced above – are already covered in psychology literature. For the benefit of the lay reader, in everyday language meaning calcification symptoms are explained using terms such as a person being stubborn, insensible, inflexible, mocking, cynical, sarcastic, defensive, and so on.

Meaning Calcification and Meaning-sclerosis

Meaning calcification (blockage) gives rise to meaning-sclerosis – the absence of critical information for success and thriving. Meaning calcification is the cause of low self-awareness, and meaning-sclerosis is the effect. For instance, a person can be stubborn regarding anything contrary to his or her political biases (i.e. meaning-sclerosis) due to a childhood introjection of following the family or regional party line, no matter what (meaning calcification). To this person, the meaning of loyalty to the political party of the family or region takes precedence over – and even blocks — a meaning that dictates that one should follow a respectful and unbiased analysis of all points of view. For this reason, the Logotelogist gives priority to helping the client reduce meaning calcification (root cause), to eliminate meaning-sclerosis (effect or consequence).

Continuing the example referenced above, a trained Logotelogist would not waste time trying to convince the person on the potential error of her or his political perspective (content). Rather, she or he would be more focused on what information is allowed in and blocked out, why this is so, and the consequences brought on by the immovability of this perspective (process). While the “why” can be approached with a clinical lens, using concepts such as — in-group / out-group phenomenon, confirmation bias, and self-justification, the analysis of attributions about others’ intent — another option is to use every day lay-terms and to seek out a simple and frank acknowledgement of the fear the individual may have of what others might think of them if they allow themselves to consider objectively another’s view.

During the intervention, when the client is unable or unwilling to be open to feedback and receptive to helpful information, the topic or subject that is being discussed takes a back seat to resistance. The Logotelogist must first – speaking figuratively — work to help the client remove the speck from the eye so that he or she can see.

A Solution to Tackle Meaning Calcification

We can begin to understand from the previous points that the insightful Logotelogist gives priority to assisting the client in learning how she or he resists or blocks self-awareness information. For obvious reasons, during the intervention, when the client is unable or unwilling to be open to feedback and receptive to helpful information, the topic or subject that is being discussed takes a back seat to resistance. The Logotelogist must first – speaking figuratively — work to help the client remove the speck from the eye so that he or she can see.

I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them. ~ Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument Kings ~

There are various tools used by Logotelogists to understand how individuals block self-awareness; in this article, we only focus on meaning antecedent analysis. Again, when a client is unable or unwilling to see reality, discussing the client’s situation takes a back seat. Instead, the Logotelogist helps the client to understand – through psycho-education – how people generally approach solving human-related problems; particularly, what is helpful, and what can go wrong.

How People Generally Solve Human-related Problems

It requires understanding how

  1. People perceive (or don’t perceive) information

  2. Mental processes decide what does and doesn’t merit attention

  3. A meaning of the situation, the self, or another person is finally shaped and chosen

  4. The meaning finds purposeful expression through action

  5. The action leads to a consequence

Logotelogists help clients appreciate how meanings and their antecedents can contribute to an awareness that is either open and receptive or closed and unreceptive.

It is a given that the guidance a medical doctor would give to a patient with blocked arteries would likely include a change to her or his diet. It would not be to stop eating altogether; but rather to replace some of the foods consumed with more healthy options. This conclusion is not different from what a trained Logotelogist would advise. But instead of foods being replaced with more nourishing options, the Logotelogist encourages the client to replace unhealthy meanings with more healthy meaningful options.

In summary, the idea is to help the client understand what is the quality of his or her self-awareness; and how well such quality serves them. Said differently, clients are helped through increased awareness to perceive what type of information they allow-in and block-out, how they do it, and why or for what reason.

Logotelogists help clients appreciate how meanings and their antecedents can contribute to an awareness that is either open and receptive or closed and rigid. Moreover, in a therapeutic, coaching, or consulting situation the professional Logotelogist knows when to move into psycho-education. The Logotelogist’s goal is to strengthen the client’s self-efficacy[x] and ability to self-regulate. This includes helping the client

  1. Gain a basic understanding of the approach people follow to address human-related problems (covered previously)

  2. Appreciate the quality of her or his own problem-solving approach

  3. Reveal the operating “truisms” of his or her situation

  4. Make out the psychological goal (i.e. What is the aim or intention), and infer the consequence, of his or her approach (i.e. The potential or desired impact on self, another or the situation)

  5. Select and decide on the unbiased standards for future meaningful decision-making and choice selection

Summary and Application

We’ve covered how meaning antecedents shape identity, particularly the content of meanings. We also learned that meanings – because of such antecedents – can become calcified or blocked, preventing unbiased self-awareness. Problems cannot be solved as long as there are blockages to meaning, the same way blood cannot properly flow through obstructed veins or arteries. Just as there is such a thing as arteriosclerosis, in Logotelogy we also use the term meaning-sclerosis to describe the effects of low self-awareness. The skilled Logotelogist gives priority to helping the client understand how she or he sabotages self-awareness. Exposing blockages to self-awareness, understanding their role in personality, and removing them for unbiased access to information takes priority. The Logotelogist does not attempt to solve the stated problem as if there is no resistance to self-awareness.

Psycho-education plays a key role in helping the client understand his or her behavior, and exposing what “truisms” trigger such behavior. The skilled Logotelogist combines her or his understanding of how meanings are formed by antecedents with psycho-education in order to increase the client’s ability and confidence to self-regulate for the meaningful.

Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~

Meaning calcification applies to individuals, groups, organizations, and societies across international borders. Humanity’s ability to see clearly and to solve its most pressing problems depends on its willingness and ability to discern through an unbiased and healthy self-awareness. The calcification of meaning leads to meaning-sclerosis, or the inability to have and process relevant and impartial information. Humans would be well-served to discover what helps and prevent them from discerning so that they can perceive reality as is, and select and follow meaningful standards for decision making. In doing so people will be able to discover why, despite there being answers, humanity suffers from self-inflicted pain, and governmental and business problems persist. The good news is that through such understanding, and following the meaningful path, they will be able to select choices to thrive in life.

And If not now, then when? ~ Pirkei Avot 1:1 If you wish to learn more about ways to free yourself from these obstacles to success and thriving or how you may use this critical topic in your coaching practice, please get in touch with me through the “Contact Luis” tab above or through our webpage: Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose.

©2017 Luis A. Marrero

[i] Marrero, Luis A. The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology, Bloomington, IN: IUniverse, 2013, 75

[ii] Reber, Arthur S., Rhiannon Allen & Emily S. Reber. Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, London, England: 2009, 717

[iv] Marrero. page 61

[vii] Reber, page 720

[ix] Marrero. Pages 63-85

[x] Bandura, A. “Self-Referent Thought: A Developmental Analysis of Self-Efficacy.” Social Cognitive Development: Frontiers and Possible Futures. UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981. 200-239

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