"Meaning is what is meant." ~ Viktor Frankl ~
When I started to study meaning, I was struck by the multiple definitions. Meaning is a concept that’s been pondered by philosophers, psychologists, and everyday folks alike. At its core, it’s the idea that life has significance and purpose and that we strive to find and create that meaning in our lives.
There are a few schools out there that dwell on the topic of meaning. To highlight a few of them, existentialism emphasizes that we create meaning through our actions and choices. At the same time, positive psychology focuses on cultivating positive emotions, strengths, and virtues to create a meaningful life. Cognitive psychology examines how our thoughts and beliefs shape our perception of meaning.
What is logoteleology?
Logoteleology, the scientific name of meaningful purpose psychology (MP), values and leverages these schools’ contributions. MP examines the actual content of meaning to determine its quality and how we experience life. Rather than focusing solely on positive emotions or the process of finding meaning, logoteleology looks at what the meaning itself entails and how it shapes our experiences. We are able to study the content of meaning through a construct or components of meaning – three rational, two sensory, and one teleological or goal-oriented (to be discussed in a future blog). MP, as far as we know, is the only meaning-based science with a “construct” or components that make up the meaning. Fortunately, through these components, people can discover what triggers the behavior and why – and if they choose to – they can improve the quality of their lives.
Another distinguishing characteristic of logoteleology is its focus on studying and explaining the sources of human striving and struggle -- through an MP meaning lens -- and finding ways to prevent and remediate human self-inflicted struggle and suffering. We have found that people may inadvertently hinder their pursuit of genuine joy and meaning through “meaning blocking.” This opposing force occurs when people hold onto false or unhelpful beliefs about what brings meaning to their lives or resist exploring or embracing new meaning out of fear or a sense of comfort in the familiar. Meaning blocking can lead to stagnation, dissatisfaction, and a sense of emptiness.
Viktor Frankl’s differentiation of psychology schools can help us understand the uniqueness of meaningful purpose psychology. Paraphrasing Frankl, he stated that:
Freud’s Analytical School is motivated by happiness (some would say “pleasure” is a more fitting term).
Adler’s Individual Psychology School is motivated by power.
Frankl’s own Logotherapy is motivated by the search for meaning.
We can mention Seligman’s Positive Psychology centered on helping people flourish through character strengths and behavior.
On the other hand, in Meaningful Purpose Psychology, one of the science’s core hypotheses is that without a grounding in truth and reality, the potential and contributions of the previous schools cannot be achieved. Blocks to meaning ultimately obstruct access to clear and unbiased understanding and, hence, human thriving. That explains why our methods are both preventive and remedial. Preventive in that we help people form healthy meanings for human thriving, and remedial in that we support our clients in discovering the content of toxic meanings and replacing them with high-quality options.
How does meaningful purpose psychology then contribute to human thriving? Here are just a few ways logoteleology adds value to others
First, it offers a rigorous analysis of meaning.
Second, it emphasizes the identification of self-imposed barriers.
Third, it prioritizes the removal of obstacles before introducing quality information.
Fourth, it ensures the reliability and empirical nature of information.
To summarize, logoteleology embraces the contributions of other psychological meaning-based schools, yet it is unique in that it describes the content of meaning through six components and strives to remove obstacles to human thriving – such as biases -- through meaning analysis and replacement approaches. In order to thrive in life, a person needs to be grounded in reality and truth. Meaningful Purpose Psychology empowers individuals who are so anchored to uncover the true essence of meaning.
"Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect, he ceases to love.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov ―