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The ‘Meaning’ of the 2016 Presidential Election

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

CEO Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Depending what political party the American citizens or international observers supported, the United States’ election results can be the cause of glee or depression. Also, I am not surprised that my colleagues in the Positive Psychology and Existential Positive Psychology schools have been shocked by an election process that lacked fundamental norms of civility, as well as the aplomb and character expected of candidates aspiring to the highest office in the world. In this election process, most would agree, positivity and the values associated with virtuous character were in short supply.

Having said that, The Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose (BIMP) is apolitical, and does not endorse specific political parties or platforms. However, the BIMP does publish and promote empirical and common sense standards, propositions and solutions in favor of what is meaningful. We are committed to using sound science to learn what works and does not work, and to encourage the practice of proven and promising values and complementary behaviors that benefit all mankind.

Not surprisingly, in my role as the pioneer of Meaningful Purpose Psychology (MPP) or Logoteleology, I have received requests from my international students and clients to help explain the logoteleological meaning of the election process and results. I have also been asked to share how to respond in light of the election process and results. In that capacity, let me first address the meaning of the election process and its results, followed by what to do about it.

The Meaning

Why are people angry, discontent and fed-up with our government and economic system? For years, logoteleologists have explained that, psychologically, people want to experience five existential states:

  1. To be respected, treated with dignity; as well as to be heard, loved and considered.

  2. To live in peace, and to have peace of mind.

  3. To be content with life, and to experience a general on-going mood of positivity and happiness.

  4. To do interesting work and live a rewarding life. To engage in interesting, rewarding and intrinsically motivating tasks and other stimulating experiences.

  5. To achieve encouraging tangible results for their efforts in terms of prosperity – financial, experiential and intellectual.

  1. Rather than respect, they find that people in positions of power and authority – in government and industry – ignore their needs and sense of dignity.

  2. Rather than having peace of mind, among other challenges, the many see the few living in lavishness; while they are living from paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet, and face challenge in providing their families with basic needs.

  3. Instead of experiencing a state of happiness, many have become frustrated, angry, negative, and vindictive. Norms of civility are set aside, and are replaced instead with responses that violate the previous two points – not respecting, not listening empathically, and taking away others’ sense of tranquility and peace of mind. It becomes a negative spiral toward the meaningless – a lose-lose and punishing proposition where the motto becomes “I will go to hell, but I will drag you with me.”

  4. Instead of doing work that is intrinsically motivating and rewarding, too many are stuck in low-wage part-time jobs; or find themselves working long-hours for stagnant wages, and/or are deprived of the opportunity to grow through promotions and financially. With no end in sight, people lose hope and become irritated.

  5. In place of a sense of progress and prosperity, too many are in a state of poverty; they live a boring and unexciting existence; are unable to purchase necessities, and lack the resources to invest for their young families and for their own retirement.

“Self-inflicted or man-made suffering can be prevented; and MPP proposes that the social sciences – particularly the field of psychology — need to play an active role preventing problems by helping individuals (1) discover what is meaningful and meaningless; (2) discover how they prevent themselves from doing the meaningful; (3) embrace and become skilled practicing meaningful behaviors; and (4) providing them with the necessary tools to create and sustain conditions that lead to human thriving.”

I further added:

“I am often asked a version of the question, why do we humans bring upon ourselves these lamentable conditions that harm so many of us? MPP came to being considering a paradox: How come there is so much self-inflicted suffering when we are living in an age of knowledge explosion? Or as I candidly answered and established in my book, “Mankind, I concluded, does not suffer from a lack of answers. Rather, it suffers despite the answers being available.”

The short answer is, ‘Because we mean to. Period.’ We are agents with the power of choice. Those of us who live in free democratic societies enjoy the freedom to choose. How to be civil, loving, and respectful to one another is not a hidden secret. We are swamped with answers, solutions, and ‘best practices’. We can readily discover and learn what works and does not work in interpersonal, intergroup, and international relations. We have access to libraries, book stores, the internet, wise gurus, universities and research centers brimming with information.”

The bottom line is that the negative outcomes had positive and meaningful answers all along. Unfortunately, we have leaders in government and industry that continue to fail the many; again, this happens despite the answers being readily available.

The Action

What can one person do? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Stay on the Meaningful Path. The meaningful builds, improves, and edifies people and the environment. What I have concluded from all the psychological literature I have studied and researched, as well as through my own practice, it is imperative we act in ways that bring the best in others. We do so by caring for them, giving them peace of mind, contributing to their happiness, aiding in the creation of uplifting activities and work, and ensuring complete benefit and the opportunity to achieve prosperity commensurate to their contribution. It requires allowing others be their best; cooperating, and being altruistic or transcendental. Alfred Adler, the pioneer of Individual Psychology, said it best:

“The only individuals who can really meet and master the problems of life, however, are those that show in their striving a tendency to enrich all others, who go ahead in such a way that others benefit also. All human judgments of value and success are founded, in the end, upon cooperation; this is the great shared commonplace of the human race.”

Viktor Frankl added the following:

The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is.

It is also important to faithfully stay on the meaningful path regardless of conditions. Meaningless behaviors of others and conditions should not be an excuse to align with the meaningless or do what empirical science and common sense tell us does not work. Rather, we should stay on the meaningful course regardless.

It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions. ~ Viktor Frankl ~
  1. Follow what you can control. Let go of what you cannot control. Remain steadfast and focused on what you can do in support of what is meaningfully positive. I suggest you stay in the present, remain vigilant, positive and meaningful, and do not dwell on the unchangeable past or the unknown future. Strive for the best, and prepare for the worst; focused on becoming the best version of yourself.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Viktor FranklWhen we are no longer able to change the situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor Frankl
  1. Be responsible. Historically, citizens of the United States of America (USA) have shown a tenacity to overcome all types of challenges. For the most part, USA citizens have that firmness of mind and unyielding courage called grit. This willing force toward achievement realization is what has made USA citizens access a rich reservoir of courage for success. Triumph demands taking on the challenge in a responsible way, as if outcomes depended on our individual selves rather than on others. However, success will be achieved if we do meaningful things that benefit others. I believe success is a win-win proposition that depends on cooperation and altruism. Let us choose responsible grit in managing our lives in a way that allow us to help others do better, and in the process, ride the wave to shared success.

Whoever will be free must make himself free. Freedom is no fairy gift to fall into a man’s lap. What is freedom? To have the will to be responsible for one’s self.~ Max Stirner ~

©2016. Luis A. Marrero, Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose

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