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Whisperers of the Mind: Meaning’s Self-talk

Updated: Feb 6

The more man meditates upon good thoughts,
the better will be his world and the world at large.
 ~ Confucius ~

Meditating through self-talk

Based on the previously published series, this article will review meaningful purpose psychology’s (logoteleology) definition of meaning, its elements (i.e., construct), and their relevance to everyday life. I explain how we can self-understand through what we call “meaning analysis” through the construct of meaning. The method is helpful in therapeutic, coaching, counseling, and consulting settings. I will explain how the meaning analysis approach of self-talk and interpersonal exchanges yields deeper understanding and improvement.


Be very careful what you say to yourself because someone very important is listening . . . YOU!
 ~  Zig Ziglar ~

Review of Definitions

  • Meaning: Viktor Frankl defined meaning as “what is meant.” Based on Frankl’s explanation, we define meaning as an aim backed by causes. Nothing can’t be meant and even happen without a “for the sake of” or reason, motive, and justification; in short, a why. As far as we know, all other definitions for meaning meet this criterion: they have an aim and a raison d’etre or reason for being. 


  • Meaning construct: A construct facilitates understanding human behavior. A construct has components or elements generally called factors. These factors interrelate and interact. Think of a time you went to the doctor’s office and saw a chart or plastic model of a heart or a digestive system. The chart shows the parts, and the doctor can tell you how the parts interact. Hence, a meaning construct reveals the components or factors of meaning and how they relate. These elements that make a construct are more than components of meaning– they are powerful and indispensable resources!


  • Meaning-set: The meaning-set reveals the content and interaction of the parts. Following the example of your visit to the doctor’s office and the model of a digestive system, after the doctor explains to you how a digestive system works (construct), he opens your patient file and shares what all the tests reveal. This information from the test results is the equivalent of your meaning-set – its content, interaction, and quality. Each situation has its individual meaning-set. The meaning-set of your interaction with your cat is not the same meaning-set as your interaction with your significant other.


  • Meaning type: “Type” is equivalent to component, part, factor, or element. Meaning has six types or factors: attributes, beliefs, values, feelings, attitudes, and aims.


  • Attributes: A person’s defining and inherent character traits or qualities; an ascription of or designation of intent. Any time we say, “I am,” or “She or he is,” or “They did it,” we are making attributions. Attributions reveal our opinion of ourselves and of others. Our self-esteem and the regard we extend to others is linked to attributions.


  • Beliefs: A firmly held opinion or conviction, a view of what is true or real. Beliefs can also include assumptions, truisms, suppositions, points of view, opinions, and perspectives. What we would refer to as common or general knowledge. Beliefs have an encyclopedia, dictionary, and video library stored in a place called memory. Beliefs hold and are our intellectual or knowledge bank.


  • Values: This type holds and reveals a person’s and society’s principles or standards of behavior. Values is the depository of the human conscience. When you consider the role of the Ten Commandments, a nation’s constitution, marriage vows, and a company’s policies and procedures, they all serve a common function and purpose: to regulate behavior based on standards. As part of their logoteleological nature, humans are self-regulated by regulations or rules when carrying out meanings through a purpose. As a rule, if and when norms are broken, there is a backlash or negative consequence. Values shape concepts such as fairness, mercy, and justice.


  • Feelings: A sensory, affective, and intuitive experience. Feelings mean something and highlight attention. In logoteleology, feelings are not the same as emotions – or energy-in-motion (Also in logoteleology, emotion is part of its motivation construct.). We use our senses of smell, touch, taste, hearing, and sight to trigger attention to what is relevant in the moment. When we feel hunger, thirst, or joy, it triggers a type of curiosity or question.


  • Attitudes: It shows how we respond to people, concepts, objects, and events in an evaluative way through a like/don’t like continuum. We tend to move toward situations that are pleasurable and move away from uncomfortable or dangerous conditions. In this way, attitudes betray or reveal temperament and disposition. Feelings incite attitudes.


  • Aims: It serves as a critical thinking gate where meaning content is vetted. The aim consolidates, processes, organizes, makes sense, and strives to achieve congruence and harmony amongst the meaning types to set an actionable goal. Aim serves as a meeting facilitator, ensuring and consolidating the inputs of all the members to determine a decision and goal. It is the point of decision of the meaning-set. Once ready to move forward, it generates a telosponse: a goal for a purposeful response or a call to action.


  • Aim-intent: An incomplete and undecided meaning. Think of times when you decide not to take action due to a lack of sufficient information. This reluctance meets the criteria of an aim-intent. Aim-intent can also include more extreme cases, such as procrastination and disengagement.


  • Aim-goal: It describes a decisive decision to move forward. It can describe a willing determination based on good information or an impulsive, compulsive, or driven reaction based on ineffective, erroneous, and incomplete data.


  • Meaning analysis: The study of the meaning-set’s content to determine its quality and accuracy. Meaning analysis has applications in therapeutic, coaching, counseling, and consulting situations.


  • Rational meanings: The rational meanings are attributions, beliefs, and values. They have the inherent capability of being able to think. They activate and explain our feelings and attitudes.


  • Sensory meaning: Feelings and attitudes are sensory meanings. They are receptors that respond to specific types of stimuli, be they mental or as the result of bodily stimulation. To understand the meaning of a feeling or attitude, we must find the answer in the rational meanings.


Meaningful Relationships


Relentless, repetitive self-talk is what changes our self-image.

Whisperers of the Mind: Meaning’s Self-talk

The meaning types or factors exchange and influence one another with data. Each meaning type has a content, voice, and say in our thoughts and eventual actions. These exchanges can be deliberate and thoughtful, as in self-talk or out-of-awareness reasoning. Either way, they help form an aim-intent or aim-goal that eventually becomes purposeful action.


An ideal interaction between the meaning types reveals harmony and cooperation. We do this through self-talk, out-loud-thinking, meditating, pondering, and the like. A poor interaction among the meaning types exposes conflict, confusion, competition, and disharmony (e.g., cognitive dissonance). These differences happen for various reasons but will be covered thoroughly in another article. For now, the inconsistencies can be turned into opportunities to bring new information and reconcile differences to form alternate answers and select a wise decision.



Pondering through self-talk

The inner speech, your thoughts, can cause you to be rich or poor, loved or unloved, happy or unhappy, attractive or unattractive, powerful or weak.
~ Ralph Charell ~

On the other hand, people are challenged when they cannot find a way out of the dissonant cauldron. Internal conflict is betrayed by feelings such as anxiety, frustration, anger, and fear, triggered by self-inflicting judgments from the attributions and values meaning types. All mental disturbances are the result of meaning disharmony. A dissonant meaning explains why we can lose the ability to make sense of situations. Meaning analysis is a powerful tool that mines the content and quality of our meanings and sets the stage for improvement.


All mental disturbances are the result of meaning disharmony.

Relevance and Value of Meaning Analysis

Self-talk meaning analysis is an effective method for self-understanding and grasping others’ thoughts and feelings. You can practice your own meaning analysis, capturing your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Then, read your notes and find those things you attribute to be true. Who are the protagonists and antagonists? Who are the victims, rescuers, and persecutors? What are the facts or opinions of the situation? How true or valid are they? What are the operating norms and expectations? Which are being followed and violated? Who feels what and why? What are the attitudes of the stakeholders? Who is moving toward or moving away? Why?



Meaning analysis coaching

 

These types of questions can provide a rich source of information that you can examine and validate. The meaning analysis can also generate new questions, such as,


  • What is this situation or life asking me to do?

  • What can I learn from this state of affairs?

  • What must I improve to experience internal harmony?

  • Which meaning type is doing a good job and which is not?

  • What would a responsible and ethical person do?

  • How clear and sound are my values in guiding decision-making?

  • What is the quality of my self-esteem?


Practical meaning analysis can lead to targeted improvement by honing on those promising meaning types that can make a positive difference. There is an art and science to doing meaning analysis. It reveals the stories and narrative dialogue we think and feel about through self-talk, including mining and revealing the voices we are unaware of. This practice includes assessing the quality of the content of each meaning type and their interactions and influence on behavior – a competence acquired by certified meaningful purpose psychology practitioners.


However, with a basic understanding of meaning, its components or types, and how they communicate and interact, you can improve and grow over time with practice. Among other types of improvement, one is re-meaning or coming up with a more appropriate and correct version, and another is creating new ones.


The logoteleological approach is very similar and even complementary to cognitive behavioral therapy, but the models and ends can be different, going beyond the solving of a particular problem. Logoteleology not only supports targeted behavioral problems, it also deals directly with the meaning of life and what makes life meaningful, under the terms of the client – what Viktor Frankl described as “the existential vacuum.” As a practice, we are more invested in preventing existential vacuum problems rather than treating them. Hence, while logoteleologists can treat mental disturbances, our primary service is psychoeducation and training as a preventive tool.


Meaning analysis can also help you listen to others with greater attention to determine what each meaning type reveals individually and collectively. This ability can help you select the best strategies to reply and interact to avoid confusion and conflict. It can also help you create conditions that yield harmonious and positive relations. In other words, as others have benefited, following the method can help you better perceive incoming information, make sense of it, and respond in a way that keeps communication harmonious and flowing to a positive end.


If human emotions largely result from thinking, then one may appreciably control one’s feelings by controlling one’s thoughts – or by changing the internalized sentences, or self-talk, with which one largely created the feeling in the first place.
~ Albert Ellis ~

The Meaning of Life

Finally, meaning analysis can also reveal a person’s meaning of life. Hence, having the competence to mine meanings can be invaluable.


For more information on how meaning analysis can be of help, please contact me.


Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose

Our Mission: We help people realize their potential to grow and thrive through meaningful purpose


Discovering Life's Answers. ™



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We encourage you to attend our next "The Paths We Choose Workshop," planned for Sunday, December 10th, 2023, in Westfield, MA, to learn more about meaning and the meaningful path. For more information on this and future sessions, click The Paths We Choose: A Workshop | authorluismarrero. This session was planned for individuals who have difficulty taking time off from work during the regular workweek.

 

21st Century Workplace Forum: Cultivating Meaningful and Prosperous Workplaces

A Second-Wave Organization Development Perspective

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