Is My Life Meaningful — for Me?
One of the most fundamental questions a person can ask is whether his or her life, taken as a whole, is meaningful to her or him. This is different from an abstract question about “The Meaning of Life”. There is no abstract universal answer to the yearning that each of us has for a meaningful life. Every “answer” that an individual finds in terms of meaning in his or her life is an individual answer, an answer that emerges from the very fabric of his or her unique life. On this level the question is as important as it is urgent: Does your life or my life have meaning– not in the abstract, but to us personally?
image: Arjan Hamberg //12186.openphoto.net
Meaning is to be found in the value that we place on our experience and our involvements. It does not reduce to simply “just being happy”: it is something more and deeper than that, something that is not incompatible with happiness, but that can abide through the difficult times and struggles of life.
What gives meaning can vary greatly from person to person. Sometimes it is found in our relationship to other people. Sometimes it is in our vocation, if our work is meaningful or satisfying, or in our avocation — what we do with our time and our life outside of work. Sometimes meaning is found when we can relate symbols intimately to our lives, whether those symbols are found in the arts, in organized religion, or in symbols that have emerged for us as individuals on a deeply personal level — symbols from the depth of psyche.
image: Christof Wittwer //7740.openphoto.net
Many of us struggle to find what is meaningful in our lives. I often have people in my practice who are wrestling with just this kind of issue.
Often the form this takes is that people find that a way of life or a lifestyle which has provided a sense of meaning and value for a long time suddenly ceases to effectively do this anymore. I have often heard people describe this experience in terms of “dryness”, “barrenness” or “being in the wilderness”. For instance, the person who has worked for many years with dedication in a certain career or type of work suddenly finds the work tiring and meaningless. Similarly, a person may have had a certain role in a family, marriage or relationship, and may now find that, all of a sudden, they have realized that what they have been doing for so long seems just meaningless, lacking in value.
This leads often to very real distress, and the individual is forced to look within her- or himself, in a search for a new, deeper, more inclusive meaning and valuation of his or her life. Humans, it seems, need meaning as much as they need food, water or oxygen.
Jungian analysis may be many things and may take many forms, but, if it is effective and deep, analysis always entails a search for meaning and value in one’s life on a very individual level. In this respect, Jungian analysis reflects human life. If our life is to be something more than subsistence, it entails a personal journey toward some value greater than the ego or .the everyday “I”. I wish all my readers growing fulfillment in the search for their own personal meaning, the goal and centre of their lives.