• April 13, 2024

The Psychology of Meaning in Life: A Book Review

People may wonder a number of things during their lives, including “What kind of life am I living?” “For what do I fight?” “What makes them worthy of taking up my life?” People may get confused, dispute the status quo angrily, or even decide to flee from reality when faced with these concerns. According to page 35, “Meaning becomes conscious and can be experienced, but only in its absence.” Author Schnell (2009) offers readers an opportunity to reflect and discover their own inner meaningfulness through this thorough investigation of meaningfulness.

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Assessment on the Content of the Book

Given that the author is a highly qualified psychologist, the organization and composition of the book’s contents appear to be based on the author’s own experiences and sensitive investigation of the meaning of life. Instead than merely summarizing the findings of several research, the author skillfully crafts compelling examples and narratives to let readers delve deeper into the significance.

This book has fourteen chapters. Chapter 1 of this book draws readers in by raising the need for meaning in contemporary culture. The next eight chapters of the book paint a picture of the landscape around the idea of meaningfulness in people’s lives. “Life’s meaning is a multifaceted concept” (p. 6). Three notions are defined more clearly in Chapter 2: sources of meaning, meaningfulness, and crises of meaning. The quantitative and qualitative methods of measuring life’s significance are covered in sequential order in Chapter 3. Additionally, it highlights how easily one may record their states of meaning using the Sources of Meaning and Meaning in Life Questionnaire (SoMe; Schnell, 2009) and the SoMe Card Method (La Cour and Schnell, 2020). The components of the meaning pyramid for individuals are demonstrated in Chapter 4, and the dynamics and variety of meaning throughout a person’s life are depicted in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 highlights the predictors of meaning and the three essential qualities of sources of meaning: breadth, balance, and depth. This serves as a reminder to readers to assess their possible sources of meaning. Chapter 7 then discusses the connections between meaning and social inclusion. Meaning crises (Chapter 8) and existential apathy (Chapter 9) are presented and described in a methodical and understated way for those who experience low meaning.

The remaining chapters in this book cover a variety of subjects pertaining to meaningfulness in daily living. Does meaning equate to happiness? In order to explain why meaningfulness has a special significance for people, the author differentiates between the ideas of eudaimonism and hedonism and provides an explanation for Frankl’s resonant tale (Chapter 10). In Chapter 12, this book provides an example of existential psychological therapies for patients to enhance their meaningfulness, as meaningfulness is beneficial to both mental and physical health (Chapter 11). Given that work is an integral part of contemporary life, but also often leaves individuals feeling worn out and sad, Chapter 13 explores the purpose of employment. It demonstrates that the sources of meaning for different people are not identical to the meaning of employment. As at the beginning of this book, the author concludes the last chapter with a brief reflection on the meaning of life in contemporary society.

Talk

This book’s chapters aim to guide readers through a series of questions that gradually reveal the significance of each chapter. The astonishing and clever self-exploration section based on the prior information is included at the end of each chapter. Readers may examine their own lives and enhance their subjective well-being by learning practical advice or engaging in easy activities. Clinical staff may also benefit from these exercises, which include filling out the individualized model of meaning (p. 36) and evaluating life as a book exercise (p. 199), since they can assist individuals in clarifying their current state of affairs and discovering their heart’s light.

Overall, this book goes beyond a straightforward summary of the psychological underpinnings of life’s meaning. As the book shows, while social structure largely separates individuals’s fundamental sources of meaning, contemporary society allows people to grasp their diverse meaning. Then, it becomes simpler for employees and students who are frantic for independence to lament the purposelessness and meaninglessness of their everyday existence. This book examines the potential root causes of “downshifting” (p. 226) and “invisible youth” (p. 126) from the perspective of existential indifference and meaning crises. It implies that education and medical professionals should accept the condition and raise awareness among the public about the right to a meaningful life. The inherent thematic appeal of this book is living a creative life, focusing more on the common interest, and strengthening the connections between welfare and others.

While this book is useful and beneficial, prospective readers should be aware of some drawbacks. First of all, there is not enough room in this book to systematically outline the difficult process of looking for meaning, which is a problem that is inherent to the psychology of meaning in life (Steger et al., 2008a,b). Furthermore, the majority of the actual data in this book comes from Westerners. However, cultural disparities might lead to divergent perspectives on what it means to live (Steger et al., 2008a). Finally, but just as importantly, this book has far too many unfinished words that are most likely the consequence of printing errors, which greatly hinders fluid reading. The author might make this book better in these areas if the second edition were taken into consideration.

In summary, this book can offer basic psychological understanding of meaningfulness to students, psychologists, and professional therapeutic practitioners. It can also help those who are unsure of their life’s purpose or are curious about it to reflect on and educate themselves.

Author Contributions:

The manuscript was written by YT. JY made revisions. Each author authorized the article’s submission for publication and made contributions to it.

Potential Conflicts of Interest

The research was carried out without any financial or commercial ties that may be seen as having a conflict of interest, the authors disclose.

Note from the Publisher

The writers alone make all of the claims made in this article; the publisher, editors, reviewers, and any related organizations do not necessarily endorse them. The publisher makes no guarantees regarding any product that is reviewed in this article or any claims made by the maker.