The Human Quest for Meaning: A Handbook of Psychological Research and Clinical Applications

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Paul T. P. Wong, Prem S. Fry
Erlbaum, 1998 - Psychology - 462 pages
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Does life have real meaning? Is it worth living? How can one make sense of suffering, illness, and death? Through the ages, philosophers, clergy, and laypeople alike have grappled with such existential concerns. Some have taken the position that deep questions about meaning are unanswerable, that ideally one should take life as it comes.

Recent studies have shown, however, that the way in which individuals address existential concerns has profound implications for their mental and physical well-being. We are symbol-making creatures. The quest for meaning is now regarded by many as a universal human motive--as fundamental as our need for food and water. One of the tenets of several new therapies is that an existential vacuum lies at the heart of neurosis and depression. Empirical research has clearly demonstrated that a strong sense of personal meaning is associated with life satisfaction. From a lifespan perspective, the struggle to construe meaning is a never-ending task; its effectiveness seems to predict much about personality development and successful aging. The mediating role of personal meaning in coping with stress has also received increasing attention. No matter how hopeless the situation and how devastating the pain, we are more likely to survive if we cling to the belief that life has some purpose.

In this volume, leading representatives of trends converging from different fields examine the complex processes of meaning seeking, and offer the first authoritative review of the central role of personal meaning in human life and its implications for clinical practice. Brimming with new ideas for research and intervention, The Human Quest for Meaning will be an important resource for all those professionally concerned with mental and physical health.

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