Victor Frankl one of my favorite psychologists defines our need for meaning as the driving force for our existence. He calls it the will to meaning. So according to him we create meaning in three ways.
“We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways:
(1) by creating a work or doing a deed;
(2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and
(3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering” and that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”.
My existence is driven by relationships. I think we go into relationships to support these three ways to create meaning in our lives. Our relationships are of meaning when there is more than just the superficial reasons, Beauty, sex,money,procreation and support with children.
I realise more and more that the way we search or not for meaning in our lives is similar how we treat our relationships. We go into life as we go into relationships. We think we have all the answers and all the plans on how it should work but like life relationships are not insular and life and thus relationships happen. Life does not happen in isolation and input and accidents change the dynamics. So is a relationship, there is another person in the relationship, they do their life and they do it their way.
We are mostly ignorant of how and why things happen the way they do. We imbue meaning after the fact , we look at our break ups and loves and lives and see what we have learned or not and the ascribe meaning to it.
I have a sense our initial ignorance is part of why a lot of relationships fail. Like Harville Henrix says in Imago therapy our relationships are places for us to complete our personal growth. We need to recognise when we select people into our lives we choose from our lack of attributes it is done from a place from where we need to grow . It is meant to be challenging to give us opportunity to grow.
Some people will grasp meaning when it happens in Relationships as it is in life and some people wont. One can stay in a state of ignorance towards your meaning and live a life with a sense of there must be some thing more and better in my relationships or one can recognise that one develops from a place of ignorance towards a place of meaning or not.
Creating meaning in our lives as well as our relationships is part of what and whom we are as human beings. Maybe love we see in people that has been together for a very long time is actually just a sense that they have found meaning in their togetherness after working at it for an extended period of time.
Depression in life as in our relationships are mostly born out by the lack of meaning in them. According to Frankl the biggest single reason for depression is a lack of meaning. If our relationships does not supply the opportunity to create meaning it will depress us.
I think we need to stop making our relationships dependent on does it meet my demands and my needs. We need to look at it and see “Does it support me creating meaning” Our preoccupation with short term goals and instant needs gratification has brought an important part to relationships. It places an imperative on us to take cognizance of our personal needs and our long term satisfaction. Traditionally relationships where more supportive of a greater social need. Also to create social cohesion.
Our consumer driven society has eroded the need for that and the need to stay together irrespective. It has freed us up to take responsibility for creating our meaning and happiness.
My sense is just that we do an either or process, we need to see it as not mutually exclusive. We can use our relationships as a important driver for having a meaningful life