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'Make Meaning of the Mean!'

Life consists of various experiences, some filled with joy while others present significant challenges. It is the difficult moments that truly challenge us and often leave us searching for clarity. At the core of overcoming and recovering from these hardships lies the idea of "meaning making" - the act of discovering purpose and value in our adversities. There are many key authors that speak into the topic of meaning making and below are insights from just four of them - Judith Herman, Francine Shapiro, Bonnie Badenoch, and the Bible.

Firstly - The Power of Meaning Making

Meaning making involves individuals interpreting and integrating their experiences, particularly those that are distressing or traumatic. This process enables the creation of a cohesive narrative that gives purpose and direction to our lives, turning pain into growth and suffering into strength. Through deep emotional and psychological integration, genuine healing is nurtured.

Judith Herman and Trauma Recovery

Judith Herman, a pioneer in the field of trauma and recovery, underscores the significance of creating meaning during the healing journey. In her influential book, "Trauma and Recovery," Herman presents a three-phase recovery model: safety, remembrance and mourning, and reconnection. The act of making meaning plays a crucial role in the second and third phases, enabling individuals to process their traumatic memories and rebuild connections with themselves and the world around them. Herman contends that constructing a story around traumatic experiences helps people understand their history, regain their identity, and empower themselves. By reshaping their narratives, individuals can integrate their traumatic memories, transforming them from causes of pain into components of a cohesive and strong sense of self.

Francine Shapiro and EMDR Therapy

Francine Shapiro, the developer of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, has significantly contributed to our understanding of how meaning making facilitates trauma healing. EMDR is a psychotherapy approach that helps individuals process and integrate traumatic memories through guided eye movements or other bilateral stimulation.

Shapiro's work demonstrates that processing traumatic memories within a safe therapeutic context enables individuals to reframe and integrate these memories, reducing their emotional intensity and altering their meaning. This reframing is a critical aspect of meaning making, as it allows individuals to view their experiences from a new perspective, fostering healing and resilience.

Bonnie Badenoch and Interpersonal Neurobiology

Bonnie Badenoch, a therapist and author specializing in interpersonal neurobiology, emphasizes the role of relational experiences in meaning making and healing. In her book, "The Heart of Trauma," Badenoch explores how the brain's capacity to heal is deeply connected to our relationships and the narratives we construct.

Badenoch highlights the importance of co-regulation and attunement in therapy, where a compassionate and empathetic therapist helps individuals process their experiences. This relational approach facilitates the creation of new, meaningful narratives that integrate traumatic memories into a broader context of personal growth and resilience. Badenoch’s work underscores the importance of a supportive relational environment in fostering meaning making and healing.

Insights from the Bible

The Bible offers profound wisdom on the transformative power of meaning making, particularly through stories of suffering, faith, and redemption.

The Story of Job: The story is a powerful narrative of endurance and the quest for understanding in the face of immense suffering. Despite his trials, Job’s dialogue with God and his unwavering faith lead him to a deeper comprehension of divine justice and human resilience. Job’s journey illustrates how spiritual reflection and faith can help individuals find meaning and strength through adversity.

Joseph’s Journey: The story of Joseph, marked by betrayal and redemption, underscores the importance of viewing personal trials as part of a larger divine plan. Sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph rises to a position of power in Egypt, ultimately saving his family from famine. His ability to interpret his life events within a broader narrative of divine purpose illustrates how meaning making can provide a profound sense of purpose and direction.


In a world often fraught with challenges and suffering, the process of making meaning out of our experiences is essential for healing and growth.

As we confront the inevitable trials of life, let us remember that the quest for meaning is a deeply human endeavor that connects us to our past, enriches our present, and guides our future. Through meaning making, we can transform the "mean" moments of life into profound lessons of hope, and healing.



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