What is the meaning of life? This one question is one of the most persistent questions human beings have asked themselves throughout the ages.
Dr Demartini will shed light on this great question of meaning. He will help you discover the difference between a more common, superficial, subjectively biased meaning, and a rarer, deep, more objective meaning.
He’ll show you how the latter form of meaning will allow you to live a more fulfilled, balanced life, and how to extract such meaning from any experience – even those initially perceived to be challenging!
What is the meaning of life?
Over the years, many thinkers have tried to identify a universal meaning that unites all human beings, often with varying interpretations and ideas.
On the one extreme, the French philosopher Albert Camus believed that there was no inherent meaning to any event other than what an individual gave it.
On the other hand, other philosophers and some theologians believed that there was one meaning that was given by some divine authority or deity revealed through great prophets depicted as the golden mean.
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Let me elaborate a bit on these TWO TYPES of meaning:
#1 – A superficial, subjectively biased, individualized meaning.
#2 – A deeper, broader, more transcendental meaning similar to what Aristotle referred to in his time.
I will develop each of them and put them into context as best I can.
Type of Meaning #1 – A superficial, subjectively biased, individualized meaning.
From the time you were conceived, through all of your developmental stages in gestation, at birth, and from birth to where you are now, you’ve been accumulating primary sensory experiences. Many if not most of these experiences have been pleasure- or painful-oriented, seeking- or avoiding-oriented, or survival-oriented.
You also have secondary associated experiences that either remind you or do not remind you of previous polarized experiences you’ve had.
These previous experiences can become associated with and be compounded by subjectively biased interpretations of each new experience you have.
In other words, you have an accumulation of experiences that add together and summate into what you interpret with every new stimulus and experience. This accumulation results in neural or ‘mental’ associations that we make.
For example, suppose you date a series of men with brown hair that you perceive to be ambitious and aggressive. In that case, you might assume that every brown-haired man you meet will also be ambitious and aggressive.
If you then meet a brown-haired man who is NOT as ambitious, you may tweak your perception and say, ‘Okay, maybe there is a small percentage of brown-haired men that are more laid back.’
As you accumulate experiences, you tend to place associations on every new experience that you have.
Each of those associations gives you a different interpretation of your reality. You’re also likely to start associating various meanings to different experiences.
Let us now add the role that others have played in your life, beginning with your mother and father, who each stacked their individual associations and imposed them on you, thereby giving you their interpretations of what things represent and mean.
So, you have your own experiences and your mother and father’s experiences. Your parents, in turn, also have their own experiences and their parents’ experiences. The result is a multi-generational type of experience, which may also end up being epigenetically coded into your genes and histones. In this way, you can react to something that may originate from a multi-generational influence handed down from parent to parent to parent.
Included in the mix are teachers, religious instructors, and social influences.
The culmination of all these compounding associations begins to give you an idea of why ‘meaning’ can vary from person to person.
This meaning can also change.
What may mean one thing to you when you are ten can mean something completely different when you are 50 as a result of the many compounded previous experiences tweaking the meanings of each new experience.
Meaning can also vary from culture to culture – someone in America with multiple wives may end up in jail, but in some African cultures may be considered a king or president.
All the experiences you have and all the injected ideals, values, and experiences that people impose on you, together with the traditions, conventions, religious ideas, and political ideas, plus all the experiences you get from studying and reading, all come together to create your expression and your reality.
In that way, the meaning of things is a summation of whatever you’ve experienced and all of their associations.
Each individual has a different representation of reality.
You could take a tree, representing something sinister to a person who had previously seen someone hanging from it.
Another person who may have had a joyous picnic under a tree may perceive it to be something joyous that represents strength and new growth.
The representations that you give things can create either ‘heavens’ or ‘hells’.
Here’s what I mean by that:
In my signature seminar program, the Breakthrough Experience, which I have presented around the world for over 32 years, I can take an attendee who has had an traumatic, challenging, or painful, experiences in the perceptions, ask them a series of questions, help them discover and create and stack new associations in their brain-mind, and have them make their hells into their heavens and balance their mental equations.
In that way, I can take something that they perceived to be traumatic (‘hell’) and help them discover the (‘heaven’) that also present; or take something they are infatuated with and help them balance it out. In the process, I teach them the exact steps to change those meanings and representations they have made in their brains. In that way they become governors of their reality and masters of their destiny more than victims of their history.
You have the power to take anything that happens in your life and turn it into something that you choose to make it.
One of the methods that I share with my attendees is how to transform their challenging experiences by asking, ‘How is it helping me fulfil what is most important and meaningful in my life?’ After helping over a hundred thousand attendees and many more clients do this for decades I am certain that you too can associate anything with anything and turn any experience into something meaningful and inspiring.
I take my attendees through this process every week while presenting the Breakthrough Experience. I help them transform their perceive ‘terribles’ into opportunities. It is not as much what happens to you as how you chose to perceive it.
You can transform any experience in your past, anything you have inculcated from people around you or anything that may be epigenetic. You can transform any of those associations into any other new associations that you chose. You have that freedom once you learn the method and skill.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to help people do this using a questioning process called the Demartini Method. I’ve helped individuals who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and helped them transform their perception of an event or experience in such a way that they have tears of gratitude for it and see it on the way, and no longer in the way.
As I often say in my presentations, anything you are not grateful for is baggage. Anything you are grateful for is fuel.
So, why wouldn’t you want to take whatever you have experienced in your life and add new and deeper meaning to it instead of storing it as baggage in your subconscious mind?
Nothing in your life is anything other than what can help you get what you want. It is all on the way, not in the way once you master the skill.
Some philosophers believe that there is no inherent meaning in anything or in any event except the meaning we give it.
And the meaning we give such an experience is often subjectively biased and derived mostly from previous associations stored in our subconscious minds derived from previous polarized perceptions.
Therefore we can attribute different meanings to the same thing or event since our subconsciously stored perceptions are all different.
This type of meaning attribution is individualized, superficial and often narrow.
But, there is also another meaning that can be attributed to these same things or events – a deeper, broader, more transcendental meaning.
This second, more transcendent level of meaning, leads to a wisdom that is even more fulfilling once we balance our mental equation.
If you look at the stock market, you’ll notice that it goes up and down over a period of time. If you take the average, that is something called the ‘mean’.
In other words, the mean is the average between the positive and negative deviations or fluctuations, perceived as growth and decay, and rise and fall of the market.
Let us look for how this could play out in your own life:
Imagine that you’re infatuated with somebody and you are conscious of their upsides and unconscious of their downsides, conscious of the positives and unconscious of the negatives. This doesn’t mean that it is who they truly are in actuality – it is just what you have interpreted with all the subjectively biased perceptual associations you have picked up along your journey.
Think of it this way. If I went up to you and I said, ‘You’re always nice, never mean; always kind, never cruel; always giving, never taking; and always peaceful, never wrathful,’ you would be unlikely to believe me. Yet, that is often the meaning you give to others that you’re infatuated with.
That superficial meaning is not the actual individual but instead the persona you masked them with or placed on them.
Suppose you’re only conscious of the upsides and unconscious of the downsides. In that case, you may be missing out on information that you are ignoring, which is a form of ignorance.
I’m sure you have experienced this in your own life when you were infatuated with an individual only to discover all their ignored downsides later that you had selectively biased out.
You had a disconfirmation bias on the negatives and a confirmation bias on the positives. In other words, you distorted your reality.
The same thing can happen with resentment if you are conscious of the downsides and unconscious of the upsides. This distorted subjective bias becomes something that you believe, and that meaning becomes your reality.
What if true meaning means being able to see both sides simultaneously to bring you back into the ‘mean’ – the average between polarities where you are not conscious of the upsides and unconscious downsides but are conscious of BOTH sides or mindful?
This is what I believe to be what some refer to as ‘extracting meaning’ out of their sensory existence. In other words, finding the ‘mean’ in experiences that you had once looked at with subjective bias.
Aristotle referred to this as ‘infatuation resentment’ where the mean was between the two. When you are infatuated, you tend to see more similarities than differences. When you are resentful, you tend to see more differences than similarities.
When you see both of them equally, you tend to see a balance of similarities and differences and a balance of positive and negatives – which centres and liberates you from either the infatuation or the resentment occupying space and time in your mind and distracting and misleading you.
There’s a state of certainty when you are objective and see both sides. This allows you to be poised, present, resilient and empowered. This also allows for a deeper and more profound meaning than the superficial meanings that you initially gave to the experience because of all the subjectively biased associations you had made.
Your infatuations and resentments occupy space and time in your mind.
Again, any time you are subjectively biased, and become infatuated with or resent to something, individual or event it will occupy space and time in your mind and run you life until you bring it back in to balance.
As a result, you’re likely, to be run by your previous polarized experiences, you surrounding traditions, your parents beliefs, and by your external world, instead of intuitively extracting the meaning by becoming aware of the other side of the equation – thereby centering yourself and no longer be swayed be external circumstances which make your brain’s amygdala make you impulsively seek or instinctively avoiding.
Extracting meaning out of your existential world and out of your perceptions that are subjectively biased means allowing youself to transcend those initial labels and interpretations and have a balanced physiology and mind as a result.
If you’re infatuated with some individual, you’re likely to minimize yourself relative to them.
If you are resentful to some individual, you’re likely to exaggerate yourself and be inauthentic.
However, when you discover both sides synchronously, you allow yourself to be neither exaggerated or minimized and only authentic, poised and present. When you have a balanced psychology your also help heal your physiology, have more equitable relationships, have fairer business relationships, more sustainable economic transactions, and experience more reflective awareness.
Although each experience can be given whatever meaning you chose to give it, the inherent integration of the pairs of opposites or perspective that you could impose on all those meanings allows you to have a maximum understanding of the universe a deeper meaning for life.
In doing so, you can see a hidden order and find deeper meaning in the apparent chaos and of everyone else’s subjective biases.
Being able to extract meaning by intuitively seeing both sides of an event means that you can make a heaven out of hell or hell out of a heaven at will.
When you can see both of them simultaneously, you are likely to find a deeper meaning instead of just a superficial meaning with your initial bias.
So, while everyone is busy arguing and conflicting because they all have different interpretations, you’ll be able to be poised, centered, balanced and authentic.
Ability to Extract Meaning
One of the distinctions between human beings and most all of the other animals is the ability to extract that meaning from our experiences.
Human beings can extract meaning and bring it into the mean with their intentional objectivity, their reason, and not just their emotional vicissitudes. This poised reason makes a human being unique and empowered.
The quality of your life is based on the quality of the questions you ask. If you ask questions to make you aware of what you were unconscious of, you can take your unconscious and join it with your consciousness to make you fully conscious and mindful. Imbalanced perspectives or subjective biases are likely to result in artificial and superficial meanings that can run emotionally your life. When you can see both sides synchronously, you are able to extract out a deeper meaning and run your own life.
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About Dr John Demartini:
Dr. John Demartini, is a human behavior specialist, a polymath, philosopher, international speaker and published author. He has recently been awarded the IAOTP Top Human Behavior Specialist of the Year as well as the IAOTP Lifetime Achievement Award.
His work is a summation of over 299 different disciplines synthesized from the greatest minds in most fields of study today. His extensive curriculum focuses on helping purpose driven individuals master their lives so that they are able to more extensively serve humanity with their inspired vision and mission.