Searching for Meaning
“Until my college experience, I thought my family’s life was quite good –
that it was the way things were supposed to be – and I assumed that
everyone should share those same values, behaviors and world views.
My roommate, to whom I now owe much gratitude, patiently listened as
I tried to persuade him of the validity and righteousness of my limited
and traditional views … His gentle confrontations were a distressing
jolt to me that generated an assortment of strong feelings. Though I
wanted to dismiss these new ideas, I found that I could not.
I BEGAN TO THINK.” ~ from the Introduction
I started reading Searching for Meaning based on the reputation of the author, Dr. James T. Webb. After finishing the first few chapters, I felt it would help me to be a better parent. But … ultimately, I found myself; and a resolution to decades of confusion and self-doubt. By the end of the book, I realized that it had helped me become a better person with a happier and healthier outlook on life.
To describe my feelings as a metaphor, it was like taking a trip down Memory Lane; except … suddenly road signs appeared that weren't there the first time. A new understanding swept over me and I knew why things had happened the way they did. But even more importantly … now I felt like I knew where I was headed!
It’s evident that the writing of this book was truly a cathartic experience for the author. His words engender a teacher – student relationship where the reader feels like a student being taught by a caring and understanding teacher who has ‘walked the walk’. Complex ideas are made simple. His insights seem the result of deeply personal experiences.
If you thought you knew what idealism meant before reading this book; chances are … you’ll broaden your understanding of it. Dr. Webb delves into ideals as illusions and how they can lead to disillusionment, where idealism originates, and the positives and negatives related to it. Not only does he explain ideals, but why we create and need them.
An important point to remember is that idealism is the result of seeking out purpose in one’s life and the lives of those around us. It is through questioning our very existence – deep introspection - struggling to find the answer almost daily that begins the process.
“Ironically, many, if not most, bright people – even those who are clearly
gifted – are unaware of how different their mental abilities are from those
of others and thus are also unaware of the implications that this difference
has on their daily lives.” ~ p. 37
Searching for Meaning was certainly written for those with bright minds. Dr. Webb explains why they are more susceptible to existential depression and how Dabrowski’s over-excitabilities play a role as well.
“Unfortunately, the people who try the hardest to prove to themselves and
others that their life has meaning are usually so busy seeking illusory
achievements that they have little or no time to acquire or appreciate true
meaning. But without life meaning as an anchor, people are particularly at
risk for disintegration and existential depression.” ~ p. 168
Disillusionment and the resulting existential depression that often follows are not easy topics to read about. It is, however, a worthwhile endeavor that can change your life forever.
The good news is that there is hope. This book offers concrete suggestions on how to cope with our disillusionment and then takes us to a place where we can thrive.
I found the suggestion that we can write our own life script very intriguing. We don’t have to settle for the status quo. It is possible to gain a ‘new attitude’ and take a new path.
Searching for Meaning is the culmination of a career spent helping others to find meaning in their own existence. Dr. Webb has worked personally with many individuals who struggled with understanding their place in the grand scheme of things. This book can help you find your place in the world, too!