July 16, 2009

Finding Meaning in the Face of Mortality

I recently read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by Melissa Beck: A New View, After Diagnosis, highlighting a program on "meaning-making" at Memorial Sloan-Kettering for advanced stage cancer patients. The program is based on the seminal work of Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, in which he suggests that people can endure any suffering if they know their life has meaning. Dr. William Breithart, who developed the program known as meaning-centered psychotherapy, explains that through the program participants are guided to "reconnect with many sources of meaning in life -- love, work, history, family relationships, and teaches them that when cancer produces an obstacle in one, they can find in one, they can find meaning in another". Results of a pilot study comparing "meaning-making" groups compared to traditional cancer support groups were encouraging in respect to decreased anxiety and increased spiritual well-being.
You don't need to have cancer to benefit from the exercise of reflecting on what is most meaningful in your life. We are generally too mindless and busy to notice! But it is never too late to stop, take a breath, and reflect on what we love.


Anonymous said...

My 53 year old companion is dying of cancer. I agree...I think what hurts him most is what he considers the wasted years of his life when he was in the grip of an addiction. He's been in recovery for almost 10 years and I reminded him yesterday that he had helped a lot of people. I think counseling would have helped him but he didn't seek it out early enough. His life does/did have meaning though. He was kind and generous and helped me through the death of my father 3 1/2 yers ago. He moved in and then we were a family. He's taught me to be more unselfish, and truly not to sweat the small stuff.

Daniel said...

Love this Pam! "You don't need to have cancer to benefit from the exercise of reflecting on what is most meaningful in your life"...so true. Thanks for sharing.

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