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Many Meanings to Each Life Event
You may think that the meaning you make of events that happen to you is the only one that is possible to make. If so, you’d be wrong. There are numerous meanings that we can make of events, which is very freeing because this underscores that we can chose interpretations which are beneficial, not harmful, to our lives. Here are some examples:
- You don’t get a job you thought you were perfect for. You might make this meaning: They rejected me because I’m fat. No one will hire a fat person. These meanings are equally possible:
- Someone else was more appropriate for the job than I am.
- The position didn’t get filled after all because money got tight.
- Someone had a better in for the job than I did going in cold.
- The company already had someone in mind, but had to go through the hiring practice to look fair-minded.
- You invite a potential friend for coffee as and never hear from him or her again. You might make this meaning: He or she didn’t like me. There must be something wrong with me. I must be unlikeable. Meanwhile, you could be thinking:
- This person seemed busy and popular, and may not have time for a new friend.
- We hit it off okay, but there was no real spark or connection between us, so it’s fine how things worked out.
- I recall being in similar situations—not that interested in people, though there was nothing wrong with them.
- Your spouse or partner complains about something you did and you think: S/he’s right. I shouldn’t have done that. What’s wrong with me that I can’t please him/her?
You could as easily have thought:
- Oops, I forgot how that irritates him/her. I’ll go apologize.
- I guess s/he’s having a bad day cause I didn’t do anything wrong.
- I am sick and tired of being picked on when I didn’t do anything wrong. This has to stop if we're going to continue our relationship.
Often we never know the cause of someone’s behavior and can only guess. So, why not make a constructive or neutral meaning? If most of the meanings you make of situations put you in a bad light, it’s time to come up with some better interpretations.