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More on Meaning Making

Ever since I took Jon Connelly’s enlightening trauma resolution workshop back in July (, I’ve been more focused on how we make meaning of life events, sadly, often to our detriment. In order to heal from emotional wounds, traumas and eating problems, it’s crucial to understand how we arbitrarily and mistakenly couple together the random occurrences in our histories. Then learn to uncouple them.
Some insights on the subject come from a review by David Chivers in The Humanist Network News (8/11), of THE BELIEVING BRAIN: FROM GHOSTS AND GODS TO POLITICS AND CONSPIRACTIES—HOW WE CONSTRUCT BELIEFS AND REINFORCE THEM AS TRUTHS by Michael Shermer’s. Shermer, says Chivers, shows “…that people are pre-disposed to see patterns in natural events, and further to ascribe reasons to those patterns.” We do this for safety and security. If we mistake a snake for a stick, we’re sunk, but if we mistake a stick for a snake, whew, we’re okay. There is dire consequence from the first perspective and none at all from the second, so that, says Chivers, “Acting on patterns where none exist often has no immediate downside. Too little pattern recognition is punished. Too much pattern recognition is not.”
He goes on to describe “Agenticity, the inborn drive to infuse the patterns we do find with meaning and intentional agents to explain why things happen as they do…People do not like to believe, quite simply, that anything happens at random. They look for the causes and who or what is behind the causes. The social order is reinforced through this suggestion of agency, even if there actually is no agency behind it, thereby even presenting a bit of benefit to the error of ascribing agency,” and “…the beliefs we first come to from identifying patterns are so strong that after we adopt the beliefs, they are almost impossible to shake. Once the belief is formed, the brain looks for confirmation of the belief, quickly noting evidence that supports the belief, while even more quickly discounting, and even forgetting, evidence that goes against the belief. Anecdotal evidence is gathered, then cited as proof for the belief, even in the face of more scientific evidence.” This unconscious selection process is called confirmation bias which reinforces (rightly or, often, wrongly) what we already think.
What meanings have you made of events that you would benefit from construing differently? What evidence might give you another slant on the subject? Ask yourself, “If this weren’t true, what would be? How else can I explain this situation?” By letting go of old, mistaken meanings, you can now arrive at new, valid ones. With effort you can untangle irrational pairings and replace them with rational ones which will serve you—and your eating—far better.