Our need to make up meaning for the things that happen to us is a time-consuming habit. It is also one that can cause us distress. The problems don’t stop there. Our need for meaning prompts us to weave together a story that ‘explains’ why something happens.
When a friend fails to notice us in the street or return our call, they are ‘ignoring’ us; a colleague who is repeatedly late for meetings is being ‘disrespectful’, or ‘passive aggressive’. Or, when family member forgets our birthday they have ‘stopped caring…’
Our creative and ever-agile minds can always be relied upon to translate innocuous events into distressing episodes in the soap opera created by our imagination.
Our thinking does this for us. Most things don’t come with an explanation; things happen, that’s all. But its often not enough, and because it feels incomplete we are goaded into finding a meaning where none exists… we interpret events, we fabricate meaning.
We’ll never know what most things mean and in a lot of instances, this doesn’t bother us. There is value in extending this ability to cover the speculations that hurt, embarrass, or distress us. Once we can accept that things happen and that’s that, we can get on with life, simply noticing things (or not), as they occur without the need to interpret, re-hash or understand them.
When you ‘make up meaning’ you are simply inventing. Without real external evidence, what you think and feel about the situation might as well be a fairy tale. One way around this is to pause for thought and take control.
Naturally, this is liberating, though admittedly like most things that would improve our lives it needs a little practice and commitment.