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Seven evolutionary reasons we are hardwired to search for meaning!

Have you ever pondered the greater purpose of life? I thought so, and you are not alone.

The desire to seek meaning and understand our purpose has long been a defining characteristic of our species. Like the proverbial wise man [person] who built his [their] house upon the rock, as opposed to the sand, the desire to dig the sand away and get to something solid to build our lives on could be part of the way we have necessarily evolved. This isn't just a philosophical exercise or only a religious/spiritual phenomenon, although I do have positions on both of these.

In my digging I want to offer seven evolutionary reasons that can help us make sense of this 'will to meaning' (to get all Franklian on us), and toot the horn for the role that Logotherpy can have in our search for meaning.

With spade in hand, here are seven reasons, that can serve as conversational primers I believe are needed if we are going to successfully navigate a rapidly evolving world.

Why We Crave Meaning

  1. Strengthening Social Bonds: As inherently social beings, our survival relied on our ability to work harmoniously within groups. Shared beliefs and meanings fostered this cohesion. Those early humans who could create and share purposes were more likely to survive and reproduce within their tribes.

  2. Propelling Motivation and Resilience: A strong sense of purpose acts as a formidable motivator. Whether it was persistence in hunting, resilience against natural calamities, or navigation of intricate social dynamics, those filled with purpose had better survival rates.

  3. Planning for the Future: Seeking meaning often results in thinking long-term and making sacrifices today for tomorrow's benefits. This ability to delay immediate pleasure for future gain has been instrumental in our species' progress.

  4. Rearing the Next Generation: Our lengthy human childhood means that the transmission of values, morals, and a sense of purpose is critical for the survival of subsequent generations.

  5. Addressing Existential Anxiety: With advanced cognitive abilities comes the realisation of our mortality. Searching for meaning can help manage the existential fears this realisation brings. Individuals capable of handling this awareness without succumbing to debilitating fear had a clear evolutionary edge.

  6. Cultural Evolution and Influence: Cultures that integrated a sense of purpose and meaning into their fabric stood a better chance at unity and progress, making them more influential over time.

  7. Learning and Memory Enhancement: Evolution favoured those who remembered vital lessons. When an experience holds meaning, it's easier to recall, making meaningful events essential for survival.

Why Logotherapy Can Help

If our evolutionary history has hardwired us to seek meaning, then it stands to reason that therapies addressing this innate desire can be profoundly beneficial. This brings us to logotherapy—a meaning-based intervention. Logotherapy proposes that our primary drive is not pleasure but the pursuit of what we find meaningful - pleasure is just one byproduct. In the face of adversity, trauma, or existential anxiety, finding purpose can provide the resilience and perspective necessary to move forward.

I believe our evolutionary history suggests that our pursuit of meaning is not just a modern-day luxury but a fundamental aspect of being human. In connecting with our deep-rooted desire for meaning, we can pave the way for wholeness, growth, and a fulfilled life that benefits everyone in a rapidly changing world.

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