Our Middle Path to Meaning and Purpose
At Sunshine Coast Health Center, our theory of addiction is that it is a response to living a life that lacks personal meaning. In other words, we believe that if clients have meaning and purpose in their lives that they will also find recovery; that they will lose interest in drugs and alcohol because it no longer fits with how they see themselves or who they want to become.
But how do we come to have meaning and purpose in life? Historically speaking, humankind has come up with two possible answers:
1. Meaning and Purpose is Created
Meaning and purpose exists in our minds and we create it through our words and action.
2. Meaning and Purpose is Discovered
It is all around us and we only have to align with it to see it.
Theory #1 – Meaning and Purpose is Created (Reason)
If you believe meaning and purpose is created, then you probably lean towards a rational, scientific view of the universe and your place in it. You may believe man exists due to a series of random events that started with the big bang that progressed to our galaxy and then to our solar system, earth, plants, animals, primates (monkeys, apes, etc.), and, eventually, human beings. This theory states that if you want meaning and purpose in your life then it is your mind that creates it; the universe is otherwise random and indifferent to you and the rest of humanity.
Theory #2 – Meaning and Purpose is Discovered (Faith)
If you believe that meaning and purpose is discovered, then you probably lean towards a spiritual, creationist view of the universe and your place in it. You may believe that man exists as part of God’s master plan. You may not believe that the Bible can be literally interpreted, but you still believe that some sort of spirit is behind our existence.
So, as you can see, we generally are either guided by reason (theory #1) or faith (theory #2) when it comes to meaning and purpose. However, there is a third theory, a middle path of sorts, that we use at Sunshine Coast Health Center.
Theory #3 – the Midldle Path of Meaning and Purpose (our Path)
At Sunshine Coast Health Center, meaning and purpose = spirituality. Here’s Program Director, Geoff Thompson, to explain:
So, as Geoff says, if you have meaning and purpose in your life, then you have spirituality, or the sense that there is some greater force in the world that is available to you. In other words, we define meaning and purpose as more than just words or a concept, but spiritual. Here’s an equation that might make it more obvious:
spirituality = meaning and purpose
Does that mean that we have a religious sense of meaning and purpose? No, but that doesn’t mean that it is wrong for people to find meaning and purpose in Jesus Christ, Allah, Buddha, etc. It’s just that the way we understand spirituality is in a secular, non-denominational way.
So if we have a spiritual sense of meaning and purpose as in Theory #2, how do we also have a scientific sense of meaning and purpose as in Theory #1? The answer lies in how we believe people have meaning and purpose in their lives – they create it. In other words, you can’t tap into it just by praying or hoping, you actually have to work at it. It means getting up every day and struggling through all of life’s ups and downs. Like a scientist, you need to experiment with life, try things on in order to find your meaning and purpose.
And, like a scientist, you sometimes have to declare (e.g. hypothesize) that your life has meaning and purpose before you actually have proof. John F. Kennedy understood the power of declaring something into existence. Here’s his famous “Man on the Moon” speech:
This speech is remarkable for two reasons: (1) the technology that was required to land a man on the moon and bring him safely back to Earth did not exist at that time, and (2) JFK’s bold prediction that man would land on the moon before the end of the decade came true when Neil Armstrong made his “one small step for man” speech from the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969.
Science & Spirituality can Co-exist
To conclude, meaning and purpose is both a scientific and spiritual endeavour. The same bold declaration embodied by JFK in his 1961 speech to US Congress is repeated every day by thousands of men and women who, with precious little evidence, declare themselves in recovery, ready to begin a new, unknown, but, ultimately, rewarding chapter in their life story.