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Exploring Existential Meaning
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Exploring Existential Meaning
Optimizing Human Development Across the Life Span

Edited by:

September 1999 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Cultivating a sense of existential meaning is identified in psychological literature as an important factor in preventing illness, in promoting health, and in successfully adapting to life's changing circumstances (resiliency as well as recovery). A lack of this sense of meaning, which the editors refer to as "existential vacuum", can form the basis of such disorders and diseases as neurosis, depression, aggression, suicide ideation, and substance abuse. Scholars have studied these relationships for years. But new developments in the field and results of recent qualitative analyses have led to a new focus on how people experience the world and draw meaning from ordinary life. Based on their research over the last ten years, the editors write, "Existential meaning plays a crucial role in moderating the effects of stress oh physical health and psychological well-being…The role of existential meaning at different stages of life, and at points of transition between stages, has much to teach us about optimal human development across the life span." The editors have organized the book into three sections. In the first they and their contributors lay out the foundational models and definitions that are current in the study of existential meaning. Part two emphasizes research methodology, particularly issues relevant to investigation and measurement of questions and experiences of personal meaning (clinical and sociological). The third section offers specific applications of the theories, models, and methodologies presented in the first two parts.

James E Birren
Foreword
Gary T Reker and Kerry Chamberlain
Introduction
 
PART ONE: THEORETICAL AND CONCEPTUAL ISSUES
Gary M Kenyon
Philosophical Foundations of Existential Meaning
Hubert J M Hermans
Meaning as Movement
The Relativity of the Mind  
Gary T Reker
Theoretical Perspective, Dimensions, and Measurement of Existential Meaning
 
PART TWO: RESEARCH ON EXISTENTIAL MEANING
Nancy Van Ranst and Alfons Marcoen
Structural Components of Personal Meaning in Life and their Relationship with Death Attitudes and Coping Mechanisms in Late Adulthood
Kay O'Connor and Kerry Chamberlain
Dimensions and Discourses of Meaning in Life
Approaching Meaning from Qualitiative Perspectives  
Dominique L Debats
An Inquiry into Existential Meaning
Theoretical, Clinincal and Phenomenal Perspectives  
Freya Dittman-Kohli and Gerben J Westerhof
The Personal Meaning System in a Life-Span Perspective
Edward Prager, Rivka Savaya and Leora Bar-Tur
The Development of a Culturally Sensitive Measure of Sources of Life Meaning
 
PART THREE: APPLICATIONS AND INTERVENTIONS
Carol J Farran, Karen Lowe Graham and Dimitra Loukissa
Finding Meaning in Caregivers of Persons with Alzheimer's Disease
African American and White Caregivers' Perspectives  
Doris D Coward
Making Meaning within the Experience of Life-Threatening Illness
Susan H McFadden
Religion and Meaning in Late Life
David Guttmann
Logotherapeutic and `Depth Psychology' Approaches to Meaning and Psychotherapy
 
PART FOUR: OVERVIEW AND NEW DIRECTIONS
Gary T Reker and Kerry Chamberlain
Existential Meaning
Reflections and Directions  

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