International Meaning Conference: joining forces in practice and research: A reflective review London 30 June – 2 July 2017

Who are we?

Our names are  Lisa Jones, Inge Beckers, Sarah Smith, and  Derek Tate. We are students currently studying a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) at Buckinghamshire New University. Having  attended a weekend conference at Roehampton University, we created this short blog reflecting on the weekend.

Question 1: What role does meaning have within positive psychology?

Sarah – Positive Psychology first explored areas such as happiness, positive emotions, love, gratitude, hope and strengths, then second wave positive psychology highlighted the importance of grappling with the so called ‘negative’ aspects of life. By reflecting on the human condition as a quest for meaning and purpose in our lives we can widen our perspectives to incorporate the full spectrum of our experience, the troubling stuff of life as well as the exhilarating.

Derek – Meaning has a very important role within the framework of positive psychology. In many respects it is already there e.g. Martin Seligman’s PERMA, but with the development of Positive Psychology towards 2.0 (Wong) it has taken a more prominent role. It was very striking, at the weekend, how Paul Wong emphasised the importance of meaning and connection as being vital if we are to ‘save humanity from self destruction’.

Inge – The congress was an eye-opener on how the existential approach is really an added value for positive psychology (PP), or even a substantial part of it. I think I have fallen in love with the mixture of PP and existential psychology and I really want to learn more about that.

Lisa – Positive psychology started from a point of view to improve personal happiness. Research over the last 15 years has identified we need connections with others to fully realise our well-being. Meaning is central to building these connections as meaning makes sense of our existence. In particular, meaning is valuable as it needs some focus on other people and encourages selfless behaviour over selfish behaviour.

Question 2: What was the most inspirational part of the IMEC event?

Sarah – Spending time among such an inspiring group of people was amazing. Every conversation offered moments of wisdom. Hearing about the different contexts in which people are applying and researching meaning and purpose interventions has opened up lots of ideas for future work. It was great to see what happens when researchers and practitioners come together and bridge the gap between these two areas of work…lots of interesting ideas for future growth of the field.

Derek – There were many inspirational moments over the weekend but if I had to pick one keynote presentation it would be Itai Ivtzan’s presentation about ‘Mindfulness – your torchlight when see meaning in the dark’. The one phrase that really resonated with me was when he said, “Meaning is not a matter of what we do but how we do it”.  His presentation was inspiring and really made me want to take action and make mindfulness a bigger part of my life going forwards.

Inge – Highlight of the weekend : Paul Wong, Alfried Längle, Tim LeBon and Itai Ivtzan.

Lisa – Being in the company of many people who have a passion for making life better and more meaningful for others. The passion felt by both the presenters about their research and practices, and the attendees enthusiasm for doing more to contribute was a big boost of motivation. Meeting Paul Wong who is a big inspiration to me (and is a very happy man indeed!) was the cherry on the cake!

Finally, some great quotes from the weekend:

“Existential meaning is the essence of human experience and well-being” Paul Wong

“Meaning is not found in what we do but how we do it and who we are when we are doing it” Itai Ivtzan

“Meaninglessness can go hand-in-hand with meaning” Joel Vos

“Everything in nature exists in polarities” Paul Wong

“If there is only purpose (without meaning) it is goal oriented” Alfried Langle

“That rock is still here. I am still here. I can’t be moved that easily” Michael Steger when talking about the photo project for measuring meaning and quoting one of his students.

“Virtues are the glue that hold society together” Piers Worth

“Meanings aren’t static” Martin Milton

“Meaningful work is done with or for other people” Katie Bailey