Trauma and Meaning Making: Converging Conceptualizations and Emerging Evidence



Meaning is central in human life, particularly when individuals confront highly stressful and traumatic life experiences. This chapter provides an overview of current conceptual and empirical work on meaning in the context of trauma and reviews evidence regarding seven meaning-related propositions: (1) People possess orienting systems (global meaning) that provide them with cognitive tools to interpret their experiences and motivate their functioning in the world. (2) People appraise the situations that they encounter, assigning a meaning to them. (3) The extent to which that appraised meaning is discrepant with their global meaning determines the extent to which they experience distress. (4) The distress caused by discrepancy initiates a process of meaning making. (5) There are many ways to make meaning. (6) Through meaning making, individuals reduce the discrepancy between appraised and global meaning and restore a sense of the world as meaningful and their own lives as worthwhile. (7) Meaning making, when successful, leads to better adjustment to the stressful event. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future research.


Traumatic Event Asperger Syndrome Religious Coping Intrusive Thought Good Adjustment 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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