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Finding Meaning to Cope with Life Struggles

Think of a time you experienced difficulties and felt overwhelmed or burdened with your situation.

How did your view of life and existence change?

When we go through a demanding and trying time, it can be tough to cope and stay self-assured. Going through emotionally demanding experiences like loss and trauma often leads to negative emotions such as grief, anger, fear and shame.

It can be difficult to overcome this negativity and work through the pain when there is no apparent reason for what occurred. If we don’t work to heal and reproach our negative perspective, it becomes very difficult to move beyond the anger and grief that engulfs our day to day life.

One way we can begin to work through the stains of our loss and trauma is to find meaning and purpose within the experience.

Meaning comes from moving beyond ourselves and connecting with something bigger and more profound than our immediate reality. When we experience loss or trauma we can use this sense of purpose to piece our life back together, and use the emotional energy to make a positive impact.

There are many examples of people in history who have lived out a mission to better others and found life enhancing meaning from a vision for their purpose.

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl explores the essential value that meaning offers for our existence and our ability to persevere. By finding meaning within his traumatic experience in a Nazi concentration camp, he doggedly persisted and overcame his captor’s emotional and physical torture.

In a more everyday sense of the meaning, people who look for constructive meaning behind the events of their lives are more flexible and able to bounce back from distress. When you are flexible you’ll live a longer and happier life and find ways to adaptively cope.

This flexibility comes from knowing that sometimes things won’t go our way, and so not expecting an easy and carefree ride. We can let things roll off our back more easily and this relaxed, laid back attitude has benefits for physical, mental and emotional health.

Whatever is taking place in our life we can learn to find purpose and a make a connection to the hopeful and optimistic future impact this will have. Focusing on self-growth provides an open-mindedness to look for something of value in every situation.

Ask yourself, what have I learned, and what value can be gained?

What can we take from our difficult experience to better our relationships with family and friends? How can it alter our character to impact the work we do and the personal strengths we release from within? Are you not more resilient and wise from the trials and tribulations of your life?

I believe people are meaning seeking and meaning-making creatures. We are motivated to lead a life that is happy, fulfilling and worth living. If we can uncover purpose and meaning during times of crisis it offers us a chance to persevere, and keep trying despite any letdown, failure, or disappointment.

Photo credit: nathanael89


Finding Meaning to Cope with Life Struggles

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). Finding Meaning to Cope with Life Struggles. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Sep 2011
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