Meaning making, Christy Matta, and the Stress Response

Recently I interviewed a colleague, Christy Matta, MA about her new book: The Stress Response: How DBT can free you from needless anxiety, worry, anger, and other symptoms of stress.

One of the highlights of this interview included a strategic list of questions for persons to consider in regards to finding meaning. Meaning making plays a huge role in how we interpret stressors and painful life circumstances. People that can create and find meaning in unbearable life situations will be able to cope more adaptively than those that can’t find anything in what the universe has to offer.

One of Christy’s questions that really got me thinking was this (page 93): How do you want to be and live in this situation?

Often pain prompts us to move away or avoid persons, situations, or circumstances in our lives. The question of how do you want to be implies a certain element of being present to these persons, situations, or circumstances. What if movement away from pain simply was not possible? What if you had to get through it or bear with it? How would you do so in such a way that you acted with integrity and you felt good about how you handled it?

Sometimes painful life circumstances are a direct challenge to how we are currently living our lives. Pain sometimes gives us an opportunity to move away from what we don’t want and to move towards what we do want. How we want to be and live throughout our lives is a bigger question than this one circumstance or this one situation or this one pain. How we want to be and live has something to do with our intentions, our path, our integrity, and our life direction. Instead of thinking How can I possibly cope? consider ways of being and living in ways that are consistent with your values, your integrity, your courage, and your dignity.