‘Meaning making’ is the story we tell ourselves about what is happening in our life. When different events occur in our life we process them based on our past experiences to try and make sense of them. Often though when something traumatic or distressing occurs and we have no past experience of this, we can find it difficult to make sense of what has happened. You may find yourself talking to everyone about it as a way of trying to make sense of what has happened, or you may find your-self withdrawing and being consumed by your thoughts about what happened.

The meaning that you give to a stressful or traumatic event can create a limited, constricted life story or can help you create a life you love with depth and insight. The meaning that you apply to events can either be unhealthy and weaken you, or it can be healthy and help you to create resilience. Examples of this can include:
• If your emotions were ignored or invalidated by a caregiver or partner, “you may have interpreted this to mean a. (unhealthy) that ‘I am not worthy of love or attention” or b. (healthy) “ they are going through a stressful time and not able to show me the care that I need, this does not mean that I am not loved, rather that they are in need of assistance and support”.
• If a work colleague is short and rude to you one day you can interpret this to be a. (healthy) he/she has had a bad morning and needs some understanding and compassion or b. (unhealthy) he/she is rude and I am not going to make a complaint about their behaviour.
But even if the meaning you made when an event occurred was unhealthy, it’s never too late to create a new, healthier one—to rewrite the story you tell yourself about what happened. Ways to begin exploring how you make meaning of life’s events is to consider the perspective that you take to how you operate in the world.
• Think about how you see the world, do you see yourself as the victim. Do you strike first before some else has a chance to hurt you, or are you able to stop and take the time to think about all aspects of a situation so that you can arrive at a logical meaning.
• Do you worry more about how other people are viewing things rather than focus on what is important and right for you?
• Do you live in a rigid world of right / wrong and good / bad, or can you see and listen too other people’s perspectives easily?
• Do you try to ignore parts of yourself that you don’t like rather than learning about them and embracing them?
• Do you hear yourself saying “I can’t” more than you say “ what can I do”.
• Do you accept defeat easily or look for opportunity and growth during difficult times?
A great way to start meaning making is to journal what is going on for you, what your thinking, feeling and any questions you have. You can use this as a great counselling tool to discuss with your EAP Assist counsellor in order to decide if your happy with your meaning story or want to change it, ultimately the meaning you make of your life story is always up to you.