Theory of Meaning

Topics: Meaning of life, Nursing, Human Pages: 9 (2391 words) Published: September 6, 2014
Running Head: THEORY OF MEANING
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Theory of Meaning by Patricia Starck

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Nursing is a profession that is ever-evolving due to many factors such as changes in societal patterns, new research and discoveries, new emerging technologies, new diseases and treatments, etc. For this very reason, some nurses have taken the time to take a step back to look at nursing as a profession and the populations we serve. They have done research, and based on

Running Head: THEORY OF MEANING

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observations of current practice, they have written theories so our patients and communities can benefit from competent and reliable nursing care. This is precisely what Patricia Lee Starck did and continues to do. She is one of the admirable nurses that researched and in the process, explored a theory and its applications for the benefit of her patients. She expanded the Theory of Meaning, which was developed by Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl before and during the Second World War when he was captured and served as slave laborers in Nazi concentration camps. There he was able to observe human behavior in midst of death and suffering and used this experience to further develop his theory. Patricia Starck became interested in the theory of meaning while she was working with young man suffering spinal cord injury during her doctorate level coursework at the University of Alabama in the 1970’s. She contacted Dr. Frankl to find out more about his theory and the therapy associated with it (called Logotherapy), in the hope that it would help her patients find meaning in life despite their tragedies. Since then, many other nurses have used this theory to help their patients. Today, Patricia Lee Starck, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N is currently dean of The University of Texas’ Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing. Starck has spent forty five years in nursing education and has led nursing schools at universities in Georgia, Alabama and Texas. During those years, she has published 47 articles and seven book chapters. She is the author of the Meaning in Suffering Test (MIST), used by students from various disciplines around the world. But what exactly is the “Theory of Meaning”? The middle-range Theory of Meaning, used by Patricia L. Starck, evolved out of the work of Victor E. Frankl, a psychiatrist who laid the foundational concepts of this theory. He believed

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that the primary human motivation was to seek meaning and purpose in life, and when this search is frustrated, humans manifest this frustration in the physical, mental or spiritual dimensions. (Smith & Lier, 2014) Using this theory, he developed a type of therapy called logotherapy, in which he challenged individuals to find meaning in their own lives despite circumstances. There are three major concepts in the theory of meaning. These are: life purpose, freedom to choose, and human suffering. In addition, these concepts are supported by three human dimensions: the physical (or soma), the mental (or psyche), and the spiritual (or noos). According to Frankl, human beings are both made up of parts, but these parts are inseparable part of a whole. The soma and the psyche dimension can become ill but the noos cannot. It can only become blocked or frustrated. He also believes that a problem in one dimension, can display itself in another dimension. Therefore, a mental illness can manifest itself in the soma or physical dimension, and likewise, an illness in the body can manifest itself in the psyche. Frankl emphasizes that the human spirit, the “noos”, is the defiant power that can rise above the other dimensions and defy the odds.

Life purpose or the meaning of life is the central concept of the theory of meaning. It is defined as “that to which one may feel called to and to which one is dedicated” (Starck, 1992). The meaning of life differs from person to...


References: Fitzpatrick, J. J. (2006). Middle Range Theory of Meaning. Encyclopedia of nursing research
(2nd ed)
Frankl, V. (1984). Logotherapy in a nutshell. Man 's search for meaning (3rd ed). New York:
Touchstone.
Jones, J., Fitzpatrick, J., & Rogers, V. (2012). Theories of Mental Health and Illness. Psychiatricmental health nursing: An interpersonal approach. New York: Springer Publishing
Company.
Roy, S. C (2014). Generating Middle Range Theory From Evidence to Practice. New York:
Springer Publishing Company.
Smith, M. J., & Liehr, P. (2014). Theory of Meaning. Middle range theory for nursing (3rd
ed)
Starck, P. L. (1979). Spinal cord injured clients ̓ perception of meaning and purpose in life
measurement before and after nursing intervention
Starck, P. L. & McGovern, J. P. (1992). The Meaning of Suffering. The Hidden Dimension of
Illness: Human Suffering
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