I am a PhD student based at Lancaster University, located in the North of England. I am funded by the School for Public Health Research division of the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). My attraction to the International Network on Personal Meaning can really be said to derive from the intersection and overlapping of two concerns.
First, I am currently studying a health policy named ‘social prescribing’. Although social prescribing is often described as a global social policy movement, it has gained significant momentum in the United Kingdom in recent years. Moreover, social prescribing has been referred to as a policy that looks to “add meaning to medicine,” moving the orientation of general practice in the United Kingdom away from a consultation based upon conversations pertaining to “what’s the matter with you?” to “what matters to you?” This transition looks to connect patients who visit their family doctor with meaningful activities in the local community. My research, broadly drawing on classic theories in the existential-humanistic tradition of psychology, combined with the more empirically orientated field of existential positive psychology, will look to offer a qualitative interpretation of how men who engage with social prescribing connect, or indeed do not connect, to intrinsically meaningful practices.
Secondly, in pursuing this research question, I have, in the words of a notable phenomenologist, been embroiled in a “double hermeneutic”; that is to say, as a student of meaning seeking, I too am trying to find meaning. My interest in, broadly speaking, the existential “quest” for meaning came from what the Jungian community would perhaps call a moment of “synchronicity.” Around seven years ago, I was perusing the shelves of a notable charity bookshop in Nottingham, England. It was here that a jaded and dog-eared copy of Rollo May’s wonderful Man’s Search For Himself jumped out at me from the shelf. I had come across the existentialism of Jean Paul Sartre in my undergraduate studies and found it inspiring; nonetheless, I was not aware that the tradition of existentialism had been applied in therapeutic forms. I bought the book in earnest and quickly became enchanted by May’s account of man’s alienation from meaning under the conditions of modern life. After reading this work, I recall feeling more potent and powerful—more attuned to the areas of my life where I was evading making needful choices. Alongside this, after finishing my undergraduate degree, my stance was one of a sort of hyper rationalist atheist, but May’s pleas that man requires “myth” in some form really jolted me. It was in the coming months, driven by readings from other thinkers such as Carl Jung, that I came to the realisation that the enlightenment project can only reach so far before we must find a “mature form of spirituality” to accompany what Paul Wong refers to as the “quest” for meaning. My quest continues.