Searching for meaning

If I just had space to write about one criticism pertaining to the presented book, it would be that the title "Searching for Meaning - Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope" gives only a vague notion about the information that is actually contained within. The cover is unimaginative, and the title terms seem put together at random at first glance. So I had to agree with my friend, who, as she picked up and flicked through my review copy, said: "This seems really interesting! Why would you give a book like this such an ineffective, unoriginal metaphor of a cover?"

And the book is interesting! It is not at all about the cliché of 'Searching for Meaning' as the title might make one expect – life's meaning is only a very small part of the informational content contained. It is instead about illusions and interpretations of reality. It speaks of how our perceptions are subjective, and about how individuals deal with discovering that their reality might not be the only way to experience the world.

Personally, I don't have a big story of disillusionment. I don't remember ever being much of an idealist, either. In that sense, I was very intrigued how I would deal with the topic, going in with what I considered a blank slate, and I wondered whether by reading it, I would manage to find some understanding of what it all meant myself.

The end result of multiple evenings of reading my way through this book was that I surprised myself by enjoying it very much.

The table of contents is edited into cohesive, well-structured and well-organized units, and I felt amusement at the trickle of humour I could spot here and there. The introduction starts – and here is the comfort of met expectations - with a personal story of the author. It is written in a crisp, engaging, humorous voice that makes it easy to breeze through the pages and arrive at the impactful content: the in-depth analysis on how illusions are created, uncovered, and how they are followed by a sense of disillusionment, which can lead to a feeling of loneliness and isolation in gifted individuals.

There is enough information to grasp all the necessary concepts about idealism and morality and how they develop; the book covers how gifted individuals react to the environment around them, and what ways they find of dealing with it; it judges how necessary or useful it is to have meaning in one's life. And in the end of the book, the author presents an arsenal of favourable and unfavourable coping behaviours, which are strategies that help to reduce or tolerate stress and conflict. They are based on various sources in research, and as a final chapter, they form a solid collection of tools to choose from to (as self-help books do) help individuals to help themselves.

Dr. Webb has a very clear, imaginative style of presentation and sentencing, which makes the book an easy read. He introduces newer theories and findings, integrating them into well-known, established research on the topic, and as far as I can judge, still takes care to present it in a way that will not turn off readers who might be completely new to scientific readings. I appreciated various excursions into the depth of psychological research on moral development, the processing styles of gifted individuals and high-IQ children, consistency and significance in life choices, and depression and existential issues.

As a researcher, I also appreciate the scientific references and background offered in the text. It is a hard balance to strike, especially in a self-help book and I think that – with some exceptions - the author incorporated a huge amount of research knowledge into an applied setting exceptionally well. However, I did find myself losing my experience of flow whenever I was personally addressed as a reader seeking help, which was done intermittently and seemingly arbitrarily throughout the book.

Then again, some additional touches I enjoyed are the way the introduction segues from introspection into an overview of the book chapters, giving a short paragraph on each of the covered topics and connecting them, which I found extremely helpful to organize my thoughts; a few quotations at the beginning of each chapter, relevant to the content-to-come; and occasional direct citations of authors and scientists within the text. I appreciated the fact that various coping behaviours were individually introduced and explained at the very end of the book, which, I feel, is very helpful especially for readers looking for ways to help themselves through the perusal of coping strategies.

But even for scientists, "Searching for Meaning" can be a highly enjoyable experience, especially for readers who work in the field of psychology and want to deepen their knowledge on the above-mentioned topics. It provides a solid list of references for its content, and it structures and conveys information in a fun and intellectual manner.


book rating

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