Trauma and making meaning have a very strong correlation.
Trauma disrupts a person’s sense of meaning. There are two types of meaning. The first is situational meaning, or the meaning a person gives to a specific traumatic event. For example, someone might explain a traumatic event as “an accident.” The second is global meaning, or how a traumatic event fits into a person’s overall view of life. For example, someone might say “I believe everything happens for a reason.” However, after a traumatic event, these two types of meaning may be at odds. That same person may wonder why an accident happened if they cannot make sense of the reason it happened, especially if they believe the event should have led to greater understanding or an unpredicted better outcome but that is now what they are experiencing.
After a trauma, there are often discrepancies in one’s belief systems that are resolved either by a person’s ability to incorporate the trauma into their global beliefs or by altering their global beliefs to include the possibility of the trauma (Werdel & Wicks, 2012, p. 62). Therapy helps a person resolve this conflict that a traumatic event might create through in-depth exploration of both their situational meaning and global meaning.