Seeking Meaning Beyond Trauma

Dr. Paul Dunion

For many, the search for genuine meaning remains a desirous life-long pursuit. There are many expressions of meaning. How do we know when our lives can actually be characterized as meaningful? On a very fundamental level, searching for meaning places your life in a context of meaning. That is, you know what it means to lose meaning and to reacquire it.

An old definition of the word meaning is “to name”. When we name ourselves, we are attributing meaning to our lives. We can name ourselves as lovers of apple turnovers or as someone dedicated to supporting others in maximizing their human potential. The more devotion we get behind the name and the more the name points to serving something larger than ourselves, then the greater the depth and breadth of the meaning created. We might say that the richness of a meaningful life reflects what truly matters. Some ways to lean into the direction of creating meaning include identifying what you desire from life, acknowledging what life is asking of you, knowing your gifts and how they might best serve and knowing and living what you love. …

The Challenge of Chronic Trauma and Facing Ambiguity

Dr. Paul Dunion

Survivors of early chronic, developmental trauma have little or no resiliency to effectively respond to ambiguity or uncertainty. The loss of such resiliency is captured in the following by James Hollis: “Living with ambiguity, not being too attached to the old ‘certainties’, and learning what life needs to tell us whether or not we think we are up to it are, frankly, the only ways to grow, become more capacious, live a larger journey.”

How do survivors of early trauma become so averse to ambiguity? What happens to their resiliency? We can say that ambiguity or uncertainty suggests a possible threat to survival for a traumatized child. If that child can’t identify where a threat may be coming from, then the nervous system becomes unregulated, leading to an automatic response of fight, flight or freeze. Being driven by a hijacked amygdala, traumatized children remain vigilantly patrolling in support of their survival. …

A Blessing for Being

Paul Dunion

There are ancient rivals named Becoming and

Being. Even if you have not thought about Becoming

or talked about it, your body knows Becoming

as doing. You get educated, pursue occupational

goals, you achieve, you create a home, you pay bills

and rake leaves in Autumn.

Without a great deal of consideration, you give

Becoming the power to hold your essential worth.

And rightly so, you build, you generate, you create,

you fix, you teach and maybe you heal. However,

there comes a time when the weight of the soul’s

sacredness asks for more.

When does striving bring a fatigue to the soul? …

A Five Stage Re-entry into the Here and Now

Paul Dunion

The idea that it may be worthwhile to live as much as possible in the here and now seems to have been reduced to a minor spiritual axiom. Recently, while having dinner with an old friend who has enjoyed a generous amount of professional success, I heard a reference to the here and now as an extraneous cliché. “I know I should pay more attention to living in the present, but the excitement of my books booming and my art-work getting a new-founded notoriety just pulls me into a “what’s next” orientation toward living.” …

Condemned and Free

Suspending Hostilities Directed at Truth

Dr. Paul Dunion

Truth is currently under siege. Nothing is more debilitating and devastating to a people than the pursuit of the best version of the truth experiencing a profound desolation. When a commitment to pursue the truth is sacrificed, we live with no North Star. We wander aimlessly or grab onto the loudest and most available voice. We don’t know how to decide what or who to trust. We become strangers to what truly matters.

Rollo May, the existential psychologist, reminds us that we are condemned to an approximation of the truth. That doesn’t mean that there is no truth. Rather, it suggests that the most viable option is to remain pilgrims devoted to the quest of the best version of the truth. We all know the emotional sense of what May calls “condemned”. It can happen in a conversation over politics, religion, or simply sharing diverse views about what truly matters in our lived experience. The yearning is for something larger than simply my view, a longing for something conclusive, something that can bring ease to the quaking in my chest. …

Seeking Balance

Paul Dunion

What is balance? Is it a good thing? If so, how is it acquired? Before addressing psychological balance, let’s explore the analogy of physical balance. We say that if you can stand on one foot while holding the other foot uplifted, you have demonstrated some measure of balance. If you can stand on one foot, and move the other foot in mid-air forward, side-to-side and backward, then you’ve demonstrating more balance. If you can do the same exercise with your eyes closed, then you are likely showing a greater level of balance.

The above illustrations suggest that physical balance can be measured by removing certain underpinnings, such as two feet firmly planted on the floor, and see if a particular position can be maintained. However, standing on one foot while waving the other in several different directions is not a way to address a variety of tasks. For instance, it would not be advisable to attempt to either shovel snow or chop wood while maintaining such a posture. …

Building Bridges — From Divisiveness to Unity

Paul Dunion

We all love hearing beliefs that are indistinguishable from our own. What can we make of this propensity to rejoice over conversations where the participants agree, confirm and even applaud our beliefs? The ego remains convinced that its current version of truth must be correct. It is often the ego’s tenacity about being right that derails conversations involving different beliefs. Of course, the gusto around the need to be right quickly slips into an investment to win as one idea is aimed at outperforming someone else’s idea.

Once we are locked into being right and winning, the building blocks of divisiveness are in place. Divisiveness has some strong attitudinal expressions. The cognitive intonation is to simply think of the person or group holding different beliefs as either stupid, crazy or evil. Divisiveness becomes more dense as that idea finds a home in our belief system. The emotional components of divisiveness can include fear, anger and disgust. With both the cognitive and emotional elements in place, the behavioral pieces of fight or flight (avoidance) are inevitable. …

A Blessing For the Peacemaker

Paul Dunion

Kabir says, “When deep inside you there is a loaded gun, how can you have God?” Kabir appears to be reminding us that our relationship with the divine is dependent upon living with diminished inner violence. As one who desires to make peace, you are asked to become acquainted with your gun, the one pointed at you.

Feel your finger on the trigger. It’s been there in so many ways. You might ask, “Where does this gun come from?” Well, maybe your father handed it to you when you did not throw a ball the way he expected. Or your mother dispensed a weapon as she shamed the way you wore your hair. …

Black Lives Matter — From Altruism and Beyond

Dr. Paul Dunion

Our streets are talking to us. The talk is loud and mostly true. It says, “Black lives matter”, “Marginalization of some hurts everyone”, “Separation breeds ignorance and fear”, Leadership from ego cannot hold those who are following” and “It’s time to recall the power of kindness and compassion”.

These voices can be ignored or they can be heard as a soulful plea for change. The listening we do can be shaped and crafted by altruism. It doesn’t always get enacted automatically.

Sometimes being intentional or deliberate about kindness will be significant. We can ask: Is this my time to listen? Am I willing to stop postponing a compassionate ear? What might get in the way of listening kindly now? If this is my time to hear compassionately, what action will I take to demonstrate I am truly listening? Action becomes a living testimony regarding what was heard actually matters. …

A Blessing for the Meaning-Maker

Paul Dunion

You, you maker of meaning, you have dared to honor your task by participating in creation. The gods look kindly upon your devotion to deeply touch your experience with curiosity and wonder. Such faithfulness intimately bonds you with life. You continue to withstand the seduction inherent in the pursuit of happiness. The longing to be happy finds its satisfaction in the realization of some intention or wish. One becomes obsessed in viewing life as a benefactor delivering ease and comfort. The business of making happy sees life as only unfortunate when the good times aren’t rolling. …


Paul Dunion Ed.D, LPC

Life is an extremely deep mystery. Let yourself be touched by her and she may grant you a glimpse.

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