After reading the second chapter of McGuire’s book, I found the idea of a meaning system very familiar. McGuire explains that people create their meaning systems through socialization as well as a groups social norms and legitimations. As we grow up, we are taught the social norms and meaning systems of the social group used by our parents, friends, and teachers. As we get old enough to begin thinking individually, we start to accept or reject any meanings that are introduced to us. The meanings we accept build our individual meaning system, which can begin to differ from the meaning system of the social group we are in. This meaning system we have created is the driving force of our decision making and reactions to events in our lives.
I recently began reading a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In this book, Ruiz presents the same subject with different language. Just like McGuire uses the term meaning, Ruiz uses the term agreement. However, agreement is used as a word for the meanings you accept because of your agreement to believe them. To Ruiz, a meaning system is just a set of agreements between yourself and your personal dream. He talks about “the dream of society” and “the personal dream”. These concept are similar to the ones McGuire brings up about “meaning for a social group” and an “individuals meaning system”. Ruiz explains that as we grew up, we didn’t have the opportunity to choose our beliefs, we just agreed with the information presented by the dream, or worldview, of society. As we got old enough to decide our beliefs for ourselves, we were able to choose what not to agree to. He explains how your personal dream and set of agreements affects your life, and he describes how you can change it by adjusting your agreements.
I found it interesting to have a similar topic used in different ways and for different purposes.