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The dynamics of ideas about the meaning of life and acme of students during their studies at the university
Human life is motivated by the search for the meaning of its existence, the desire to realize this meaning on the basis of value guidelines. According to W. Frankl (1990), man is driven by the will to meaning. The desire to find the meaning of life is a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives, the main motivational force that helps to overcome difficulties.
Life becomes meaningful - containing conscious meaning (purpose) - firstly, through self-giving, self-realization in activity; secondly, through the appropriation, use of what is created by others; thirdly, through the scale of self-determination and self-government (determination of position in relation to oneself, society, space). The scale of a person’s self-determination sets a coordinate system for his value orientations, for self-transcendence. One cannot disagree with W. Frankl: self-transcendence - going beyond oneself, focusing not on oneself, but on something else - this is what constitutes the essence of human existence. We perceive the meanings, revealing them in certain phenomena, finding the expression of the meaning of human life in a specific situation. There can be no universal meaning of life; there are only unique meanings of individual life situations.
Awareness of the existence of situations similar to societies of particular historical periods makes us note the presence of meanings that are shared by people throughout human history. These are universal meanings - values that crystallize in typical situations that humanity faces. They make it easier for a person to search for meaning, saving him from uncertainty and from making decisions in typical situations. The process of searching for meaning is a decision-making process in a coordinate system determined by the scale of self-determination, where acquired universal values can serve as a criterion for the correctness of a decision, and among them is the following of such values and personal faith. In fact, this is the process of making an author’s decision on the significance of value, turning it into a personally meaningful meaning, filling it with subjective emotional coloring, filling it with subjective feelings, thoughts. Meaning is always meaningful personally. If he did not become one, it is simply a value: universal, party, group. Despite the fact that an author’s decision is made, a person is responsible for it. Before yourself, society, space. It all depends on the scale of self-determination, the characteristics of self-identification.
In connection with the foregoing, the tasks of education are to improve the ability, which allows a person to find unique meanings; ability to self-actualization, self-actualization in the process of searching and realizing one’s meaning in life; ability to personal and professional self-determination.
Our pilot study of the dynamics of ideas about the “meaning of life” and “acme” of students of the Faculty of Psychology, where 88 students were selected from the study, showed that there are no significant differences in the idea of the meaning of life and acme among students studying in the first year and last semester. Interpreting the obtained results, we assumed that the reason for this is not quite correctly made sample of the study. We studied students who were educated in medical schools, teacher training colleges, that is, we dealt with already established personalities who had mastered the value system of a particular educational institution, and, studying in the evening department or in absentia, worked somewhere, often in their specialty. The second study was aimed at analyzing the personality traits of applicants and changing the life-meaning priorities of students of the psychological faculty of Moscow State Pedagogical University named after M.A. Sholokhov. On the one hand, we tried to make a psychological portrait of applicants, and on the other, to trace the nature of changes in ideas about personal meanings, the meaning of life and acme of students during their study at the university. We specifically took students with different levels of education at the entrance and different periods of study. The study involved applicants from the Department of Psychology with secondary and secondary special education (pedagogical and medical) in the amount of twenty-four people and one hundred and thirty-three students with different initial levels of education.
First, let us dwell on our understanding of the psychological portrait and the method of compiling it. This is a socio-psychological characteristic of a person that has a certain structure, determined by the psychological approach, the school, the way in which the person and its individual components are considered.
Based on the works of K.K. Platonov, devoted to the analysis of the personality structure, we selected our own set of methods, which, without violating the basic scheme of personality analysis for drawing up a psychological portrait, would nevertheless make it possible to obtain complete information about the personality and, in particular, about the identity of the applicant. These are standardized techniques: LSI - a technique aimed at identifying the type of psychological defense; a personality questionnaire by D. Keyrsi (Eliseev, 2003) determines the type according to Jung and focus on a specific activity; questionnaire of personal orientation (Questionnaire, 2002) reveals the level of self-actualization, determines the external and internal orientation of the personality; modification of the Dembo-Rubinstein methodology for determining self-esteem; method of researching the features of the implementation of the probabilistic forecast “Prospective autobiography”.
During the study, the following results were obtained:
1. According to the methodology aimed at identifying psychological types of protection (LSI), it was found that the following psychological types of protection are most common: projection - (75%), regression - (63%), substitution - (54%). Much less often: denial - (41%), suppression - (41%), reactive formations - (37%). The average value is scored for such types of psychological defense as compensation (50%) and intellectualization (50%).
2. According to the methodology (D. Keyrsi), aimed at identifying the features of the properties of temperament and a predisposition to a certain type of activity of an entrant MGSPU, the dominant type of profession among applicants is a psychologist (33%), in second place is a teacher (16%). When studying the properties of temperament, it turned out that 58% of applicants are extroverts. Extroverted mental type prevails.
3. According to the self-actualization test (Questionnaire, 2002), high indicators were found on the following scales: the value of self-actualization - 37%, spontaneity - 41%, reactive sensitivity -49%, etc. They are characteristic of a person of good, friendly, open experience, whose life is a mission and who relies primarily on himself. Such a person is free from social pressure and other people's expectations, but is sensitive to the approval, love and goodwill of others.
4. In the course of the study of the features of self-esteem, it was recorded that the indicators of all respondents are in line with the norm, applicants of the faculty of psychology have set achievable and very realistic goals, there is a desire to change their lives for the better, not overestimating their capabilities. 50% of students are going to work in the specialty acquired at the faculty of psychology, and not 25% are going to work in the specialty.
8% have personal plans for the future, do not plan their life at all, have not written an autobiography - 16% of the survey participants. The data obtained make it possible to compose a psychological portrait of an applicant at the faculty of psychology.
The extrovert is mental. It focuses on what is happening mainly at the moment, as well as on the subjective intensity of sensations, and there is no proportional relationship between the object and the sensation - they are subjective. Positive thinking leads to new facts or general concepts of disparate material. Characteristic psychological types of protection: attributing the same features that he possesses to other people and avoiding reality by returning to previous stages of development.
Self-actualizing personality. Develops deep, close, informal relationships with other people. He relies more on himself, does not depend on external influences. Sensitive to the approval, love, and goodwill of others. Lives on a here-and-now basis. Accepts the values of self-actualization, responsive to the feelings and needs of other people, not afraid to show their true feelings in behavior. Considers himself worthy of love and respect, accepts himself, his weaknesses and weaknesses. Able for the obvious contradictions of life to establish their significant connection, as well as accept anger and aggression as natural human manifestations. It sets achievable and very real goals that are adequate to self-esteem, wants to grow personally, change their standard of living to a higher one. Basically, it is natural for an applicant to plan his professional activities, but he does not always prescribe criteria for success, especially in the family and personal spheres.
Such a psychological portrait of the applicant of the psychological faculty clearly refutes the conventional wisdom that people with a low self-esteem, who are unable to communicate, make contact, who are internally aimed only at solving their personal problems, go to the psychological faculty.
Now we turn to the analysis of the nature of changes in ideas about the meaning of life and acme of students. The study of the dynamics of perceptions of the meaning of life and acme of students at the Moscow State Pedagogical University was carried out taking into account the data obtained on the psychological portrait on the basis of a questionnaire survey (questionnaire in the 2002 collection), as well as through a semi-standardized conversation based on the Dembo-Rubinstein self-assessment technique. The study involved first and final year students studying from three and a half to five years. A comparative analysis of the results of the study allowed us to state that the students' ideas about the meaning of life and acme for the period of study are partially changing. Let us consider these changes in more detail.
At first glance, the general idea of the meaning of life in both groups seems the same, but freshmen are not thorough in their descriptions. The difference lies in the inability in the first years of study at the university to fill the concept of "meaning of life" with content. Similar opinions are expressed about the factors that change the meaning of life: age, life experience, and knowledge acquired at a university. For most students (60%), the assumption that academic subjects (psychology and philosophy) affect the change in the meaning of a student’s life is also common. In our opinion, an insignificant but noticeable discrepancy in the assessment of their influence on the change in the meaning of life is interesting. 65% of first-year students and only 60% of graduate students talk about the presence of such influence. Perhaps this is due to the fact that students, having mastered some disciplines, now do not attach importance to them; however, this may also be the result of an assessment of the acquired knowledge, that is, disappointment in them as a means of understanding the meaning of life.
There are obvious differences in the general concepts of acme. A quarter of freshmen did not answer questions regarding this concept at all. The answers of the others are not structured enough. At the same time, older students coped well with the definition of this concept and at the same time demonstrated elements of professional thinking, used psychological knowledge.
Despite the fact that not all first-year students have an idea of acme, it is possible to record differences in the degree of change in acme that freshmen (75%) and graduates (66%) would like to achieve in recent years.
Significant discrepancies are observed in the number of freshmen and graduates who affirmatively answered the question of whether their own life experiences influence the formation of the meaning of life: freshmen (50%) and graduates (33%). We can also state a discrepancy in the degree of certainty regarding the ways to implement the life plan of self-improvement: among first-year students, 28% do not know how and what to do, and 11% among graduates. This is confirmed by the assessment of the need for self-improvement: only 10% of first-year students want to improve themselves, while 29% of graduates feel this need. The obtained data on the desire to study for self-improvement are interesting: they believe that this is necessary, 42% of first-year students and only 35% of graduates.
When comparing the results with those that we obtained, compiling a psychological portrait, we can say that applicants in their ideas about self-actualization, the meaning of life, acme and their components are similar to freshmen, and together they are equally different from graduates.
We believe that all these discrepancies are the result of studying at a university. Having received a certain amount of knowledge, graduates understand that self-improvement, which must be planned in advance, predicted, will enable them to become highly qualified specialists, to achieve a certain level of professional excellence. They no longer rely on their everyday life experience, but look for opportunities to obtain adequate professional experience. They have already partly mastered the teaching methods and some professional knowledge and therefore are less willing to learn than freshmen, whose cognitive need is not yet saturated.
Summing up, it can be noted that students of the Faculty of Psychology of Moscow State Pedagogical University named after M.A. Sholokhov, initially self-actualizing personalities to a large extent, during the training period have the opportunity to improve their ability to find unique meanings, the ability to fulfill themselves, to actualize themselves in the process of searching and realizing their own meaning of life, and especially in achieving professional excellence.
In the framework of this article, we do not subject the contents of the concepts “meaning of life” and “acme of students” to a detailed analysis, we do not operationalize the concept of “meaning of life” at the psychological level, confining ourselves to its definition through secondary “rationalization”, a conscious universal value. Nevertheless, we see a sufficiently substantiated appeal to the concept of “meaning of life” as a social setting, the formation and functioning of which can be influenced by a person’s personal characteristics, in particular, his self-esteem - retrospective, relevant and promising. This will make it possible to make a more thorough analysis of the features of the meaning of life, ideas about acme and a number of factors that determine them, among students.
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