The Meaning of Life: The Reciprocal Theory of Analysis - Book Review

As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life.

About the Book: The Meaning of Life: The Reciprocal Theory of Analysis Kindle Edition was written by Marilyn Haley and is 66 pages in length. The author held a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology, and the book is written from a Christian perspective, often citing Biblical examples to support her theory of "giving and receiving." As noted in the preface by her brother, she committed suicide on July 4th, 2011 — but, this fact does not diminish the theory outlined by the author.

Haley provides a concise and very logical overview of a theory which involves "giving and receiving;" and she abbreviates this as G&R, and antithetical, "dysfunctional giving and receiving" abbreviated as DG&R. The theory Haley creates is dubbed, The Reciprocal Theory of Analysis and the idea came to her after waking up and thinking The meaning of life is giving and receiving. She would later go on to expand this thought as, I believe the purpose of our existence is to know God, and that giving and receiving give meaning to our relationship with God and each other.

Because of the nature of Haley's Reciprocal Theory of the meaning of life, according to her, the answers can only be found in relation to other human beings. She goes in depth in the book about the Five Foundations of a relationship, types of DG&R (blackmail, social pressure, etc.), and more. What becomes clear is that Haley recognizes the importance of the self in relation to meaning, and the self in relation to others. If the sense of self is diminished by an unhealthy relationships, or by previous problems, the self must be rebuilt in order to truly experience meaning through health relationships that embrace giving and receiving.

Haley also comments on the importance of meaning, Meaning is important because we want to matter. We want our relationships to mean good things about ourselves. We want to know that others value us and that we contribute to their happiness. Being valued gives our lives meaning. As to value, value is love, which is meaningful in its purest sense — yet, it is sometimes only from experiencing what is meaningless that we can understand what is meaningful.

The keys in having healthy relationships include knowing that:

G&R → meaning

DG&R is the opposite of G&R

DG&R → meaninglessness

Meaninglessness→ suffering

DG&R → suffering

Suffering + G&R → meaning → comfort

At the end of part 1 of the book, Haley notes, When we experience DG&R, we suffer, we feel devalued, and we struggle to understand the meaning behind it. We wonder if life (and God) really values us or not. We ask questions like, “why me,” and we wonder if there is hope and purpose in any of it. The remainder of the book delves more into the nature of relationships and applications of counseling. Unless you are a student of psychology or counseling, these sections may get a bit dry, but they are also quite insightful and appear to come from an individual who has helped a lot of people.

Overall, Haley presents a logical theory on meaning that really addresses it in context of others — which includes other people, and God. If you are looking for a self-help book to help you overcome unhealthy relationships, understand why people act the way they do, and how healthy giving and receiving relate to the meaning of life, then this is a well-written book that you should read. Unlike some of the other "bargain-bin" Kindle books that I've read lately, this one has great value, and although "giving and receiving" is not a flashy or revolutionary theory, it is one that could change your life.

We rate the book the following: Overall - 6 Meaning of Life Relevance - 5 Uniqueness – 5 What did we miss? How do you think healthy relationships contribute to meaning? If you like the site, help support us by purchasing the book on Amazon.