Logotherapy & Meaning
“They can take from us almost everything. Our health, our property, our freedom, and even what is dearest to us – except for one thing: the freedom to decide how to react to our situation in life. We are the masters of our fate, not its victims.” (Prof. Viktor Frankl)
Revolutionary transformations and the rapid changes of our times, accompanied by the sweeping pace of life and the accelerated transitions in the life of man that are gradually increasing, raises the need to find a remedy for the sense of instability that these bring with them.
Among people who find themselves in harsh situations in life, this sense of instability and transience sometimes reaches a state of “Existential Vacuum” – a feeling of emptiness and lack of purpose that usually lead to aspirations for power, monetary profit and materialism, to sex and satiating pleasures, to extremism, factionalism, drugs and suicide (converging in the triple syndrome of violence, addiction and depression).
In such situations, the ability of every person to recruit his strength and his personal powers through the forces of his spirit is very important, because it gives him the ability to challenge these difficulties. This is the same power of defiance in the human spirit and the need to answer the question “What am I living for?” or more precisely, “What more does life expect from me?”
In fact, it means turning a difficulty into a personal victory – the victory of the spirit.
It is for this that “Logotherapy” is intended – to develop individual abilities in order to cope better with the difficulties that face man and to discover and strengthen the unique individual forces residing in everyone.
Logotherapy – Therapy by guiding man to the meaning of his own life (from the Greek word logos = meaning, inner understanding of the universe; logic; higher good).
According to Logotherapy, the basic need of man is to find meaning in his own life, and the desire for meaning is the central motive of mankind. This motive is much stronger than the Freudian desire to feel pleasure and stronger than the Adlerian need for social connection and a sense of belonging.
Viktor Frankl (Prof. of Neurology and Psychiatry in the University of Vienna, was born in Vienna on March 23, 1905 and died in Vienna on September 2, 1997) is considered to be the founder of the Third Viennese School of Psychology and as the father of Logotherapy. He developed his approach before the Second World War, and was one of the few theory developers who applied their theory to themselves while imprisoned in concentration camps (Auschwitz and others) where the members of his family were exterminated.
Frankl stirred up a revolution in medical thinking by incorporating an additional dimension to the usual view of man as being composed of body and soul – a spiritual dimension that enables one to view the complete man in a holistic perspective.
The spiritual dimension of man is linked to attributes such as ethics, imagination, humor, creativity, self awareness, responsibility, commitment to tasks and duties, the ability to forgive, empathy (the ability to sense the other), love (beyond an immediate satisfaction), the ability to transcend oneself, the power of defiance in the human spirit, and of course the aspiration for personal, unique meaning.
The human spirit is that which helps man to overcome disabilities and destructive instincts.
Logotherapy works to detect and strengthen the powers of man through emphasis on the strengths he develops during his life and applying them to his current situation. It deals with improving hidden abilities, according to the options available to us here and now, by extending the existing alternatives and by changing the attitude towards whatever exists. (For instance, Socratic dialogue is a very important tool that aids in discovering oneself, in finding the inner powers and using them and in guiding man to find meaning in life).
Logotherapy focuses on the question “What keeps men healthy?” as opposed to psychoanalysis that asks “What made men sick?”
Logotherapy teaches us to laugh (to develop a sense of humor that mainly helps in self-disassociation – a paradoxical guiding method) and to forget (to forget ourselves and to see the world and other people from the outside – the de-reflective method, deflection, which also requires self-transcendence).
Logotherapy helps us by using practical tools that can be implemented in day-to-day life and are based on the personal experience of every person, to see ourselves from a fresh angle regarding our limitations and our possibilities, and to address our attention to unique resources in us, resources that we can rely on in the various life situations we face (among which are missing an opportunity, pain and suffering, injustice and death).
Logotherapy is essentially an important and vital complement to various fields that deal with man (such as, medicine, psychology, psychotherapy, sociology, education, social and behavior sciences, philosophy, and… even politics).
Logotherapy provides these fields with an additional dimension of depth and completion. It does not attempt to change them or to substitute for them.
Logotherapy enables us to view to picture the holistic man in the turns and twists of his life course. It can therefore be adjusted to different age groups (teenagers, adults at different stages of their lives, and the elderly).
Faith and religion are techniques for finding meaning and the values connected with them (such as love, compassion, equality among men, responsibility and choice), which are linked with the human spirit and lie at the very foundation of the relationship between man and his Creator. These are also the links to the attributes of the spiritual dimension of man and the ways to find meaning through Logotherapy (such as activity, undergoing experiences, taking a stand, uniqueness, responsibility, choice and self-transcendence).
For whom is Logotherapy is intended? In practice, Logotherapy is intended for all, and especially for people who work in the fields of medicine, nursing, treatment, education, management and business, as an additional level in professional training.
|Logotherapy has given hope to millions of people across the world and helped them achieve emotional strength despite the obstacles that might have otherwise created an impasse. Thus, Logotherapy has designed itself to be used by every person who is interested in bettering himself and in helping others as well.
In its own unique way, Logotherapy makes it easier to cope with the given conditions of life and allows every person who wishes to do so, to take command over his life and to set his own course according to his abilities. Many people can, in this way, and within a relatively short time, improve their quality of life by finding meaning and value in life.
To conclude, and before setting out on our way, let us present a quotation from Viktor Frankl in a personal interview on his 84th birthday: “They can take from us almost everything. Our health, our property, our freedom, and even what is dearest to us – except for one thing: the freedom to decide how to react to our situation in life. We are the masters of our fate, not its victims.”
|© Gideon Millul