“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” – Victor Emil Frankl
Logotherapy was developed by Vienna-born Victor Frankl, a trained psychiatrist and neurologist. It arose from Frankl’s observations and reflections while imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. It was during this three year period of suffering and fear that he observed how those that survived typically found some meaning in their experience, such as a task that they needed complete to fulfil their purpose.
Finding Meaning with Logotherapy
Logotherapy is based on the premise that humans are driven to find a sense of meaning and purpose in life. According to Frankl, life’s meaning can is discovered in three different ways:
- By creating work or accomplishing tasks and goals
- By experiencing something fully or loving someone
- By the attitude, that one adopts toward unavoidable suffering
Frankly believed that suffering is a part of life and that a man’s ultimate freedom is his ability to choose how to respond to any given circumstance, even the most painful ones. Additionally, people can find meaning in their lives by identifying the unique roles that only they can fulfil.
Frankl saw our ability to respond to life and to be responsible for it as essential factors in finding meaning and fulfilment. He believed that humans were not simply the product of their heredity makeup or their current environment but rather that they have the ability to make decisions and take responsibility for their lives.
“Striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man” – Frankl
While the ultimate meaning of life is outside of our ability to comprehend, Frankl held the belief that each person had the opportunity to recognise meaning in their life at an individual level, and doing so would significantly improve their quality of life. He did not believe that people created such meaning, rather that it was present in every living moment whether one was aware of it or not, it is just a matter of discovery and acknowledgement.
For this reason, meaning presents itself in different ways to different people and no matter what your fate, if one takes appropriate action and adopts the right attitude to the situation, one can realise the meaning in life.
The 3 Foundational Techniques of Logotherapy
Dereflection is helpful when someone is overly absorbed in their issue or the attainment of their goal. By redirecting attention, or ‘dereflecting’ attention away from the self, the person can become whole again, thinking of themselves in the context of others and the bigger picture.
2. Paradoxical intention
Paradoxical Intention involves using humour to pacify what we fear most. For people who experience anxiety, phobias or PTSD fear can be paralysing. By using humour or ridicule, one can express oneself about the thing they fear the most, removing the fear and relieving the anxious symptoms associated with it.
3. Socratic dialogue
Socratic dialogue is a technique in which the logotherapist uses the person’s words as a method of self-discovery. By listening intently to what the person says, the therapist can point out specific patterns to the client, and help someone find new meaning. This process allows a person to realize that the answer lies within and is just waiting to be discovered.
A Take Home Message
Some people face situations over which they have little control, situations which can cause immense suffering, such as being imprisonment. However, even in such situations, as Frankl discovered first-hand, we have the opportunity to find meaning and feel a sense of purpose and hope.
“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation. . .we are challenged to change ourselves.”-Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
How do you find meaning in your life? Let us know in the comment box below.
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Viktor Frankl. (2016). Retrieved November 01, 2016, from http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/viktor-frankl/
Frankl, V. (n.d). Logotherapy and Man’s Search for Meaning. Retrieved November 01, 2016, from http://academyofideas.com/2016/07/viktor-frankl-logotherapy-mans-search-for-meaning/