Have you asked yourself the question: “Why am I in this world?” The search for meaning is an essential driving motive of a person, which leads to its development. This is what makes us different from animals. Victor Frankl called this desire “Der Wille zum Sinn”.
This basic postulate distinguishes logotherapy, the teachings of Victor Frankl on the meaning of life, from the teachings of Sigmund Freud, who claimed that man is driven primarily by “Der Wille zur Lust” or “Striving for Pleasures”, and from the teachings of Alfred Adler, who believed that the man is driven by his teenage complexes, or in another words by “Der Wille zur Macht” or “Striving for Power”.
Victor Frankl wrote: “A person should not ask what is the meaning of life, rather, he should understand that he himself is the one to whom this question is addressed.” The meaning is individual and unique for each person in every moment of life. It changes from situation to situation. A person can answer these questions only when he takes responsibility for his life. Thus, in logotherapy, free choice, awareness and responsibility are the essence of human existence.
Responsibility has become the categorical imperative of logotherapy, which Frankl formulated as follows: “Live as if you were living a second time and as if you knew everything that you did wrong the first time, and now you can fix it.” Logotherapy is facing the future to a greater extent than the past of a person. Maxima of Logotherapy offers a person to imagine his future as his past and live his present, as if he was given a second chance to correct our “past” mistakes.
Logotherapy less than other psychotherapeutic methods tend to impose on the patient judgments of the doctor. It does not allow patients to shift the responsibility for their decisions to the doctor. The bottom line is that the patient decides for himself what life obligations and tasks he accepts in front of society or his conscience. If you follow the metaphor of Frankl, he represents the therapist more as an ophthalmologist, not as an artist. The artist paints the world as he sees it. The task of logotherapy is to show the patient the world as it is, to expand his perception, to show the diversity of meanings.
Logotherapy also says that a person must find meaning not inside himself or his psyche as a closed system. He must find meaning outside, in the real world. Logotherapy asserts that a person can find this unique meaning in three ways:
- Through active actions and work;
- Emotional experience of something, creativity or love for someone;
- Behavioral choice in a situation where suffering is inevitable.
The first way is clear. Happy is the man, who found the business or the job, which he likes, who made from his hobby the work, that people need, for which they are willing to pay.
The second way is connected with our emotional experiences of beauty, kindness, justice, perception of nature or art, as well as an individual person whom we love, with whom we are truly close. In logotherapy, sex is more likely a consequence of the common experiences of a man and a woman. It is sacred and appropriate as long as it is a means of expressing love.
The third way to acquire the meaning of life is through suffering, which a person cannot avoid. If a person cannot change life circumstances, he can change himself. At the same time, Frankl warns that to accept the suffering that we can avoid is not heroism, it is masochism. Frankl believed that man is free to find and realize the meaning of life, free to take responsibility for his destiny, even if his freedom is objectively limited.
In his opinion, this is possible due to the ability of a person to:
- Self-transcendence — the mental going beyond the limits of oneself and focus on something external;
- Self-disassosiation — a mental exit from any situation and the ability to look at oneself from the outside.
According to Frankl, internal stress and the search for meaning in life is not a pathology, but a path to self-development. The key Frankl’s conclusion is that value disorientation causes depression, and having a goal in life helps to overcome it. The purpose of logotherapy is to help the patient find the lost meaning of life through the active involvement of a person in the diverse flow of life. Logotherapy methods are based on awareness and work with fears: the fear of death, the fear of failure, the fear of expectations.
The methods that Frankl suggested for dealing with fears include:
- The method of paradoxical intention for the treatment of phobias and obsessive states caused by fear of waiting;
- The method of de-reflection for the treatment of sexual neurosis, caused by excessive intentions or fear of failure;
- The method of Socratic dialogue, used in the treatment of specific noogenic neuroses;
According to Frankl, the sense of humor also allows the patient to distance himself from himself and his problem and is one of the methods of logotherapy.
Frankl in his book “The Basics of Logotherapy” gives an example of a Socratic dialogue with a patient, his colleague, who for several years could not cope with the death of his wife, whom he loved very much. Viktor Frankl asked him a simple question: “What would happen if you died first?” The answer was: “She would suffer terribly.” “So you saved her from suffering?” — asked Frankl. After that, the patient shook his hand and left without a word. Sometimes people endure suffering more easily when they can understand their meaning.
The key conclusion that Victor Frankl makes: “What a person will become within the limits of heredity and environment depends on him. In concentration camps, for example, we observed that some people behaved like pigs, while others behaved like saints. Man contains both possibilities; which of them is implemented depends on the decisions made, and not on conditions. ”