TRIBUTE to VIKTOR FRANKL
Logotherapy and Freedom of Will
Will to Meaning and Meaning of Life
Tragic Triad, Existential Vacuum, Paradoxical Intention
Logotherapy Techniques with Case History
What Others Say About Frankl
Excerpts From the Writings of Viktor Frankl
An Interview With Viktor Frankl at 90 Years: Matthew Scully
On Hypnosis ‑ Viktor Frankl: Recollections: Autobiography
Everything to Gain: LOGOTHERAPY: CRUMBAUGH
FRANKL OBITUARY: FRANKL DEAD AT 92: By ROLAND PRINZ
VIKTOR FRANKL’S BIBLIOGRAPHYINTRODUCTION
I wish to pay tribute to one of my heroes. Though he is not known as a hypnotherapist, his theories and counseling techniques can be used by hypnotherapist. In an address on Hypnosis and Religion, Augustin Figueroa said, “Although he may or may not be a hypnotist, Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy coincides with hypnosis in the search for information of self in order to find means to cope with disastrous situations. His ability to ‘talk himself’ into a condition which enabled him to cope with his terrible situation at the Nazi concentration camp can most certainly be equated to hypnotic trance, his search for meaning is certainly a process similar to the utilization techniques of Ericksonian therapy.”Viktor Frankl was born in Vienna on March 26, 1905 and died in the same city on September 2, 1997. He was a professor University of Vienna and guest professor at several universities in the United States to include Harvard and Southern Methodist University. Frankl was on the staff of Rothschild Hospital in Vienna when he was taken prisoner by the Nazi. Following his arrest, he was in German concentration camps till the end of World War II.
In an interview with Dr. Robert Schuler, Dr. Frankl told this story about his decision to stay in Europe when he had an opportunity to come to America in the early 40’s. The situation in his homeland was becoming more and more difficult for those of the Jewish race. The local Jewish Synagogue had been bombed and left in ruins by the Nazis. Dr. Frankl was offered an opportunity to go to America. As the synagogue was destroyed, he went to a nearby Christian Church. He prayed that God would give him some direction as to what he should do. He wanted to know if he should go to America or stay with his family. Though he earnestly prayed, no answer came. He left the Church feeling that God had ignored him.
On the way home, he came to the destroyed Synagogue. He stopped for a few moment and picked up a piece of wood to take home as a keepsake for his father. When he arrived home, he examined the piece of wood more closely. As he read the inscription on the piece of wood, he realized that indeed God had heard his prayer and had answered him. The inscription on the piece wood read, “Honor your father and mother.” He stayed in Europe and eventually ended up a prisoner of the Nazis.
If Frankl had not gone to that Church, stopped at that destroyed Synagogue, picked up that piece of wood and carried it home and read what was inscribed on it; would we have ever heard of Viktor Frankl? Maybe! Would he have had the impact on the second half of the Twenty Century that he had. I doubt it! He did go by that Church, stopped at the destroyed Synagogue, picked up that piece of wood, carried it home, read it and become one of the great contributors to psychology, life and meaning in the Twenty Century.
Frankl survived the Holocaust and the Nazi death camps. During his time in the concentration camps, Frankl developed his approach to psychotherapy known as Logotherapy. At the core of his theory is the belief that humanity’s primary motivational force is the search for meaning.
Even in the degradation and misery of the concentration camps, Frankl was able to exercise the most important freedom of all: the freedom to determine one’s own attitude and spiritual well‑being. No sadistic Nazi SS guard was able to take that away from him or control the inner‑life of Frankl’s soul. One of the ways he found the strength to fight to stay alive and not lose hope was to think of his wife. Frankl clearly saw that it was those who were without hope who died quickest in the concentration camp. “He who has a why for life can put with any how.” (Nietzsche) Frankl’s first book in English Man’s Search For Meaning was written while in a Nazi prison camp during World War II. (According to United States Library of Congress poll, that book is one of the ten most influential books in America.) During those years, he experienced incredible suffering and degradation but further developed his theory of Logotherapy which focuses on the meaning of human existence and man’s search for meaning.
Viktor Frankl taught at the University of Vienna Medical School and later at several schools in the United States. Frankl’s first book in English was Man’s Search For Meaning which he wrote while in a Nazi prison camp during World War II. During those years, he experienced incredible suffering and degradation but further developed his theory of Logotherapy. “Logos” is the Greek work for “Meaning.” Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence and man’s search for meaning. According to Frankl, the striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. In using the term, “man,” Frankl is referring to the “Human Race,” male and female. Logotherapy forms a chain of interconnected links: (1) freedom of will, (2) will to meaning, and (3) meaning of life.
1. FREEDOM OF WILL: Man has freedom of will which remains even when all other freedoms are gone because he can choose what attitude he will take to his limitations. Determinism is an infectious disease for many psychiatrists, educators and adherents of determinist religion who are seemingly not aware that they are thereby under‑minding the very basis of their own convictions. For either man’s freedom must be recognized or else psychiatry is a waste of time, religion is a delusion and education is an illusion. Freedom means freedom in the face of three things: (1) the instincts, (2) inherited disposition, 3 environment
2. WILL TO MEANING: The basic striving of human beings is to find and fulfill meaning and purpose. People reach out to encounter meanings to fulfill. Such a view is profoundly opposed to those motivational theories which are based on the homeostasis principle. Those theories depict man as if he were a closed system. According to them, man is basically concerned with maintaining or restoring an inner equilibrium and to this end with the reduction of tensions. In the final analysis, this is also assumed to be the goal of gratification of drives and the satisfaction of needs.
Thus the homeostasis principle does not does not yield a sufficient ground on which to explain human behavior. Particularly such human phenomena as the creativity of man which is oriented toward values and meaning. It is Frankl’s contention that the pleasure principle is self‑defeating. The more one aims at pleasure, the more his aim is missed. (The hypnotherapist should understand this principle because we know that the harder you try, the more difficult it becomes to achieve. For example, a common script might read, “Your eyes are stuck shut. Your eyes are sticking tighter and tighter. You cannot open your eyes. You can try, but the harder you try, the tighter they stick.” Pleasure is missed when it is the goal and obtained when it is the side effect of attaining a goal. 3. MEANING OF LIFE: Logotherapy leaves to the client the decision as to how to understand his own meaning whether along the lines of religious beliefs or agnostic convection. Logotherapy must remain available to everyone and so must hypnotherapy. The therapist can help an individual to discover his/her meaning, but it is the individual’s responsibility to come to understand the meaning of his or her life.
Humans are ultimately self‑determining. What one becomes within limits of endowment and environment, he has made for himself. Frankl wrote, “In the concentration camp, we witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself: which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions. Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers and he is also that being who entered the gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.” It was Frankl’s contention that the pleasure principle of Freud is self‑defeating. The more one aims for pleasure, the more his aim is missed. The very “pursuit of happiness” is what thwarts it. Pleasure is missed when it is the goal and attained when it is the side effect of attaining a goal. Hypnotherapist calls this the Law of Reversed Effect: “The harder you try…the more difficult it becomes.”
I am reminded that in the Museum of the State House of Mississippi there are an old rusty breastplate and sword. They are relics of the first expedition of Spanish of Florida and the lands to the west. The Spanish came in search of gold, but found only lonely stretches of sand, dense forest, poisonous snakes and insects, wild beast and hostile people. They were at times discouraged, disheartened and ready to quit. On other occasions, they were feverish with hope from the report that gold was just around the bend, just over the hill, or just across the river. It seemed the further they went in search of gold, the further form gold they got. Is not this a parable of life?
The therapist’s role consists of widening and broadening the visual field of the client so that the spectrums of meaning and values become conscious and visible to her. Meaning to life may change, but it never ceases to be. We can discover meaning through creative values, experience values and attitudinal values. Meaning can come through what we give to life (creative values), by what we take from the world: Listening to music, reading, enjoying sports, etc. (experience values), and through the stand we take toward a situation we can no longer change such as the death of a loved one (attitudinal values). As long as one is conscious, he is under obligation to realize values, even if only attitudinal values. Frankl does not claim to have an answer for the client’s meaning to life. Meaning must be found but it cannot be given. Logotherapy is an optimistic approach to life for it teaches that there are no tragic or negative aspects which cannot be the stand one takes to them be translated into a positive accomplishment.
It is commonly observed that anxiety produces precisely what the client fears. Frankl called this “anticipatory anxiety.” For instance, in the cases of insomnia, the client reports that she has been having trouble going to sleep at night. The fear of not going to sleep only adds to difficulty of trying to go to sleep. Fear of test taking, sexual problems (impotence, failure to experience orgasm) are intensified by anticipatory anxiety.
Frankl developed the technique of “paradoxical intention.” For instance, when a phobia client is afraid that something will happen to him, the Logotherapist encourages him to intent or wish for, even if only for a short time, precisely what he fears. Hypnotherapist calls this method or a slight variation of it, “desensitization.” There can also be a bit of humor involved with paradoxical intention. I used this method with a lady who ate two bags of popcorn each night and wanted to stop or cut down. During the counseling session, I said to her, “Now, tonight just say to yourself, ‘Well, I have been eating two bags of popcorn each night. Tonight, I am going to eat four bags. I am sure that if I can eat two, I can eat four.” She began to laugh and said, “That is ridiculous. I don’t want four bags. Two bags are too much also. I can be satisfied with one or less.”
You may notice there can be a touch of the ridiculous and humor in the approach. Paradoxical Intention allows the client to develop a sense of detachment toward her problem by laughing at it. This procedure is based upon the fact that problems are caused as much by compulsion to avoid or fight them as by the problem itself. The avoiding and fighting the problem focuses on the problem and strengthens the symptoms. Another part of paradox intention is to exaggerate the problem. By exaggerating the problem and then letting it go, one may observe that the symptom diminishes and the client is no longer haunted by them (circle therapy).
VIKTOR FRANKL’S LOGOTHERAPY AND FREEDOM OF WILL
“Logos” is a Greek word that means “meaning.” Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence and also on man’s search for meaning. (When Frankl used the word “man” in this context, he meant “human beings.”) According to Logotherapy, the striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. That is why he speaks of a “will to meaning” in contrast to the pleasure principle or “will to pleasure” on which Freudian psychoanalysis is centered. The will to meaning is more important according to Frankl than the “striving for superiority” stressed by Adlerian psychology. Man does not have to endure meaninglessness of life as some existential philosophers teach or face life with a pessimistic outlook as other existential philosophers would indicate. Frankl sees man as a whole that includes body, mind, and spirit. All three are interwoven so that each affects the other. He uses the example of looking a drinking glass. To look at it from one angle it looks like a drinking glass. To look at the glass from another direction, it looks like a circle. To see the shadow of the glass, the viewer is provided with another shape. Logotherapy does not only recognizes man’s spirit, but actually starts with it. It must be keep in mind, however, that within the frame of Logotherapy “spiritual” does not have a religious connotation but refers to the specifically human dimensions. In this connection, “Logos” is intended to signify “the spiritual” and beyond that, “the meaning.” I would like to point out that Frankl is very friendly toward religion and does not hesitate to use it if his patient is inclined toward religion. Freud once said, “Man is not only often much more immoral than he believes, but also often much more moral than he thinks.” Frankl adds that he is often much more religious than he suspects. People are now seeing more in man’s morality than an interjected father‑image and more in his religion than a projected father‑image. Frankl says, “To consider religion a general obsessional neurosis of humanity is already old‑fashioned.” He stated that we must not make the mistake of looking upon religion as something emerging from the realm of the id, thus tracing it back again to instinctual drives. Even the followers of Jung have not avoided this error. They reduce religion to the collective unconscious or to archetypes. Frankl was once asked after a lecture whether he did not admit that there were such things as religious archetypes. “Was it not remarkable that all primitive people ultimately reached a similar concept of God, which seem to point to a god‑archetype?” Frankl asks his questioner whether there was such a thing as a Four‑archetype. The man did not understand immediately and so Frankl said, “Look here, all people discovered independently that two and two make four. Perhaps we do not need an archetype for an explanation; perhaps two and two really do make four. Perhaps we do not need a divine archetype to explain human religion either. Perhaps God really does exist.”
Though Logotherapy does not focus on helping the patients to regain his belief in God but time and again this is just what occurs, unintended and unexpected as it is. Frankl stated, “It is the business of existential analysis (Logotherapy) to furnish and to adorn as far as possible the chamber of immanence, while being careful not to block the door to transcendence.” The Logotherapist has an “open‑door policy.” Through this door that is left ajar, the religious person can go out unhindered. Conversely the spirit of true religious feelings has free entrance. For the spirit of true religious feelings requires spontaneity. It appears that this “open‑door policy” as well as the fact that quite often a person’s faith is renewed during Logotherapy is based upon the fundamental assumptions of Logotherapy which form a chain of interconnected links: 1) Freedom of Will, 2) Will to meaning, and 3) Meaning to life. 1) FREEDOM OF WILL: Frankl said that there are two classes of people who maintain that man’s will is not free: Schizophrenic patients suffering from delusions that their will is manipulated and their thoughts controlled by other and along side them, deterministic philosophers. Under deterministic philosophers, he includes philosophers, psychologist, theologians, and other who hold to a deterministic view of human beings. The later often admit that we are experiencing our will as free, but this, they say, is self deception. Psychoanalysis has often been blamed for its so‑called pan‑sexualism. Frankl states that there is an aspect of Psychoanalysis that is even more erroneous and dangerous: that of pan‑determinism. By that Frankl means the view of man that disregards his capacity to take a stand toward any conditions whatsoever. Man is not fully conditioned or determined; he determines himself whether to give in to conditions or stand up to them. In other words, man is ultimately self‑determining. Man does not simply exist, but always decided what his existence will be, what he will become in the minute. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.
Man is influenced by the biological, psychological or sociological. Yet one of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions and transcend them. In the same manner, man ultimately transcends himself: a human being is a self‑transcending being. In relationship to the predictability of an individual, Frankl relates the story of Dr. J. Dr. J. was what Frankl would call a satanic figure, who was known as the “mass murderer of Steinhof.” When the Nazis started their euthanasia program, he held all the strings in his hands and made fantastic efforts to see that not one single psychotic individual escaped the gas chamber.
After the war, a patient asked Frankl if he knew Dr. J. After Frankl’s affirmative reply, he continued, “I made his acquaintance in Ljubljanka, a Russian prison camp. Dr. J. had been captured by the Russians and was in that prison camp. There he died of cancer of the urinary bladder. Before he died, however, he showed himself to be the best comrade you can image. He gave consolation to everybody. He lived up to the highest conceivable moral standard. He was the best friend I ever met during my long years in prison.” Frankl said that the freedom of a finite being such as man is freedom within limits. Man is not free from conditions, be they biological or psychological or sociological in nature. Man always remains free to take a stand toward these conditions: he always retains the freedom to choose his attitude toward them. Man is free to rise above the plane of somatic and psychic determinants of his existence. By the same token a new dimension is opened. Man enters the dimension of the noetic (spiritual), in counter‑distinction to the somatic and psychic phenomena. He becomes capable of taking a stand not only toward the world but also toward himself. He can be his own judge and the judge of his own deeds. In short, the specifically human phenomena linked with one another, self‑consciousness and conscious, would not be understandable unless we interpret man in terms of being capable of detaching himself from himself, learning the “plane” of biological and psychological, passing into the “space” of the noological. Noological is the specifically human dimension that is not accessible to animals.
A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self‑determining. What he becomes ‑ within limits of endowment and environment, he has made of himself. Frankl writes, “In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on condition. Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man it that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”
VIKTOR FRANKL’S WILL TO MEANING AND MEANING OF LIFE
For Frankl, the WILL TO MEANING is the basic striving of man to find and fulfill meaning and purpose in life. (Frankl uses “man” to mean human beings.) Man is open to the world. He is so in contrast to animals, which are not open to the world (welt) but is bound to an environment (unwelt) which is specific to their species. Man is reaching out for the world; a world, which is replete with other beings to encounter and meanings to fulfill. Such a view is profoundly opposed to those motivational theories based on the homeostasis principle. Those theories depict man as if he were a closed system. According to them, man is basically concerned with maintaining or restoring equilibrium, and to this end with the reduction of tensions. Homeostasis principles also assume that man is driven by the goal of gratification of drives and satisfaction of needs. Frankl believes there is more to man’s quest than those put forth by homeostasis principles so quotes Charlotte Buhler, who “conceives of man as living with intentionality, which means living with purpose. The purpose is to give meaning to life…the individual…wants to create values…the human being has a primary or native orientation in the directions of creating and of values.” Thus the homeostasis principle does not yield a sufficient ground on which to explain human behavior, particularly such human phenomena as the creativity of man oriented towards values and meaning. It was Frankl’s contention that the pleasure principle is self‑defeating. The more one aims at pleasure, the more his aim is missed. The very “pursuit of happiness” is what thwarts it and this self‑defeating quality of pleasure‑seeking accounts for many sexual neuroses. Time and again therapists are in a position to witness how both orgasm and potency are impaired by being made the target of intention. Pleasure is missed when it is the goal and attained when it is the side effect of attaining a goal. Attaining the goal constitutes a reason for being happy. If there is a reason for happiness, happiness comes: automatically and spontaneously. Only if one’s original concern with meaning is frustrated is one either contend with power or intent on pleasure. Both happiness and success are mere substitutes for fulfillment and that is why the pleasure principle and striving for superiority are mere derivatives of the will to meaning.
Self‑actualization is not man’s ultimate destination. It is not even his primary intention. Self‑actualization, if made an end in itself, contradicts the self‑transcendent quality of human existence. Like happiness, self‑actualization is an effect, the effect of meaning fulfillment. Frankl says that his is in accordance with Maslow’s own view since he admits that the “business of self‑actualization” can best be carried out “via a commitment to an important job.” The important thing is not pleasure and happiness as such but for that which causes these effects, be if fulfillment of a personal meaning or the encounter with another human being.
What goes on in man when he is oriented toward meaning is revealed in the fundamental difference between being driven to something on the one hand and striving for something on the other. Man is pushed by drives but pulled by meaning and this implies that it is always up to him to decide whether or hot he wishes to fulfill the later. Meaning fulfillment always implies decision‑making, thus a will to meaning rather than a drive to meaning.
Contrary to the homeostasis theory, tension is not something to avoid unconditionally. Some tension, such as the tension aroused by meaning to fulfill, is inherent in being human and is indispensable to mental well‑being. Man is oriented toward meaning and he should be confronted with meaning. Logotherapy does not spare the patient a confrontation with the specific meaning that he has to carry out and which we have to help him find. An American doctor once asked Frankl to tell him the difference between Logotherapy and Psychoanalysis in one sentence. Frankl asked the doctor to tell him the essence of Psychoanalysis. The doctor replied, “During Psychoanalysis, the patient must life down on a couch and tell you things that are at times are very disagreeable to tell.” Frankl jokingly replied, “In Logotherapy, the patient may remain sitting erect, but must hear things that sometimes are very disagreeable to hear.”
Meaning must not coincide with being: meaning must be ahead of being. Meaning sets the pace for being. Pacemakers and peacemakers: Pacemakers confront us with meaning and values, while peacemakers try to alleviate the burden of meaning confrontation. Man is responsible for the fulfillment of the specific meaning of his personal life. He is also responsible before something, or to something, be it society, or humanity, or God, or his own conscious. Many people interpret their existence not just in terms of being responsible in general terms but rather to someone, namely God.
Logotherapy, as a secular theory, must restrict itself to factual statements, leaving to the patient the decision about how to understand his own being, responsibility, and meaning: whether along the line of religious beliefs or agnostic convection. Logotherapy must remain available to everyone. Capitalizing on responsibleness to this extent, a Logotherapist cannot spare his patient the decision for what, to what, or to whom he is responsible.
MEANING OF LIFE: The meaning of life differs from person to person, from day to day, and from hour to hour. What matters it not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. Everyone has his own specific mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Each person’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it. It is the individual’s responsibility to come to an understanding of the meaning of his or her life. This emphasis on responsibleness is reflected in this saying, “So live as if your were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as your are about to ace now.” This invites man to imagine first that the present is past and second that as the present is changed so is the past. Such a precept confronts the individual with life’s finiteness and the finality of what he makes out of both his life and himself. Logotherapy attempts to make the individual fully aware of his own responsibility, but must leave to him the option for what, to what or to whom he understands to be responsible. The Logotherapist’s role consists in widening and broadening the visual field of the patient so that the spectrum of meaning and values becomes conscious and visible to him.
Meaning of life may change, but it never ceases to be. We can discover the meaning of life through CREATIVE VALUES, EXPERIENCE VALUES, AND ATTITUDINAL VALUES. To put this in different words, meaning can come through what we give to life (creative values), by what we take from the world (experience values) such as listening to music, reading a book, etc., and through the stand we take toward a fate we no longer can change (attitudinal values) such as the lose of a loved one to death, the lose of an arm, etc. Even when one’s activities are very limited because of an illness or injury, life still offers an opportunity for the realization of attitudinal values. What is the significant is the person’s attitude toward his unalterable fate. The way in which he accepts, what courage he manifest in suffering and the dignity he displays in doom and disaster is the measure of his human fulfillment. A person’s life retains its meaning up to the last, until he draws his last breath. As long as a person remains conscious, he is under obligations to realize values, even if those are only be attitudinal values.
An individual needs some content for their lives and Frankl said, “If we can help them find an aim and a purpose in their existence, in other words, if they can be shown the task before them. ‘Whoever has a reason for living endures almost any mode of life.’ says Nietzsche. The conviction that one has a task before him has enormous psychotherapeutic values.”
Frankl does not claim to have an answer for the individual’s meaning to life. Meaning must be found but it cannot be given. The individual must find it spontaneously. The Logotherapist is convinced, and if need be persuades his patients, which there is a meaning to fulfill, but he does not pretend to know what the meaning is. Along with the freedom of will and the will to meaning, there is meaning to life: a meaning for which man has been in search all along and also that man has the freedom to embark on the fulfillment of that meaning.
TRAGIC TRIAD, EXISTENTIAL VACUUM, PARADOXICAL INTENTION
THE TRAGIC TRIAD OF HUMAN EXISTENCE: The tragic triad of human existence is made up of pain, guilt, and death. Every person has experienced pain, guilt and will some day die. Speaking of the tragic triad should not mislead the reader to assume that Logotherapy is pessimistic. Logotherapy is an optimistic approach to life for it teaches that there are no tragic or negative aspect of life that can not be, by the stand one takes to them, translated into positive accomplishment. One prerogative of being human is the ability to change and a constituent of human existence is the capability of shaping and reshaping oneself. In other words, it is a privilege of man to become guilty and his responsibility to overcome guilt. Man does not have the freedom to undo what he has done, but he does have the freedom to choose the right attitude to guilt. A man who has failed by a deed cannot change what happened, but by repentance he can change himself.
As for pain, man by virtue of his humaneness is capable of rising above and taking a stand to his suffering. A human being, by the very attitude he chooses, is capable of finding and fulfilling meaning in suffering. It is a basic tenet of Logotherapy that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain, but experience meaning to his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, that his suffering has meaning. Suffering does not have meaning unless it is absolutely necessary. For instance, a dangerous growth that can be cured by surgery must not be shoulder by the patient as though it were his cross. This would be masochism rather than heroism. In spite of suffering, life can have meaning up to the last moment and it retains this meaning latterly to the end. Life’s meaning is an unconditional one for it even includes the potential meaning of suffering and death.
Frankl proposes the question, “can death make life meaningfully?” Death does make life meaningful for if we were immortal, we could postpone every action forever. With the fact of death, we are under the imperative of utilizing our life time to the utmost, not letting the singular opportunities pass unused. Man’s positioning life is like that of a student at final examination: in both cases, it less important that the work be completed but that its quality is high. The student must be prepared for the bell to ring signaling that the time at his disposal has ended and in life, we must always be ready to be “called away” (to die).
THE EXISTENTIAL VACUUM: The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century. This is due to a twofold loss that man has undergone since he became truly a human being. At the beginning of human history, man lost some basic animal instincts in which an animal’s behavior is embedded and by which it is secured. Such security is closed for man as he has to make choices. Beyond this, man has suffered another loss in his more recent development: the traditions that had fortified his behavior are now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells man what he has to do and no tradition tells him what he ought to do and often he does not even know what he basically wishes to do. Instead he wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism) or he refuses to follow anyone directions or guidance (rebellionism)
The existential vacuum is often experienced as a state of boredom. Frankl refers to this let down due to leisure time as the “Sunday Neurosis.” This kind of depression affects people who become aware of the lack of content and meaning in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.
The existential vacuum leads to a neurosis that shows itself in for main symptoms. 1) First, there is the planless day‑to‑day attitude toward life. 2) The second symptom is the fatalist attitude toward life. The day‑to‑day man considers planned action unnecessary while the fatalist considers it impossible. 3) The third symptom is collective thinking. Man would like to submerge himself in the masses. The conformist or collectivist man denies his own personality. 4) The fourth symptom is fanaticism. While the collectivist ignores his own personality, the fanatic ignores that of others. For the fanatic, only his views are valid.
Ultimately, all four symptoms can e traced back to man’s fear of responsibility and his escape from freedom. These attitudes lead to nihilism that is that response to life that says that being has no meaning. A nihilist is one who considers that life is meaningless. Responsibility and freedom comprise the spiritual domain of man so today man must be reminded that he has a spirit and that he is a spiritual being. The spirituality of man it a “thing‑in‑itself.” Man has freedom in spite of his instincts, inherited disposition, and environment. Certainly man has instincts, but these instincts do not have him. One can accept or reject his instincts. Regarding heredity, Frankl talks about twins, one of which was a cunning criminal and the other a cunning criminologist. Both were born with cunning, but each used it differently. As for environment, it does not make the man, but everything depends on what man makes of it: on his attitude toward it.
Frankl referred to Freud who said, “Try to subject a number of very strongly differentiated human beings to the same amount of starvation. With the increase of the imperative need for food, all individual differences will be blotted out and in their place, we shall see the uniform expression of the on unsatisfied instinct.” Frankl’s response was, “In the concentration camps we witnessed the contrary: we saw how, face with the identical situations one man degenerated while another attained virtual saintliness.”
PARADOXICAL INTENTION: It is commonly observed that anxiety often produces precisely what the patient fears. Frankl calls this anticipatory anxiety. For instance, in cases of insomnia, the patient reports that she has trouble going to sleep. The fear of not going to sleep only adds to the difficulty of trying to go to sleep. Many sexual problems may be traced back to the forced intention of attaining the goal of sexual intercourse: as in the male seeking to prove his potency or the female her ability to experience orgasm. It seems that anticipatory anxiety causes precisely what the patient fears. It is upon this fact that Logotherapist bases the technique know as “paradoxical intention.” For instance, when a phobic patient is afraid that something will happen to him, the Logotherapist encourages him to intend for precisely what he fears. Hypnotherapist uses the same techniques in “desensitization” and “circle therapy.” Frankl tells the story of a young physician who sweated excessively when in the presence of his chief. At other time, he was not bothered by excessive sweating. The patient was advised to resolve deliberately to show the chief just how much he really could sweat. He was to say to himself, “I only sweated out a liter before, but now I’m going to pour out at least 10 liters.” Through this paradoxical intention, he was able to free himself of his excess sweating. The treatment consists not only in a reversal of the patient’s attitude toward his phobia but also that it is carried out in a humorous way if possible.
This procedure is based on the fact that, according to Logotherapeutic teachings, phobias and obsessive‑compulsive neuroses is partially due to the increase of anxieties and compulsions caused by the endeavor to avoid or fight them. (The subconscious cannot tell the difference between a fear and a wish and so attempts to bring either into reality.) A phobic person usually tries to avoid the situation in which his anxieties arise, while the obsessive‑compulsive tries to suppress and fight his problem. In either case, the result is a strengthening of the symptoms. If we can succeed in bringing the patient to the point where he ceases to flee from or to fight his symptoms, then we may observe that the symptoms diminish and the patient is no longer haunted by them.
LOGOTHERAPY TECHNIQUES WITH CASE HISTORY
The therapist is always faced with the seemingly impossible twofold task of considering the uniqueness of each person, as well as the uniqueness of the life situation with which each person has to cope. The choice of an appropriate treatment method to be applied in any concrete case depends not only upon the individuality of the patient involved, but also upon the personality of the therapist.
More important than the method used is the relationship between the patient and the therapist. The relationship between two persons is the most significant aspect of the therapeutic process, an even more import factor than any method or technique.
MR. WILDER’S CASE HISTORY: Mr. Wilder, a 70‑year‑old man, came to me because he could not get over the death of his wife. Since his wife’s death about a year before, he felt that he had not meaning and had lost the will to life. He worried about many things, much of which was beyond his control. He said, “I worry about everything from the state of the economy to may own personal safety. I have no reason to get up in the morning. I spend most of my time at home and some days I do not even get dressed. I just spend the day in my pj’s. I still go to church, but that is about all.”
In Frankl’s terms, Mr. Wilder had lost his MEANING OF LIFE. Tough I could not give Mr. Wilder his meaning, I could help him discover meaning for himself. Meaning must be found but it cannot be given. The individual must find it for himself. Because of his lost of meaning, Mr. Wilder was experiencing the Existential Vacuum. One thing that Mr. Wilder had going for him was that he was still going to church and that was sustaining him although he may not have realized it. A good relationship had developed with Mr. Wilder while he was a patient at the hospital and he had confidence in me as a therapist. I had three sessions with Mr. Wilder over a month’s period. We discussed the grief process and worked together to help him accept his wife’s death and accept his worth as a person. We also worked to increase his self‑confidence and to find him meaning for life. During his second session, I asked him, “What is it you can do to help other?” He thought for several minutes and responded, “In our church newsletter, I read about the need for volunteers at the hospital near my home. I would rather volunteer here at Methodist, but as you know I live across town. Maybe I could volunteer to work at the hospital near my home.” I share with you some suggestions, imagery, and healing stories used with Mr. Wilder. THE GOOSE IN THE BOTTLE: As you relax peacefully and comfortable, I would like to share with you a story. You have told me about how you worry about many things so may you allow this story to speak to you its message. This is the story about a teacher who said to his students, “Let’s make‑believe we place a goose egg into a bottle. The goose egg hatches and the goose begins to grow. Your assignment is to get the goose out of the bottle without breaking the bottle or injuring the goose.”
One student thought and thought about this at great length. How could he get the goose out of the bottle without hurting the goose or breaking the bottled? Not being able to figure it out, he became so frustrated with the question that he could not sleep.
The next morning at class, he raised his hand and was recognized by the teacher. The student said, “You must get the goose out of the bottle. This problem is driving me out of my mind. I can’t figure it out.” “Very well,” said the teacher and continued, “Bring me the bottle with the goose inside.” It was only then that the student realized he had been struggling with a situation that did not actually exist…And so it is with some of the things you have been worrying about…They either do not exist or they are beyond your power to change…so let them go.
BUILDING SELF‑CONFIDENCE: These suggestions and instruction I’m telling you now are going into the storehouse of your subconscious mind and are progressively having a greater influence over you. Each day these suggestions keep becoming more effective and they help you in many different ways: Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually…These things that I say are influencing your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions in a positive and helpful way…Even after you come out of this hypnotic state these suggestions continue influencing you just as surely as they do while you are in the hypnotic state. You find ways to affirm yourself and find meaning for life…You feel better and better about yourself. You experience improvements in your life…The improvements are progressive. As each day passes, you continue improving more and you can be sure it is permanent and lasting…You can be calm and relaxed during your daily life and that causes your mind to be more clear, more alert, and causes you to feel better about life. This enables you to be more efficient in you life and it keep increasing self‑confidence, your self‑reliance, your self‑acceptance and your self‑esteem. You continue developing a more relaxed attitude, greater concentration, and keep achieving more outstanding accomplishments in your life…You find ways to make your life more meaningful. It’s a cycle of progress that keeps growing stronger each day and causes you to continue advancing and enables you to experience life with meaning. You have many talents, many skills, and many abilities, therefore, you have many reasons to have confidence in yourself. You enjoy life more each day. Your happiness keeps increasing and you are more optimistic…You feel more productive, more useful, more healthy, experience more happiness and experience meaning for life. THE TURNING POINT: PRINCE ANDREW: Sometimes ago while visiting a book store, I saw a book, The Turning Point. Though I did not buy that book, it brought to mind that each of us faces many turning points in our life. You are facing a turning point in your life today and you have the chance to make a positive change in your life.
There is an interesting incident in the book, War and Peace concerning Prince Andrew. The Prince had gone though a long period of grief and depression that had sapped his strength. He thought that his life had no meaning or purpose. As he traveled over his land in the winter, he passed an old oak tree that was bare of laves and looked dead. He thought to himself, “I am like that tree.” It was not until the following spring that he traveled back across the same route where he had seen the old oak tree. Feeling as old, as tired, as meaningless, as depressed as ever, he came to the old oak tree. To his surprise, noticed the oak tree had come to life. It had new leaves and new growth. The tree that he had identified himself was new, green, growing, and beautiful. It was a turning point for him as he realized new life, new meaning, new hope, and new purpose was available to him as it was for the tree. New hope, new purpose, new meaning can yours….
About a month after our last session, I talked to Mr. Wilder on the phone. He told me that he was working as a volunteer at the hospital near his home. He said, “Now I have a reason to get up in the morning and I am enjoying life again.”
There is meaning to life and it is unconditional meaning. Life has meaning and neither suffering nor dying can distract from it. This has been demonstrated by many individuals in our own day but also by a man who lived in Biblical times. Referring to Habakkuk, Frankl wrote of an unconditional trust in the ultimate meaning and unconditional faith in the ultimate being, God. He quotes Habakkuk’s (3:17‑18) triumphant hymn “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive tree shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in God of my Salvation.”
Frankl concluded his book, The Will to Meaning, with that Biblical quotation and this statement, “May this be lesson to learn from this book.” BIOGRAPHY:
Crumbaugh, J. Everything To Gain: A Guide To Logotherapy. Chicago, IL. Nelson‑Hull. 1974
Frankl, V. The Doctor and The Soul. New York. Vintage Books. 1986 Frankl, V. Man’s Search For Meaning. New York. Pocket Book. 1963 Frankl, V. Psychotherapy And Existentialism. New York. Clarion Book. 1967 Frankl, V. The Will To Meaning. New York. Plum Book. 1970
Stern, A. The Search For Meaning. Memphis. TN Memphis State University. 1971 Tweedie, Jr. R. Logotherapy. Grand Rapids, MN Baker Book House. 1961
WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT DR FRANKL
From Jesus and Logotherapy: by Robert C Leslie: Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1965: This study draws heavily on the approaches in psychotherapy evolved by psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, M.D., under the name of “logotherapy” the “therapy of meaning.” “Tested in the rigors of concentration camp living, logotherapy offers a philosophy of life and a method of counseling which is more consistent with a basically Christian view of life than any other existing system of current therapeutic world. Frankl’s point of view is broader than any sectarian approach. (p 9)
A basic insistence of the Christian faith is that man is free to make his decisions consciously. Without discounting the influence of unconscious factors operating in a person’s life, Christianity nevertheless asserts, in an unqualified way, that the ultimate outcome of man= adventure in life depends upon his personal response. Whatever unfortunate experiences have come to him in life he decisive factor lies not in the conditions but in the personal response to them. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl describes the religious man as the one says “yes” to life; as the man who, in spite of anything that life brings, still faces his existence with a basic conviction in the worthwhileness of life. (p 13‑14)
Frankl refers to the capacity of man to rise above the confining restraints of the past with the term the “defiant power of the human spirit.” The spiritual core of a person can take a stand, whether positive or negative, affirming or denying, in the face of his own psychological character structure, as when attempting to overcome a habit or resist an urge. This potentiality essentially inherent in human existence is called in logotherapy the psychonoetic antagonism or the defiant power of the human spirit. What is meant thereby is man’s capacity as a spiritual being to resist and brave whatsoever kind of conditioning, whether biological, psychological, or sociological in nature. The point of view is one which Frankl reached through wrestling with his own private adversaries. “I had to wrestle but eventually succeeded in building up my own Weltanschauung featured by an unconditional trust in the unconditional meaningfulness of life, which may be phrased by those unconditionally life‑affirming words which formed a verse in the song of the inmates of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and which I chose for the title of a book, “Say ‘Yes’ to Life in Spite of Everything.”
Even Zacchaeus could change. Caught up as he was as a “Quisling,” a traitor to his own community, involved as he was in dishonest and underhanded dealings, enmeshed in physical, psychological, and sociological entanglements, he could nevertheless change.” (p 31‑32)
Existential vacuum does not describe an illness so much as a condition that is often present where there is no pathology at all. To be sure, existential vacuum may also exist where there is acute illness, and in such cases may be recognized and treated along with other symptoms that are more abnormal. But for the most part, the sense of aimlessness in life is a characteristic of those who are physically and mentally well but spiritual sick. To refuse to recognize the existential vacuum for what it really is, a loss of the sense of meaning, and to try to treat it without reference to the world of values, is to fall into the common fallacy of psychologism which sees value concerns only as secondary defense mechanisms rather than as primary legitimate conscious concerns. (p 50) The decisive factor does not lie in the conditions: the determining element is found in personal responses to the conditions. “Freedom,” as Frankl puts it, “is freedom to take a stand toward conditions, but it is not freedom from conditions.” Man is responsible for how he handles the conditions which life presents to him. Great as the condition of depth psychology has been to our deeper understanding of forces at work beneath the surface in man, we are in danger of overlooking the most human aspect of life, if we fail to hold man as accountable and responsible for his action in the present and in the future. Conscious decision with a definite goal in mind can break the circle of behavior dictated by past conditioning. (p 51‑52)
Man finds the meaning of his life not so much by reflecting on it as by committing himself to the immediate challenge of the concrete situation. Dedicate yourself to the here and now, to the given situation and the present hour, and the meaning will dawn on you. Try to be honest to yourself in pondering your vocational possibilities as well as your personal relationships. I would do injustice to you j and to your freedom of choice if I took over any decisions like these. They are up to you and therefore you should keep in mind your: responsibleness. Struggling for a meaning in your life, for a life task, may be the immediate task of your present life. (p 62)
From Man’s Search for a Meaningful Faith: by Robert Leslie, Graded Press, Nashville, TN 1967: Frankl uses the term “Existential Vacuum” to describe a feeling of inner void, of inner emptiness. He often found this among his patients. Many psychiatrists are finding more and more patients who complain of a lack of a sense of meaning, who are without purpose, and who speak of a sense of futility about life. Such, for example, was a forty‑year‑old junior college professor. He was successful as a teacher and was popular with his students. Nevertheless, he sought treatment because he felt that he was leading a completely meaningless kind of life. He had achieved success in the eyes of the world but was unhappy and discontented within. (p 19)
From Logotherapy: Donald Tweedie, Jr. Baker Books, Ann Arbor, MI 1972: According to Frankl, Freud’s psychoanalysis has “sinned against” the spiritual nature of man in three ways: by depersonalizing him, by “derealizing” him, and by devaluating his scare of values. (p 40)
All ethical precepts are swept away by the revelation of “moralizing” and “rationalizing” mechanisms. Values are no longer independent of the person. They are rather, the ethically relative and morally indifferent derivatives of unconscious, instinctive needs. Frankl says, “For myself, I am not prepared to live for the sake of my reaction formations, or to die for the sake of my secondary rationalizations.” (p 45)
In logotherapy, the individual is comprised of three factors: the physical, the psychological, and the spiritual. (p 53) Frankl likens the body to a piano, while the psyche is represented by the pianist, who can “activate” the piano, and the spiritual dimension, in turn, is represented by the artistic “necessity” of the pianist. In the Logotherapeutic theory of man, it is the spiritual dimension which is of central importance. It the spiritual which truly constitutes the person. While it is proper to say that one has a psyche, or a body, he must say that his a spiritual being. (p 55‑56)
Freedom is the ground for man’s special modes of existence which are distinctive of his species and separate from the animals. It is the most immediate fact of his awareness. His personality is determined by his free choices; man is a “deciding creature.” (Jasper). But what is man? He is the essence which always decides. And he again and again decides what he will be in the next instant. In the first place, man is free from his instinctive drives. Just as he has the ability to affirm these psychic impulses, so does he have the power to deny them. He is also free from his inherited characteristics. Although he is conditioned by the limits set by his genetic structure, yet is he unconditioned as to what he will do within limits. Frankl cites the case of identical twins who had a high intelligence factor. However, one of them became a clever criminal and the other an equally clever criminologist. In the third place man is also free from his environment. Frankl insists that freedom is not only freedom from something, but that, in addition, and most importantly, is freedom for something. (p 60‑61)
In Logotherapy, it is emphasized that man is a person, rather than a reflex mechanism, or a mere biological specimen. Frankl develops this concept in a summary fashion in this book, Logos and Existenz (ch 2 )in terms of ten theses characterizing the person:
1. The person is an individual.
2. A person is complete in himself.
3. A person is an absolute novelty.
4. A person is spiritual.
5. A person is existential.
6. A person is an “ego” and not an “id.”
7. A person is not only a unity and complete in himself, but he also establishes unity and completeness in the physical‑psychological‑spiritual unity which describes the totality of man.
8. A person is dynamic.
9. An animal is not a person. Animals are not able to transcends themselves, nor to oppose themselves in existential decision. They have no world (Welt) only an environment (Umwelt). Frankl believed that animals are analogously related to man, as man, in turn, is related to God.
10. A person can only be understood, when viewed as being made in the image of God. (p 69‑70)
(Paul Wong and Joseph Fabry): From The Pursuit of Meaning: by Joseph B. Fabry, Beacon, Boston,1970. Logotherapy assumes that man, in addition to his physical and psychological dimensions, possesses a specifically human dimension, and that all three must be considered if he is to be fully understood. It assumes that this human dimension enables man to reach out beyond himself and make his aspirations and ideals part of his reality; that his life has meaning under all, even the most miserable circumstances; and that he had a deeply rooted conscience that can help him find the specific meaning of this life. Logotherapy further assumes that man primarily seeks not pleasure but life task, and that the deepest pleasure comes from accomplishing these tasks. It asserts that each person is unique in the sense that he has to lead his own life, that he is irreplaceable, and that no moment of his life is repeatable. Logotherapy further asserts that man is fee, within obvious limitations, to make choices regarding his activities, experiences, and attitudes, and that freedom allows him to change himself ‑ to decide not only what kind of a person he is but also what kind of a person he is going to become. Logotherapy insists that man must not use his freedom arbitrarily, but tempered with responsibility; that he must assume the awful and magnificent responsibility of his own choices. Finally, logotherapy contends that man’s discovery of the meanings of his life is made easier by certain values and traditions passed on from generation to generation; but it asserts that the final decision is always with the individual, and that in the present era of changing values and crumbling traditions, each person is forced more than ever to rely on his personal conscience and his responsibility to listen to and to follow its voice. (p 18)
To Frankl, the sum is not a biologically determined being as he was with Darwin, nor a sociologically determined being as he was to Marx; nor a psychologically determined being as he was to Freud. To Frankl, man is a being who, while determined in all these ways, retains an important area of freedom where his not determined at all, but free to take a stand. (p 22)
Frankl warns that “man’s freedom will degenerate into arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.” As long as man regards freedom as something merely negative, as a freedom from restrictions, as a license to do as he pleases, there is danger that it will lead not to fulfillment, but to boredom and frustration. Proper use of freedom, Frankl says, means the we regard ourselves free to assume our own responsibleness; only then is freedom a positive value. The positive value of freedom is contained in a freedom to a cause or a person, in response to a demand coming from the outside, but freely accepted. If freedom is not used in terms of responsibleness, it will not lead to meaning but, on the contrary, will add to the existential vacuum. (p 124)
You can order any of the above books (STILL IN PRINT) by going to:
Dan Short on Viktor Frankl:
Editor’s Note: These collected thoughts of Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D. provide a rare opportunity to glance into the life of someone who at 92 years of age is a living witness to the history of psychotherapy. (Durbin: Dr. Frankl died in 1997. Truly a great man.) Frankl, having exchanged ideas with Freud, Adler, and other great minds such as Heidigger, is an impressive source of intellectual insight. Because he survived 34 months in the Nazi death camps; where his wife, unborn child, mother, father, and brother where murdered, Frankl is a testament to man’s ability to master even the most tragic of fates. In spite of his age and the trouble he suffers from degeneration of the retina, Frankl was still willing to correspond with us so that we could compose this brief account of his complex thinking and his exceptional attitude towards life.
Background Information: At only 22 years of age Frankl founded the journal “Der Mensch Im Allertag” [Man in everyday life]; since that time he has written 27 books and been published in 22 languages. In 1928 he introduced the concept of “Logotherapy.” After his liberation from his last concentration camp he rewrote The Doctor and the Soul; the reconstruction of this lost manuscript took only nine days. This was shortly followed by Man’s search for Meaning, a book which has sold over 4 million copies.
Logotherapy, also referred to as the third Viennese School of Psychotherapy, is currently the only major theory which includes the human spirit as a source of healing and strength. His theoretical approach is known as “height psychology,” rather than “depth psychology,” because it recognizes the human capacity to aspire to motivational factors beyond mere instinct. Now faced with blindness and other physical difficulties, Viktor Frankl continues to live as he taught, that is to find meaning in life by facing each new trial with courage and with dignity.
The question posed by a 14 year old child: As a 14 year old student in middle school, I did something which was very unusual at the time. I had a professor of Natural Sciences who was very distant, teaching as one would expect a scientists to do. One day he made the statement that life is simply a burning process, nothing more than the process of oxidation. Jumping to my feet I questioned him, “But Professor, then what meaning does life have?” That was when it all began, the first time that I inquired about the meaning in life.
What is the purpose of one’s existence? This is a question which will never be answered through the nihilistic efforts of scientist who reduce everything to “nothing but…” You can say that such a person practices reductionism, or in the case of my teacher, “Oxidationism.” It would be appropriate if a biologist, instead of promoting his own disbelief under the guise of science, just admitted that within the plane of biology there is no evidence of a higher meaning. This does not mean that such a thing does not exist. Ultimate meaning must be found in another dimension. For example, a cylinder is both a circle and a rectangle depending upon the plane from which you view it. However, only in a higher dimension can it be recognized as a cylinder. The higher dimension does not exclude; it includes.
Since the time of my youth I have tried to find, and take meaning from all of life’s events. Life is not only meaningful in the larger sense, but there is meaning in each moment. This meaning I cannot get hold of by mere rationale means, but instead by existential means. I will it to be that way. I decide that there is ultimate meaning in the world rather than ultimate meaninglessness‑‑meaning so rich that it cannot be entirely grasped by my finite intellectual capacity.
Work with Suicidal Clients: From 1928 to 1938 I worked with William Burner who was the Director of a center for people who suffer from depression. I learned something there that I was able to use when I became Director of the Suicide Pavilion at the Steinhof, a psychiatric hospital in Vienna. During my four years at the hospital approximately 12,000 suicidal patients were put in my charge. As the Director it was my responsibility to determine whether or not a patient was ready for discharge, a decision which carried tremendous responsibility. Out of this experience I developed a series of questions which allowed me to assess the condition of a patient in only five minutes. During a face to face interview I would ask, “Do you know that it is time for your release?” He would say, “Yes.” I would then ask, “What do we do next? Should we keep you here?” In almost every case the patient would say, “No.” Then I would ask, “Are you truly free from all intention to commit suicide?” To this he would respond, “I have no more intentions of committing suicide. You can let me go home.” But I had to make sure that the patient was not dissimulating, so immediately after his response, that he had no intention of killing himself, I would ask, “Why not?” Next, one of two things would happen. The first type would sink into the chair, unable to respond or to look me in the eye. With a toneless voice he might repeat himself saying, “No, no, doctor…I am not going to commit suicide.” This sort of response indicated that the patient was in very serious danger of suicide. In contrast, a patient who immediately stated that he had a duty, (e.g., “I am needed at work.” or “My religion forbids suicide.”), some meaning to fulfill, (e.g., “My family is counting on me.”), he was safe to release from care. He would not kill himself because he had a “why.” As Nietzsche has said, whoever has a “why” will in almost every situation find a “how.”
Human uniqueness: The uniqueness of an individual can be appreciated solely by a loving person. It is he who sees the essence and the potential in the beloved person, and will therefore promote the person.
The loss of a best friend: Every single moment in life offers a concrete opportunity for meaning to be fulfilled and actualized. This holds true even under the most miserable of circumstances and literally to the last breath of ourselves. Let me give you an example. During the time of Hitler I lost my best friend, Hubert Suer. He was arrested by the SS because he was working in the Underground. After two weeks he was given the death sentence. During his imprisonment his wife was able to smuggle into his cell a copy of my manuscript on logotherapy. This was the same manuscript that I reconstructed after my release from the last concentration camp. Before his death, my friend was able to smuggle out a message to his wife stating that in the last days of his life the manuscript from Viktor Frankl had given him strength and courage. His death was one of meaning and dignity. His wife could not save him from the execution but she was able to perform the meaningful act of providing him some comfort. And for myself, I can say that this was the most beautiful reward that I got from the writing of my book. It was much more meaningful than any of the thousands of copies that sold, after the war.
Logotherapy, as described in my first book, is something which deals with everyday problems, down‑to‑earth things, practical aspects of living that are enhanced by finding meaning in life. And, it is possible to find meaning in all of life’s events, even when confronted with a fate that cannot be changed or manipulated in any manor. For example, many years ago an elderly man came to me at my clinic. He told me that he too was a doctor and that since the death of his wife, two years previous, he had suffered from severe depression. He said that he had loved her above all else. Rather than giving him advice, I confronted him with the question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?” He said right away that this would have caused her tremendous suffering. Then I replied, “You see, you have saved your wife from that terrible suffering. You have spared her this suffering, at the price that you now have to survive and mourn her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office. In the midst of his doubts he now saw reason for his experience, a meaningful sacrifice for his beloved wife. You see, even in a situation where you have no external freedom, when circumstance does not offer you any choice of action, you retain the freedom to choose your attitude toward the tragic situation. You do not despair because this choice is always with you until your last moment of life. Speaking at San Quentin: A remarkable thing happened when I was invited to speak at San Quentin, at that time a high security prison for those who have committed murder, at least once. After I was finished speaking I was told how favorably the prisoners had reacted to my address. One prisoner had said that other psychologists had always told them that their criminal actions were a result of their childhood and that try as hard as they may, there was little they could do to change this reality. This excuse was something they did not want to hear, because they were being treated as though they had no human worth, no freedom to make choices and decisions. In contrast, I had told them that, “You are a human just as I am and therefore you had the same freedom to make the choices that I did. You could of decided not to do something so terrible and senseless, just like every other man. You could have made use of this freedom through a sense of responsibility.” You see, it is a prerogative of mankind to realize guilt. It is also his responsibility to overcome guilt.
The call to responsibility: Members of society must be provided with a direction, instruction that life does have meaning, so that a person in San Quieten realizes that the person he killed was a human being who had significance. Criminal behavior in adulthood and in youth comes from a lack of responsibility, or of meaning. When gangster youth were asked, “Why do you do these violent things?” the typical response was, “Why not?” The absence of an answer to the question, “Why not?” can result in senseless aggression. In other cases it results in depression and even suicide, or addiction and drug use. This trio of aggression, addiction, and depression is the mass neurotic symptomology of the feeling of meaninglessness or existential vacuum that exists in our society. There is no such thing as freedom all by itself. Freedom is always preceded by responsibility; they are connected to one another. It is a mistake to pursue freedom without the consideration of responsibility. That is why I have recommended in America that in addition to the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast, there should be the Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. As for the pursuit of happiness: The more we make it a target, the more widely we miss. Happiness is, and will always remain, the unintended effect of meaningful activity. Therefore, Logotherapy is much more than a process of asking the client questions. It is a call to responsibility. I once had a patient tell me that he was suffering from an “evil parent complex.” The patient had shifted his responsibility for his behavior onto his parents. In the same manner the logotherapist must be careful to see that the patient does not shift his responsibilities onto the clinician. To practice true logotherapy, meaning must be found in a place beyond the control of the therapist.
In contrast to the concept of responsibility which I have described, a response which frightens me is when I see someone who has resolved themselves to hate or resent an entire race of people. When a Jew, or anyone else who has suffered, insists that, “I am not willing to reconcile myself with the sons and daughters or even the grandchildren of those who are responsible for my suffering,” then he has embraced the National Socialistic concept of collective guilt. It was called “Zebien Haufen,” which means the whole family. If someone opposed the Nationalist Party, the whole family; including the sons, daughters, and grandchildren, was arrested. I have been in strict opposition to this concept of collective guilt since my first day of liberation from the last concentration camp in which I had been imprisoned. It is absolutely unethical to hold someone responsible for something they have not done. Accountability is a personal concept. It belongs to the single individual who is guilty by either commission or omission. For all others who have no guilt on their shoulders, reconciliation is the proper objective.
Self‑transcendence: When the eye has a cataract one sees a harsh grayness in the form of a cloud. In the case of glaucoma there is a green light in the form of a halo. In each case the vision of the eye is blocked by what is occurring within. The eye is not made to see itself. This is pathology. The same can be said of a person who suffers from neurosis.
He is obsessed with what is in himself, worried that he might be an egotist, or a sexist, or only God knows what else. Unfortunately this condition of hyper‑reflection is only exacerbated by analytical therapies which attempt to explain everything in terms of “over‑compensation.” For example, the client who asserts his desire to accomplish something significant is told by those who practice reductionism, “No, that is not your true motive. You are simply trying to overcome a feeling of inferiority that you have had from birth.” A Freudian once wrote that philosophy, religion, and schizophrenia are nothing more than a fear of castration. This is absurdity. I agree that Freud was correct in uncovering impure motives but there are also pure motives. There is more to healthy human motivation than the pleasure principle, more than the striving for superiority. These are only degenerated, neurotic forms of existence. However, in the healthy human, there is a will to meaning and it is this that sets man a part from the animals. One would never hear an animal ask himself How the Treatments Are Done: “Does my life have meaning?” But this question is asked by Homo Sapiens.
To be human is to strive for something outside of oneself. I use the term “self‑transcendence” to describe this quality behind the will to meaning, the grasping for something or someone outside of oneself. Like the eye, we are made to turn outward, toward another human being to whom we can love and give ourselves. Only in such a way does Homo sapiens demonstrate itself to be truly human. Only when in service of another does a person truly know his or her humanity.
The locus of logos: The question of meaning, or logos, is decided in the mind of the individual and cannot be answered except in the context of a specific, concrete situation. For example, in 1936 a young man came to me and said that his best friend was about to leave town which provided a one time opportunity to sleep with his friend’s girlfriend. He wanted to know if he should do this. Now one must realize that each situation has its own meaning. Both the uniqueness of the situation and of the human personality need to be addressed. Meaning cannot be forced on the client by the psychotherapist.
It would not have made any sense for me to preach at him saying, “This is not proper,” or “This is what I believe you should do.” Instead, I addressed his understanding of what was significant by stating, “You have told me that this is a one time opportunity and you have told me that this man is your best friend, so look out! You do not want to give him any reason to no longer consider you a friend. This is a one time opportunity for you to prove your friendship in a way that is undeniable, by denying yourself. Do you understand me?” He understood the importance of his friendship, without me telling him what to do. In all cases the client must be encouraged to push forward independently toward the concrete meaning of his own existence. In the end, education must be education toward the ability to decide. It makes no sense to try to teach the client what in our own life is meaningful. A logotherapist cannot tell a patient what the meaning is, but he can at least show that there is a meaning in life. Every situation implies a call, a responsibility. To this call we must react according to our best ability and our best conscience. During the three years I spent in Auschwitz and Dachau I decided that I was responsible for making use of the slightest chance of survival and ignoring the great danger around me. This was my coping maxim that I espoused at each moment. You see, meaning must be discovered from within, from the individual’s experiences, from his worth, his courage, his creativity.
While teaching in San Diego three of my students were American officers who had been imprisoned for up to seven years in the North Vietnamese POW camps. They told me that the one thing which held them up, in the most horrible conditions of isolation and torture, was the vision of coming home to loved ones or knowing that they would be needed at work. The moment in which they caught that vision was the deciding moment in their survival. Even when death comes, meaning remains as something that has been fulfilled.
In contrast to religious or philosophical meaning, which can change over time, individual human meaning remains permanent. My conviction is that nothing is lost or destroyed. No one can deprive us of what we have safely deposited into the past. Inside each of us there are full granaries where we have stored our life’s harvest. The meaning is always there, like barns full of valuable experiences. Whether it is the deeds that we have done, or the things we have learned, the love we have had for someone else, or the suffering we have over come with courage and resolution, each of these bring meaning to life. Indeed, to bear a terrible fate with dignity and compassion for others is something extraordinary. To master your fate and use your suffering to help others is for me the highest of all meanings.
The majority of the information contained in this article can be found in Frankl’s July 1994 address to the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Hamburg. Translation/summary from German to English has been provided by Bill Short, Ph.D.
EXCERPTS FROM THE WRITINGS OF VIKTOR FRANKL
From Man’s Search for Meaning: Frankl is found of quoting Nietzsche, “He who has a way to live can bear with almost any how.” In the concentration comp every circumstance conspires to make the prisoner lose his hold. All familiar goals in life are snatched away. What alone remains is “the last of human freedoms” ‑ the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances (p xi) Unlike many European existentialist, Frankl is neither pessimistic nor antireligious. On the contrary , for a writer who faces fully the ubiquity of suffering and the forces of evil, he takes a surprisingly hopeful view of man’s capacity to transcend his predicament and discover an adequate guiding truth. (p xii)
The religious interest of the prisoners, as far and as soon as it developed, was the most sincere imaginable. The depth and vigor of religious belief often surprised and moved a new arrival. Most impressive in this connection were improvised prayers or services in the corner of a hut, or in the darkness of he locked cattle truck in which we were brought back from a distant work site, tired, hungry and frozen in our ragged clothing. (p 54)
The truth ‑ that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief can impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. (p 59)
Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self‑preservation. It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make‑up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation even if only for a few seconds. (p 68)
An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive life of enjoyment affords him the opportunity to obtain fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art, or nature. But there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of behavior: namely, in man’s attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces. A creative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him. But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life can not be complete.
The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity‑even under the most difficult circumstances ‑ to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self‑preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forego the opportunities of attaining the values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not. Do not think that these considerations are unworldly and too far removed from real life. It is true that only a few people are capable of reaching such high standards. Of the prisoners only a few kept their full inner liberty and obtained those values which their suffering afforded, but even one such example is sufficient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate. Such men are not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering. (p 106‑107)
I once had a dramatic demonstration of the close link between the loss of faith in the future and this dangerous giving up. F., my senior block warden, a fairly well‑known composer and librettist, confided in me one day: “I would like to tell you something, Doctor. I have had a strange dream. A voice told me that I could wish for something, that I should only say what I wanted to know, and all my questions would be answered. What do you think I asked? That I would like to know when the war would be over for me. You know what I mean, Doctor‑for me! I wanted to know when we, when our camp, would be liberated and our sufferings come to an end.” “And when did you have this dream?” I asked. “In February, I945,” he answered. It was then the beginning of March. “What did your dream voice answer?” Furtively he whispered to me, “March thirtieth.” When F. told me about his dream, he was still full of hope and convinced that the voice of his dream would be right. But as the promised day drew nearer, the war news which reached our camp made it appear very unlikely that we would be free on the promised date. On March twenty‑ninth, F. suddenly became ill and ran a high temperature. On March thirtieth, the day his prophecy had told him that the war and suffering would be Over for him, he became delirious and lost consciousness. On March thirty‑first, he was dead. To all outward appearances, he died of typhus.
Those who know how close the connection is between the state of mind of a man‑his courage and hope, or lack of them ‑ and the state of immunity of his body will understand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect. The ultimate cause of my friend’s death was that the expected liberation did not come and he was severely disappointed. This suddenly lowered his body’s resistance against the latent typhus infection. His faith in the future and his will to live had become paralyzed and his body fell victim to illness‑and thus the voice of his dream was right after all. (p 118‑120)
He talked about the many comrades who had died in the last few days, either of sickness or of suicide. But he also mentioned what may have been the real reason for their deaths: giving up hope. (p 129)
The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century. This is understandable; it may b due to a twofold loss that man had to undergo since he became a truly human being. At the beginning of human history, man lost some of the basic animal instincts in which an animal’s behavior is embedded and by which it is secured. Such security, like Paradise, is closed to man forever; man has to make choices. In addition to this however, man has suffered another loss in his recent development; the traditions that had buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing. Not instinct tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism). (p 167)
Anticipatory anxiety is characteristic of this fear that it produces precisely that of which the patient is afraid. An individual, for example, who is afraid of blushing when he enters a large room and faces many people, will actually blush. In this context, one might transpose the saying, “the wish is, father to the thought” to “the fear is mother of he event.” (p 193)
From The Doctor and the Soul: Man lives in three dimensions: the somatic, the mental, and the spiritual. The spiritual dimension cannot be ignored, for it is what makes us human. To be concerned about the meaning of life is not necessarily a sign of disease or of neurosis. It may be; but then again, spiritual agony may have very little connection with a disease of the psyche. The proper diagnosis can be made only by someone who can see the spiritual side of man.
Psychoanalysis speaks of the pleasure principle, individual psychology of status drive. The pleasure principle might be termed the will‑to‑pleasure the status drive is equivalent to the will‑to power. But where do we hear of that which most deeply inspires man; where is the innate desire to give as much meaning as possible to one’s life, to actualized as many values as possible‑‑what I should like to call the will‑to‑meaning?
This will‑to‑meaning is the most human phenomenon of all, since an animal certainly never worries about the meaning of its existence. Yet psychotherapy would turn this will‑to‑meaning into a human frailty neurotic complex. A therapist who ignores man’s spiritual side, and is thus forced to ignore the will‑to‑meaning, is giving away one of his most valuable assets. For it is to this will that a psychotherapist should appeal. Again and again we have seen that an appeal to continue life, to survive the most unfavorable conditions, can be made only when such survival appears to have a meaning. That meaning must be specific and personal, a meaning which can be realized by this one person alone. For we must never forget that every man is unique in the universe. (p xvi) Men can give meaning to their lives by realizing what I call creative values, by achieving task. But they can also give meaning to their live by realizing experiential values, by experiencing the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, or by knowing one single human being in all his uniqueness. And to experience one human being as unique means to love him.
But even a man who finds himself in the greatest distress, in which neither activity nor creativity can bring values to life, nor experience give meaning to it ‑ even such a man can still give his life a meaning by the way he faces his fate, his distress. By taking his unavoidable suffering upon himself he may yet realize values.
Thus, life has a meaning to the last breath. For the possibility of realizing values by the very attitude with which we face our unchangeable suffering ‑ this possibility exists to the very last moment. I call such values attitudinal values. (p xix)
When it comes to evaluating people, collectivism leads us astray. For in place of responsible persons, the collectivist idea substitutes a mere type, and in place of personal responsibility, substitutes conformity to norms. (p 73) Destiny appears to man in three principal forms: (1) natural disposition or endowment, what Tandler has called “somatic fate”; (2) as his situation, the total of his external environment; (3) disposition and situation together make up man’s position. Toward this he “takes a position”‑‑that is, he form an attitude. This “position taken” or attitude is ‑ in contrast I basically destined “position given” matter of free choice. Proof of this is the fact that man can “change his position,” take a attitude (as soon as we include the time dimension in our scheme, since a change of position means an alteration of attitude course of time). Included under change of position in this is, for example, everything we call education, learning and self‑improvement, but also psychotherapy in the broadest sense of the word, and such inner revolutions as religious conversion. (p 80)
From The Will to Meaning: A person is free to shape his own character, and man is responsible for what he may have made of himself. What matters is not the features of our character or the drives and instincts per es, but rather the stand we take toward them. And the capacity t take such a stand is what makes us human beings. (p 17)
Suffering is only one aspect of what I call “The Tragic Triad” of human existence. This triad is made up of pain, guilt, and death. There is no human being who may say that he has not failed, that he does not suffer, and that he will not die.
The reader may notice that here the third “triad” is introduced. The first triad is constituted by freedom of will, will to meaning, and meaning to life. Meaning of life is composed of the second triad ‑ creative , experiential, and attitudinal values. And attitudinal values are subdivided into the third triad ‑ meaningful attitudes to pain, guilt, and death.
Speaking of the “tragic triad” should not mislead the reader to assume that logotherapy is as pessimistic as existentialism is said to be. Rather logotherapy is an optimistic approach to life, for it teaches that there are no tragic and negative aspects which could not be by the stand one takes to them transmuted into a positive accomplishment. (p 73)
From Psychotherapy and existentialism: Logotherapy exceeds and surpasses existential analysis, …to the extent that it is essentially more than analysis of existence, of being, and involves more than a mere analysis of its subject. Logotherapy is concerned not only with being but also with meaning; not only with ontos but also with logos; and this feature may well account for the activistic, therapeutic orientation of logotherapy. In other words, logotherapy is not only analysis but also therapy. (p 1)
A good sense of humor is inherent in this technique. This is understandable since we know that humor is a paramount way of putting distance between something and oneself. One might say as well, that humor helps man to rise above his own predicament by allowing him to look at himself in a more detached way. So humor would also have to located in the noetic dimension. After all, no animal is able to laugh, least of all at himself.. (p 4)
In fact, it is my conviction that man should not, indeed cannot, struggle for identity in a direct way; he rather finds identity to the extent to which he commits himself to something beyond himself. No one has put it as cogently as Karl Jaspers did when he said, “What man is, he ultimately becomes through the cause which he made his own.” (p 9)
Man is ultimately self‑determining. What he becomes ‑ within limits of endowment and environment ‑ he has made himself. In the living laboratories of the concentration camps we watched comrades behaving like swine while others like saints. Man has both these potentialities within himself. Which one he actualizes depends on decision, not on conditions. It is time that this decision quality of human existence be included in our definition man. Our generation has come to know man as he really is: the being that has invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and also the being who entered those gas chambers upright, the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips. (p 35)
To this extent man is not only responsible for what he does but also for what is, inasmuch as man does not only behave according to what he is but also becomes what he is according to how he behaves. In the last analysis, man has become what he has made of himself. Instead of being fully conditioned by any conditions, he is constructing himself. (p 61)
INTERVIEW WITH VIKTOR FRANKL AT AGE 90: MATTHEW SCULLY
[Matthew Scully, a former Literary Editor for National Review and speechwriter for Vice President Dan Quayle, is a writer living in Arlington, Virginia.] [This data file is the sole property of FIRST THINGS. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as “freeware,” without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., “Copyright (c) 1994 by First Things”) and this Copyright/Reproduction Limitations notice.]
“Did you ever hear from Otto?” I asked Viktor Frankl. Readers of Frankl’s classic Man’s Search for Meaning: Experiences in the Concentration Camp will remember Otto as the fellow prisoner to whom he recited his final testament before being sent to a “rest camp” for the sick prisoners of Auschwitz. “No one knew whether this was a ruse to obtain the last bit of work for the sick . . . or whether it would go to the gas ovens or to a genuine rest camp,” Frankl wrote. The chief doctor offered that evening to take his name from the list. “I told him this was not my way; that I had learned to let fate take its course.” Returning to the hut, “I found a good friend waiting for me.” “Tears came to his eyes and I tried to comfort him. Then there was something else to do‑make my will. ‘Listen, Otto, if I don’t get back home to my wife, and if you should see her again, tell her that I talked of her daily, hourly. You remember. Secondly, I have loved her more than anyone. Thirdly, the short time I have been married to her outweighs everything, even all we have been through here.’ . . . Otto, where are you now? Are you alive? What has happened to you since our last hour together?”
What did happen? “Ah, yes, Otto,” Frankl recalled in an interview last year. “No, I heard nothing. One must assume he did not make it out.” Frankel wrote Man’s Search for Meaning in 1946, the year before The Diary of Anne Frank came out and three years before Orwell’s 1984. Still entitled From Concentration Camp to Existentialism in German editions, it is as deeply somber a book as any to come from the era. It is a strangely hopeful book, still a staple on the self‑help shelves, but inescapably a book about death. Yet in Frankl’s own case, fate took a different course. After the loss of his wife in the Holocaust he remarried, wrote another twenty‑five books, founded a school of psychotherapy, built an institute bearing his name in Vienna, lectured around the world, and has lived to see Man’s Search for Meaning reprinted in twenty‑three languages and at least nine million copies.
Finding him at the University of Vienna, I realized, however, that the wistful retrospective I had in mind‑Aging Lion Looks at Our Troubled World‑would be not only trite but false. Dr. Frankl looks quite healthy. An assistant asked that students not take pictures because the flash hurts his failing eyes. But otherwise, approaching ninety, he sat in easy command‑joking, pounding the table for emphasis, telling stories about Freud (whom he met in 1923 and worked with thereafter). Now and then he would dart to the blackboard to illustrate his idea of “dimensional ontology” or the “tragic triage” of life.
One story reflected Frankl’s conviction that many psychotherapists are themselves mad. It was in the forties, he recalled, here in Vienna. He read a quotation from a noted modern philosopher and another from a schizophrenic patient, and asked his listeners to match quotation with author. Overwhelmingly, he said triumphantly (as though the results of the experiment had just come in), “the majority of listeners got it wrong!”
What philosopher and lunatic had in common, Frankl went on to explain, is the certainty that happiness can be attained by furious pursuit and a consequent rage at the unsatisfying results. His useful word for this is “hyperintention,” a tendency that only inflames what is usually the real problem, our own self‑centeredness. “Everything can be taken away from man but one thing‑to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” The sane are those who accept this charge and do not expect happiness by right. Thus Frankl’s own “logotherapy,” which views suffering not as an obstacle to happiness but often the necessary means to it, less a pathology than a path. Logotherapy amounts in nearly all situations to the advice, “Get to work.” Other psychologies begin by asking, “What do I want from life? Why am I unhappy?” Logotherapy asks, “What does life at this moment demand of me?” Happiness, runs a favored Frankl formulation, “ensues.” “Happiness must happen.” Life should find us out there in the world doing good things for their own sake. Even “if we strive for a good conscience, we are no longer justified in having it. The very fact has made us into Pharisees. And if we make health our main concern we have fallen ill. We have become hypochondriacs.”
At the time of his deportation, from a train station just blocks from where he was now speaking, Frankl was putting the final touches on a book advancing these same points. He had a chance before the war to go to America to write his books and build a reputation. “Should I foster my brainchild, logotherapy . . . or should I concentrate on my duties as a real child of my parents” and stay by them? He arrived home from the American consulate, visa in hand, to find a large block of marble sitting on the table. Recovered by his father from a local synagogue razed by the Nazis, it was, Frankl recalled, a piece from a tablet bearing the first letters of the Commandment, “Honor thy father and mother that thy days may be long upon the land.” He let his visa lapse. Frankl is the rare intellectual called to live out his theories, and then rewarded against staggering odds for his faithfulness. Man’s Search for Meaning itself attests to his notion of hyperintention. Had he used the visa and the excuse of professional obligation he would not be the same compelling witness. The camps, he wrote, reveal man much as Freud and others had described him‑a creature driven by ego and instinct and sublimated drives. But they reveal something even more fundamental‑our defining “capacity for self‑transcendence.” “Man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.” Frankl‑who in the early thirties coined the word “existentialism”‑is the man who reminded modern psychology of one detail it had overlooked, the patient’s soul.
Man’s Search for Meaning is known for powerful scenes like the parting with Otto and for its insights from camp life. “If only our wives could see us now!'” said the man next to Frankl as they set off on a morning march to the labor site. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another upward and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking about his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look … a thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth‑that love is the highest goal to which man can aspire … I understand how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss … in a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way‑an honorable way‑in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to under‑stand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in divine contemplation of an infinite glory.” Spared to serve as a worker, he pleaded with the guards not to destroy a manuscript he had hidden in the lining of his coat.
“Look, this is the manuscript of a scientific book … I must keep this manuscript at all costs; it contains my life’s work. Do you understand that?” Yes, he was beginning to understand. A grin spread slowly over his face, first piteous, then more amused, mocking, insulting, until he bellowed one word at me in answer to my question, a word that was ever present in the vocabulary of camp inmates: “Shit!” At that moment I saw the plain truth and did what marked the culminating point of the first phase of my psychological reaction: I struck out my whole former life.
The tone of Man’s Search for Meaning is like this throughout: the reasonable, detached observer describing not only the radical evil around him but radical absurdity, stripped of everything “except, literally, our naked existence.” The effect is to connect life at Auschwitz with life anywhere. We needed to stop asking ourselves about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life‑daily and hourly … Therefore, it was necessary for us to face up to the full amount of suffering, trying to keep moments of weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. Viktor Frankl had called in reply to my first letter that he would be glad to meet me, but would “strongly advise” that I read his other five books translated into English. Too many American interviewers come to Vienna, Frankl complained, having read only his one famous book. These other books (including The Will to Meaning) appeared in brisk succession after Man’s Search for Meaning was translated in 1959. In great demand, Frankl spent twenty years in the United States, lecturing, appearing on TV, holding professor emeritus status at Berkeley, and occasionally saying controversial things, such as his suggestion in the seventies that America should erect on its West Coast a “Statue of Responsibility.” Of a modern political ideologue, Frankl observed, “He doesn’t have opinions; his opinions have him.”
I had resolved not to seem effusive or over‑awed, like those fresh converts to logotherapy who, a colleague of Frankl told me, arrive at his door from all over the globe with offerings of gratitude. But it was not easy. Viktor Frankl, like Mother Teresa or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, is a person one can meet only over a chasm of moral experience.
A casual enough opener had suggested itself when I passed by his study into the office. “I am absolutely convinced,” Frankl had said in The Doctor and the Soul, “that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.” It was clear he regarded Freud as one such thinker. Why, then, did I just see a bust of the great man on the way in?
He speaks of Freud with a kind of protective sympathy, a son happy the father was spared from seeing how all his dreams had worked out. Freud was a great man, “a genius,” replied Frankl. So much that we know about the human psyche, we know because of Freud. But “even a genius cannot completely resist his Zeitgeist, the spirit of his time.” And Freud’s was a time of curiosity and excitement over the possibilities that lay hidden in the “basement” of human aspiration. He just forgot about the upper stories.
“The point of logotherapy?” I asked. “Exactly! Logotherapy sees the human patient in all his humanness. I step up to the core of the patient’s being. And that is a being in search of meaning, a being that is transcending himself, a being capable of acting in love for others. . . . You see, any human being is originally‑he may forget it, or repress this‑but originally he is a being reaching out for meanings to be fulfilled or persons to be loved.” Frankl had heard of M. Scott Peck’s Road Less Traveled, a popular book that declares, like Man’s Search for Meaning, the hardness of life. In fact he had heard enough to wonder why the book and others like it pay no homage to the logotherapy of which they seem bland imitations. “But,” he said with a dismissive wave, “it is no matter. Better that they should borrow from logotherapy than use their own nonsense.”
Had he, I asked, been following our “Politics of Meaning” debate back in America? He had. But the question raised an unhappy story from their 94th and probably last visit to the United States. It happened, Mrs. Frankl recalled, a year earlier in the very month of Mrs. Clinton’s “Politics of Meaning” speech in Austin, Texas. Some American friends called the producers of Good Morning America. Would they like to have the author of Man’s Search for Meaning on the show to discuss the First Lady’s existential angst? But either they did not know the name or had already booked some more intriguing figure like Howard Stern or Dr. Ruth. “This is how America treats Viktor Frankl?” Mrs. Frankl asked. I wondered aloud whether this story might suggest a depressing possibility. As a general cultural drift, mustn’t Freudian ideas, exactly because they validate the shallow in their self‑absorption, inevitably triumph over Frankl and his more demanding message?
This brought a ferocious rebuttal. “But how can you say this! Show me another book that has sold so far nine million copies, as Man’s Search for Meaning did! What more empirical evidence do you need? And these letters‑Ellie, how many do we receive each day?” “An average of twenty‑three a day,” said Mrs. Frankl. “Yes, you see, twenty‑three letters every day‑still. And most of them are from Americans. And do you know what they say? Most just write to say, ‘Thank you, Dr. Frankl, for changing my life.'” “You see,” he continued, “the intellectuals, the fashionable crowd, the high‑brows, perhaps they do not care for it. Although I wonder. Sometimes they say, ‘Of course it does not mean that we share the philosophical ideas of Dr. Frankl ‑ but they use it. I don’t give a damn whether they share my philosophical conviction! But it is satisfying, deeply, that they are using it for the benefit of patients. . . . The man on the street, he has always understood what I am saying. He sees that something is missing. He realizes that he is more than his id, more than his drives.” This defensiveness was not only touching, but very odd. It turns out to be a complicated matter. There are those “high‑brows” who believe that Frankl, however moving his personal testimony, is raising up all the old, unscientific notions of soul and conscience and guilt. Among these there is also a suspicion of religiosity, something I had made a note to bring up. But there are also critics with more standing who believe Frankl has always missed the unique evil of the Holocaust. This may explain why, for instance, one cannot find what after The Diary of Anne Frank is the second‑most widely read Holocaust book in the bookstore of Washington’s Holocaust Museum.
“Here for instance,” he explained, “the jury of Vienna is absolutely against me, because I’m too much for reconciling‑very mean to me. They are fearing that I’m one who has forgotten the Holocaust. In my whole book Man’s Search for Meaning, you will not find the word ‘Jew.’ I don’t capitalize from being a Jew and having suffered as a Jew, you see? I ask them, Are you angry with me? Yes. Why are you angry with me? Perhaps because I am too much of a reconciling spirit? Yes. So is it bad to be reconciling?”
The argument went back to the concept of collective guilt, to which Frankl is “strictly, 100 percent opposed.” “I could adopt the concept if I were a National Socialist, because this is absolutely a concept in the framework of National Socialists, see? That it made no difference between Jews, one Jew and another Jew, Jews were absolutely Untermenschen, subhuman beings. And this concept justified them, as they thought, for all kinds of atrocities. But I start on the ground that guilt is, a priori, personal guilt. I can be judged guilty only for something I have missed, failed to do. But in no way can I be regarded as guilty for something an uncle of mine has done, or a grandmother of mine has done. This is 100 percent nonsense!”
It was this conviction, Frankl explained, that led him from Auschwitz back to Vienna, rejoining the very neighbors who had watched or participated in his persecution. “People forget what it meant at that time to join the resistance. More or less, it meant at any moment being caught, being arrested, and sentenced to death, as my best friend at the time was sentenced to death. And all the more we have to admire the heroism of these people.”
“But my point,” he continued, “is that heroism ultimately can only be demanded or expected of someone‑of only one person. You are never entitled to place the demand of heroism on any one else, not unless you have been in the same position, facing the same decision, the same way facing death as punishment. But anyone who had immigrated to the United States and, viewing the situation in the past from that place, is not entitled to tell anybody who had remained in Germany that he should have joined the resistance, unless he himself has done so, facing all the risks, facing the question of whether his responsibility toward his whole family had allowed him, because he would have thrown his own family into the concentration camps.”
It was almost time to go, so I raised the question of his own spiritual convictions. Readers, Frankl told me, are invariably curious to know whether he himself believes in God. And indeed the first thing one notices entering the apartment is a sizable crucifix in the hall. (Mrs. Frankl is a Catholic.) “The crowning experience of all for the homecoming man,” he wrote in Man’s Search, “is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear anymore‑except his God.” Always his arguments take us back to the “soul,” “the higher part of man,” “the religious impulse,” “the Unconscious God.” Should we take these as metaphors, projections, and mythic archetypes, or when he said “God” did he mean God?
What distinguishes logotherapy from other schools of psychology is the humble recognition of an objective order that simply is and moral facts about the universe that are beyond our power to escape, modify, or reinvent. Frankl himself warned in The Doctor and the Soul against a strutting “nothing‑but‑ism” that declares our spiritual longings are nothing but instinctual drives and God nothing but a creation of the id. Without a Creator, I asked, wouldn’t any notion of “spirit” collapse back into instinct and logotherapy fall apart? Not quite, he answered, but in any case his own calling was to heal the soul, not save it. “I do not allow myself to confess personally whether I’m religious or not. I’m writing as a psychologist, I’m writing as a psychiatrist, I’m writing as a man of the medical faculty. . . . And that made the message more powerful because if you were identifiably religious, immediately people would say, ‘Oh well, he’s that religious psychologist. Take the book away!'” “You see,” he added, “I don’t shy away, I don’t feel debased or humiliated if someone suspects that I’m a religious person for myself. . . . If you call ‘religious’ a man who believes in what I call a Supermeaning, a meaning so comprehensive that you can no longer grasp it, get hold of it in rational intellectual terminology, then one should feel free to call me religious, really. And actually, I have come to define religion as an expression, a manifestation, of not only man’s will to meaning, but of man’s longing for an ultimate meaning, that is to say a meaning that is so comprehensive that it is no longer comprehensible. . . But it becomes a matter of believing rather than thinking, of faith rather than intellect. The positing of a supermeaning that evades mere rational grasp is one of the main tenets of logotherapy, after all. And a religious person may identify Supermeaning as something paralleling a Superbeing, and this Superbeing we would call God.”
Dr. and Mrs. Frankl walked me out, pausing at the mementos in the study. There was a framed letter from his friend Martin Heidegger (the philosopher, it turns out, whose words audiences had confused with the schizophrenic). Next to that was a charmingly incongruous picture and letter from Mamie Eisenhower, an avid admirer of Frankl after President Eisenhower died.
Then he showed me a certificate declaring him an honorary citizen of Austin, Texas, where he lectured in 1975. “And when they conferred this on me, I said to the Mayor, ‘Mr. Mayor, it would be more appropriate if I appointed you an honorary logotherapist.’ ‘Because,’ I said, ‘unless soldiers coming from America, among them certainly some youngsters coming from Texas, had not risked their lives in order to get us out of the camp, there would not have been any Viktor Frankl from the 27th of April of 1945, even less any logotherapy or books or anything.'”
And last on the tour, a painting of Auschwitz done after liberation by an inmate named Bruno, who, Frankl explained, was allowed to live so that the guards might have their own private portraitist. “And this corner here is the place where the ceremony of burial has taken place, and these are recycled coffins. And in one of these coffins, at this very place, I saw the body of my father who died there.”
“You asked me earlier, Do I still think of these things? Not a day goes by when I do not! And in a way I do pity those younger people who did not know the camps or live during the war, who have nothing like that to compare [their own hardships] with. . . . Even today, as I lose my sight or with any severe problem or adverse situation, . . . I have only to think for a fraction of a second and I draw a deep breath. What I would have given then if I could have had no greater problem than I face today!”
VIKTOR FRANKL’S RECOLLECTIONS: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Hypnosis: I admit to an early interest in hypnosis and, at age 15, was able to use it correctly. (p 53) In my book Psychotherapie fur den Alltag [Psychotherapy In Everyday Life], I describe how, as an intern in the department of gynecology at Vienna’s Rothschild Hospital, I had to perform a narcosis in preparation for a surgery. My supervisor and head of the department, Dr. Fleischmann, gave me the honorable but not very promising order to hypnotize a small, old woman who could not take a regular narcotic for her surgery. For some reason, a local anesthetic was also not possible. Thus I tried to keep the poor woman pain‑free through hypnosis. The attempt was successful.
But an unexpected surprise awaited me. For, mixed in with the praises from the physicians and the thanks of the patient were the most bitter and vehement reproaches by the nurse who had handled the surgical instruments during the operation. She let me know with her rebuke that she had had to use every bit of her willpower to fight off sleepiness during the entire procedure. My monotone suggestions had had their effect not only on the patient.
Another time, as a young doctor in the Maria Theresien Schlossel Neurological Hospital, I experienced the following. My supervisor, Dr. Josef Gerstmann, had asked me to induce sleep in a patient who suffered from insomnia and was staying in a two‑bed room. Late in the evening I quietly stole into the room, sat near his bed, and repeated for at least half an hour the hypnotic suggestions: “You are calm, very calm, pleasantly tired. You are getting more and more tired. Your breathing is calm, your eyelids are becoming heavier and heavier. All your worries are far, far away. Soon you’ll fall asleep.” But when I tried to slip out of the room quietly, I was disappointed to see that I had not helped the man. How surprised I was, however, at the enthusiastic welcome when I entered the same patient room the next day. (p 54) “I slept wonderfully last night. A few minutes after you started talking I was in a deep sleep.” But it was the roommate of the man I had been sent to hypnotize. (p 53‑55)
NOTES FROM EVERYTHING TO GAIN: A GUIDE TO SELF‑FULFILMENT THROUGH LOGOTHERAPY: JAMES C. CRUMBAUGH. NELSON‑HILL. CHICAGO. 1973.
Everyone wants to be Somebody. Everyone needs to find a personal identity , a meaning for existence, a place in life, a worthwhile cause. Today we Americans have more to live with than most people ever dared dream of, but many of us are not sure of what we are living for. The pressures of life have increased in proportion to its abundance. Many of us are able to keep going only through a combination of tranquilizers, alcohol, and escapist entertainment ‑ we are escapees from ourselves.
Nothing produces emotional breakdown quicker than a feeling that we are trapped in a competitive rat race that drains our energies but gives us no real feeling of accomplishment. No feeling crushes like the awareness of being a nothing, a nobody. And no feeling lifts like the sense of a meaning or purpose in life that makes us Somebody important, Somebody to be reckoned with, a unique person. Do you sometimes wonder who you are, why you are living, and what makes life worth living? Do you often wish you could find something that would bring meaning to your life and cause others to regard you as a special Somebody? You can find this meaning; you can become the real person you want to be. (p ix) We are all struggling to be Somebody. But most of us haven’t found the way. To illustrate this point, the following statistics are offered:
1. It is estimated that 30 percent of all patients entering general hospitals and 50 percent of all patients going to physicians in general practice are suffering from emotional or mental illness.
2. One‑tenth of the general population is, has been, or will be hospitalized for mental illness. This is an increase of 100 percent during the past generation. 3. One‑third of the general population is estimated to be in need of psychotherapy or counseling in some area.
4. Nearly one‑third of marriages now end in divorce. Fifty percent of married Americans do not consider their marriages happy. Half of those who do feel they are happy still consider themselves inadequate as mates.
5. Fifty thousand people in the United States were addicted to hard narcotics even before the avalanche of users of marijuana, amphetamines, LSD, and heroin of the last few years.
6. Americans spend $800 million a year on tranquilizers, Sixty percent of all prescriptions written are for tranquilizers. Forty percent of the adult population of the United States took them last year .
7. There are five million problem drinkers and nearly three million chronic alcoholics in our land.
8. About seventeen thousand people commit suicide in this country every year . 9. Americans consume about sixteen million pounds ‑ or eighteen billion five‑grain tablets ‑ of aspirin each year .
More statistics could be given, but I think, the facts are clear. Many of us are constantly trying to escape from ourselves. We are bored and our lives are empty because we lack any real meaning and purpose in our life.
Many people to compensate by flight into material pleasures and by emphasizing material achievements as the only values. They try to rise above the competition by any means available. In industry unfair merchandising, dishonest advertising, and shoddy products are the result. Witness the amazing industry‑wide frauds uncovered by the dynamic consumer advocate, Ralph Nader .
Most people seem to feel that they are hopelessly caught in the trap of their daily lives. If they must compromise their principles in order to receive material rewards, they feel they have to do so. But if they had a meaning for living other than merely making a living, their lives would be different. Do you sometimes wonder what life is really all about? A lot of people do these days. Many are saying such things as: “1 don’t seem to have a place in life,” “there’s nothing left that is worth living for,” “I don’t know who I am,” or “the whole world seems to have gone crazy, and there’s nothing but trouble.” Yes, a lot of people are talking like that today. Life has lost meaning for them. They don’t see any purpose in it. The things they used to believe in have changed, and they haven’t found any new values to make up for the loss. When a special problem comes along, they can’t cope with it. It may be family trouble ‑ a divorce or trouble with the children. Perhaps it is the loss of a job, failure to get a promotion, or some other disappointment. It might be financial reverses, the pressure of unpaid bills, or any one of a million other things. But whatever the complication may be, a person has no inner (p 7) resources to fight back if he has already decided that his life has little meaning. He decides that the situation is hopeless. He wonders why his is the victim. He can’t help feeling angry about it and resenting the unfairness. Do you recognize yourself in the above situations? Do you sometimes fell caught in a trap? Do you thing about all the things that have gone wrong in your life and wonder why they happened to you? Do you often feel left out of life? Is your live empty of meaning and purpose? Many people have such feelings, especially in this computerized age where it is to get the feeling that you are nothing but a number in a filing cabinet. This is what it means to be nobody. (p 8) Developing Special Techniques: In order to fulfill this process and validate these principles, we must develop special techniques or procedures. There are two basic special techniques that, when practiced consistently, will enable us to reach this goal. They are designed to bring out the creative abilities that we all have in much greater degree than we usually realize, but which we don’t learn to use. These techniques are as follows:
1. Expanding conscious awareness, and
2. Stimulating creative imagination.
Let us consider each of these and how it works. First, expanding conscious awareness: This means that we must become more aware of the world about us and what goes on in it. For example, if I ask you to look out of the window and tell me what you see, you may reply, “It is a sunny day, and a car is passing by, and there are two children playing in the yard.” But if I ask you to take a second look and tell me what else you see, and if I add to your motivation by offering you a reward for each additional thing you can report, you will undoubtedly notice much more than you did the first time.
That is the way it is with our problems. If someone asks us what is wrong, we give a short answer and think that we have said all there is to be said. We don’t like to talk about it in the first place, so we say a few words and try to leave it at that. But only by digging into the minute details ‑ by expanding our conscious awareness of the vital and significant implications of the problem ‑ can we hope to work out anew solution to it.
The truth is that this is exactly what many young people are talking about and trying to do when they blow their minds with (p 23) various harmful drugs. They want to expand their conscious awareness and to see more of life than they have ever been able to see before. And their aim is a good one; the error is in their methodology. Their techniques lead to disastrous side effects and after effects. And in the long run the drugs don .t accomplish their goals: They only give a false feeling that you have had some great insights into some new aspect of life; but when the drug effects wear off, these insights are gone. There is, however, a safe and effective way to expand conscious awareness, and many of the exercises to be given later in the book are directed toward this end.
Second, stimulating creative imagination: This is the process of using the creative capacity we all have in potential form. After we have expanded our conscious awareness to become more perceptive of what goes on around us, we need to use these new perceptions creatively. This means that we must put all of our experiences together in new ways, in order to find new meanings in the total pattern of life. When we have analyzed our problems in greater detail and have become aware of all of the aspects we may have previously overlooked, we then must relate all that we have found to the totality of our life experience. This will suggest something new about where we should go from there. In other words, we use our creative capacities to imagine new solutions to old problems. We do this through relating the new aspects of these problems ( of which we have now become aware) to other areas of life ( of which we have now also become newly conscious ). Such a process puts our problem in anew light and gives us new hope for the future.
And then, without realizing just how it happened, we find ourselves in possession of anew lease on life, anew meaning and purpose, in place of the old feelings of hopelessness and despair: We have achieved the goal of logoanalysis. The exercises given in this book for both of our two basic techniques will guide you in applying logoanalysis to your particular problems. But first let’s turn to an analogy that will illustrate how it all works.
Imagine that your entire life is represented by a large picture like a jigsaw puzzle. You have been trying to put the picture together and have succeeded in properly placing most of them, but there are a number of missing segments. These pieces represent missing elements of your life. That is, they are the failures, conflicts, and troubles with which you are now faced. In some cases you may be able, at a later date, to find at least a portion of the missing segments. But right now, you don’t know where they are, and you see no hope of locating them. In other words, as you view your present troubles, they seem to leave gaps or holes in your life, and you are unable to conceive of any way of filling them.
What if you are never able to find the missing pieces? You may be tempted to draw the conclusion that your life is hopeless and meaningless and that you have nothing left to live for. When you are faced with a severe problem, you will be concentrating on it so completely that you will ignore all of the other aspects of life, even though you may have some very good things going for you. (p 25) Thus, you will forget about all of the hundreds of pieces of your life that do fit together and give a real meaning and purpose to the overall picture. You will find it difficult to see the overall picture, although you may be looking right at it, because you are wrapped up in the little segment that represents some current problem. When the problem is severe, you don’t think about anything else at the time. This is very similar to what you would experience in looking at the jigsaw puzzle through a long cardboard tube. Suppose you are looking through such a tube at the part of the picture that is circled and that represents your most severe problem. The tube is like the emotional upset that keeps your attention focused on this area of trouble. Since you can’t see anything else except your current trouble, you get the feeling that this is all there is to your life. If this were really true, it would be logical for you to give up in despair, for there would be too many missing pieces to allow you to find much meaning in the few remaining segments in this area. As long as you are looking through the cardboard tube at this one area of your life, as it were, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for you. Seeing the Whole Picture: But suppose someone comes along and knocks the tube out of your hand. Suddenly you see the whole picture of your life at once. Obviously you now see new elements of experience that remind you of important things to live for in spite of your difficulties. You sense a new meaning and purpose in your life as a whole. By comparison, the missing pieces within the circle ‑ which had loomed so large when you were focusing only on this area ‑ now take on far less significance. You wonder how you could have become so wrapped up in this little area of your life that you ignored all of the successes, the hopes and ambitions, and the assets in the rest of it. Unfortunately , in reality no one can knock this tube out of your hand so that you can see the whole of life at one glance. At the moment, you are forced by circumstances to peer in despair only at the few pieces that can be seen through the tube. How, then, can you work out of this apparently hopeless situation? There is only one way.
That way is to move the tube slowly around, gradually scanning the total picture segment by segment, so that finally you can put all of the parts together and perceive the meaning of the whole. It is a slow process, and you may become discouraged if you do not always remember the final goal. Some of the segments you will look at will have little meaning within themselves, but it is only by relating each segment to every other one that the overall significance of the total picture can at last be perceived.
In other words, when you look at the little slice of life represented by your immediate problem, it seems overpowering and meaningless until you move by association to another area of your past experience, and to another, and to still another. In the long run you will see your successes, your strong points, and your assets ‑ all of which give a new meaning to the whole, anew hope for the future, and minimize the present failures. When you begin to gain anew perspective on the total pattern of your life, you will begin to grasp a total meaning and purpose in life. Thus, you can use the present difficulty as a stepping stone toward a new tomorrow.
A failure can be turned into an asset in the long run when it is seen as a learning experience that helps you attain a future goal ‑ a goal you may not have been prepared to achieve without the prior failure. In this sense, misfortunes can turn out to be blessings in disguise. But to make use of them, you have to explore their relationship to all of the other experiences you have had, and only then will you see what they are supposed to teach you in relationship to your future goals.
This process of “moving the tube around ” over the whole picture of life illustrates the two basic techniques of logoanalysis. That is, moving the tube is a matter of expanding your conscious awareness of all that has occurred in your past experience and of stimulating your creative imagination to put together these segments of past experience in anew and meaningful way. Using these techniques will suggest an ultimate direction or goal that can be achieved. (p 27)
The exercises of logoanalysis to be presented in this book are designed to help you explore your life experiences in relation to your present situation. U sing them will enable you to find the meaning of the total picture of your life. When you have found it, you will be able to go on from there, in spite of whatever handicaps and difficulties you may face, and to live your life in away that will give you an identity as Somebody.
This does not mean that only those who have serious problems can profit from logoanalysis. Life may be going well for you, but you may still sense a need to improve, to find a fresh meaning, a higher purpose. If so, logoanalysis can help you do it. You may be looking down the cardboard tube, as it were, at a merely boring present situation. Exploring this situation in relation to the many other segments of your total life experience can give you a new perspective. In the succeeding chapters we will discuss examples of how others have put logoanalysis into practice. You will see that, by following the exercises, you can achieve similar success. (p 28)
Devising the content. The meditation that leads to areal encounter with the Supreme Intelligence has both a thoughtful and an emotional side, and neither aspect can be neglected. The thoughtful side requires attention to the words we use, while the emotional side represents a feeling of reverence for the universe and for all human life as well as a personal reaching out to the Supreme power. The elements which the meditation should contain. An important key to success is what you want to achieve. As a guide, you can profitably examine ‑ regardless of your particular faith ‑ the prayer of Jesus known as the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done On Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
Lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
Jesus has just exhorted his followers to avoid, when praying, the repetitious use of the same words over and over again, as is done by the “heathen,” who fancy that through using many pious words they will get a hearing from God. This we might call the “prayer‑wheel effect.”
Then He gives the example of what prayer should be like. While these words have become the most frequently repeated of any prayer in the Christian world, and usually in a routine, unvaried fashion in which they come from the lips without passing through the brain, all that Jesus probably intended was to furnish a framework around which the elements could be varied. Let us examine these elements:
Worship: Praise and respect for the Supreme Being. (Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. ) Request for:
Material needs. (Give us this day our daily bread.)
Forgiveness of our own mistakes. (Forgive us our trespasses.) Fulfillment of our own obligation to show charity in order to gain it ourselves. (As we forgive those who trespass against us. )
Protection against danger both from the outer world and from inner selfish motives which may cause new mistakes. (Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.)
We may incorporate these basic elements in thousands of (p 121) different ways. To this outline we can add our own specific problems, the problems upon which we wish to concentrate. We can repeat this outline with constantly new and spontaneous variations of wording hat will prevent monotony and a loss of the meaning.
There are great values in sticking to the framework of content, both for the added strength that follows repetition, and for emergency situations where the content may have to be given under emotional pressure. In the latter case we always revert to what we know best, and in extreme situations the unvaried wording of The Lord’s Prayer (for the Christian) or the Sh’ma Yisrael ( for the Jew) will serve well.
In instances where daily routine is upset but where an emotional crisis is not at hand (as, for example, in traveling on a train), you will find that having the outline firmly in awareness will enable you to maintain your schedule and to continue developing these elements without falling prey to the “prayer‑wheel effect. ” For this reason, it is a good idea to place on 3″x5 ” cards a written outline of the elements, in order that they will be always available under all circumstances. The framework represented by these key factors is intellectually set, whereas the spontaneous additions which should be improvised upon them are emotionally determined.
The mark of spiritual encounter is the point where meditation passes from the underlying intellectual element to the emotional experience of reaching out for help in an attitude of submission to a Higher Power. This occurs simultaneously with the experience of strength received from this Power, and with consequent confidence in your ability to meet problems.
The following represents a good basic model for content, an expansion of the elements of The Lord’s Prayer:
Reverence. Respect for the Supreme Being. (Same or similar to the introduction to The Lord’s Prayer. ) This should include an inventory of your assets and thanks for them. It is helpful to list these as they occur to you in order that you may become ever aware of them, and it is desirable to mention them specifically. They are:
Desire for increased faith In the Supreme Intelligence. Awareness of the good things in your life helps to increase faith.
Desire for aid in overcoming or dealing adequately with liabilities. Here (p 122) you should think of your weaknesses and areas of failure just as you did the assets. These shortcomings are habits of personality which interfere with meeting life problems rather than the problems themselves (which will be dealt with later). For example, the tendency to try to bluff your way through a difficulty rather than admitting the insecurity you feel and thereby dealing with the cause of the insecurity .
Both assets and liabilities will change from time to time, and you must remember to keep your lists in Exercise 1 current. As the effects of meditation become evident, the asset list will grow longer and the liability list shorter. There may well be periods, however, during which the reverse appears to occur, and an important factor in the success of the whole method lies in your ability to stick it out through such periods of discouragement. If you anticipate these and prepare for them, you will make it.
In this connection, the question arises as to how to handle feelings of guilt for mistakes. Contrary to the opinions of many psychotherapists, a sense of guilt is a very desirable and potentially healthy sign. When we have violated our own values ( and we all do ), we should be aware of guilt ‑ or in theological terms sin. All of the major religious faiths teach that we are all sinners, and that we cannot expect perfection of ourselves. But we can and should be aware of where and why we have failed, and of how we may be forgiven or absolved of our guilt. Different religious faiths have different requirements for this, but they always include ( a) facing and accepting the responsibility for wrong doing, (b) being sorry for it, and ( c resolving to try our best to do better in the future.
It is not a sense of guilt that harms our mental health, but a failure to face the guilt, to gain insight into how we may be released from it, to do our best under the circumstances to profit from past mistakes. We know we may fail again, perhaps in the same area. Meditation should contain, first, a full confession of these areas of failure, and second, an earnest request for guidance and insight in using our full capacities to overcome the failures.
Then ‑ and this is a fundamentally important factor ‑ it should ) contain a plea for the assistance of the Supreme Power in going I beyond our own abilities. This is the element of grace described by (p 123) the theologians; and it is the real key to the success of spiritual encounter, for the letter takes place only upon awareness that this factor has entered our lives. From time to time you will ‑ if you watch for such events ‑ experience good fortune that seems to come gratuitously and unexpectedly, without your having done anything to cause it. Then you will know hat this important factor in spiritual encounter has occurred, and you will be ready for the next phase. (p 124) What you cannot expect from spiritual encounter. It is important not to expect help in the form of the supernatural ‑ that is, in having things done for you as if by magic. Rather you should look for guidance in doing for yourself, in making the human decisions that face you, in (p133) gaining insights as to how to proceed. This is not away of obtaining something for nothing. To get, you have first to give. It is not only hard work, but also requires the follow‑through of soul‑searching effort to do your best in growing emotionally and spiritually, and in thereby drawing upon your finest potentials for the handling of problems. It must be obvious that the method cannot be used to guarantee material welfare, to further one’s own selfish ends, or to manipulate physical nature to serve personal whims.
In many cases, a number of good things do come quickly; others will come eventually. The object, however, is not to change in any direct way the world without, but to change the world within. As that happens, we are able to utilize our full abilities to influence this outer world; and when our capacities have been reached after every sincere effort, the external conditions that limit us may also change.
You cannot expect easy solutions even to problems of the internal life. A spiritual encounter is not likely to change your basic personality. If you began as an introvert, you will probably end as one. But the world has jobs for which introverts are needed as well as work for extroverts.
This new method will not make you emotionally stable if you have a lifetime of instability behind you. It can, however, help you immensely to maintain a reasonable degree of emotional control.
There probably are not only environmental factors but also hereditary physical causes in temperament. It is not likely to change the physical causes, although such changes may in some instances take place. Complete faith in a Power greater than man dictates, as we have said, that this Power can change natural events, but common sense shows that it usually does not do so upon request. We must accept our limitations and that our abilities are set by these boundaries. But this is no cause for depression. We are free to make of ourselves what we will within these limits, and regardless of how tightly the circle is drawn, there are still areas of service that can make our lives meaningful and worthwhile. To take advantage of these, however, we must will to do so and accept the often great difficulties that lie in the path. We may not always be able to achieve the material goals we want, but we can always become the kind of person we want to be. (p 134)
FRANKL OBITUARY: FRANKL DEAD AT 92: By ROLAND PRINZ VIKTOR FRANKL’S BIBLIOGRAPHY: REKNOWN PSYCHIATRIST FRANKL DIES: COPYRIGHT 1997 BY ROLAND PRINZ
VIENNA, Austria (AP) ‑‑ Viktor E. Frankl, author of the landmark `Man’s Search for Meaning’ and one of the last great psychotherapists of this century, has died of heart failure. He was 92. Frankl survived the Holocaust, even though he was in four Nazi death camps including Auschwitz from 1942‑45, but his parents and other members of his family died in the concentration camps.
During ‑‑ and partly because of ‑‑ his suffering in concentration camps, Frankl developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy. At the core of his theory is the belief that humanity’s primary motivational force is the search for meaning, and the work of the logotherapist centers on helping the patient find personal meaning in life, however dismal the circumstances may be.
Frankl wrote that one can discover the meaning in life in three ways: “by creating a work or doing a deed; by experiencing something or encountering someone; and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.” Frankl’s 32 books on existential analysis and logotherapy have been translated into 26 languages. He held 29 honorary doctorates from universities around the globe.
Viktor Emil Frankl was born in Vienna on March 26, 1905. His father worked his way up from a parliamentary stenographer to director at the Social Affairs Ministry. As a high school student involved in Socialist youth organizations, Frankl became interested in psychology.
In 1930, he earned a doctorate in medicine and then was in charge of a ward for the treatment of female suicide candidates. When the Nazis took power in 1938, Frankl was put in charge of the neurological department of the Rothschild Hospital, the only Jewish hospital in the early Nazi years. But in 1942, he and his parents were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp near Prague.
Frankl returned to Vienna in 1945, where he became head physician of the neurological department of the Vienna Polyclinic Hospital, a position he held for 25 years. He was a professor of both neurology and psychiatry. Starting in 1961, Dr. Frankl took five professorships in the United States ‑‑ at Harvard and Stanford universities as well as at universities in Dallas, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
During a recent visit to Vienna, Hillary Rodham Clinton met Frankl at the presidential office. Austrian President Thomas Klestil recalled her telling Frankl: “You don’t realize what this hour of meeting with you means for me.” He leaves his wife, Eleonore, and his daughter, Dr. Gabriele Frankl‑Vesely.