Have you heard of Viktor E. Frankl? He wrote a book called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. I was introduced to Viktor when his book was given to me by a colleague with an inscription in the cover that said ‘Belinda, Hope you enjoy this book as much as I did’.
Over the next month I read the book and it changed my perspective on life! I understood more about human strength, mindset and behaviour (all things I love to learn about). Viktor was a psychiatrist who survived a Nazi death camp and what he overcame was inspirational. His learnings from this experience, he captured in this book in the first part and then what he was to define as Logotherapy he wrote about in the second part of the book.
Logotherapy is as the title of Vikor’s book references, man’s search for meaning. It is a conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure (as freud believed), but the pursuit of what we find meaningful.
Frankl believed in three core properties on which his theory and therapy were based:
- Each person’s meaning will be specific and individual and only fulfilled by him alone.
- Man needs ‘something’ for the sake of which to live
- Life offers purpose and meaning but does not promise fulfillment or happiness.
There are three ways in which we can all start to find meaning and Vikor states we are all ultimately responsible for this to happen:
- By creating a work or doing a deed. This one is pretty straightforward it is simply completing something and feeling that sense of achievement or accomplishment.
- By experiencing something or encountering someone. I like this one as it is one of the defining things for me about logotherapy. It is all about love and the connection we can build with another person. The key thought is that we can’t fully connect on a deep emotional level with another human unless we can really love ourselves. When we can love ourselves (and I am not talking in an egotistical way) we are enabled to see the same traits and features of what we like about ourselves in the other person, that we love.
Here is where we then have the chance to find meaning. What Viktor says is that we can then also see the potential in that person that they do not see in themselves. By loving them we can help them actualise this potential. But the best bit and where we are then rewarded with meaning for ourselves, is that this person, will make us aware of what we can be and what we should become. They help us to reach our full potential.
- By the attitude that we take toward unavoidable suffering. There is always the opportunity to find so much meaning in life when we are confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. This is our chance to look for human potential, to look for the positive in the situation instead of just focusing on the negative. As Viktor said ‘to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, is to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement’. Suffering ceases to be suffering at that moment, it finds meaning.
How might you apply the principles of logotherapy to improve your everyday life?
- Develop relationships. The supportive nature of spending time with others will help you to develop more of a sense of meaning in your life.
- Focus on others. Try to focus outside of yourself to get through feeling stuck about a situation.
- Find purpose in pain. If you are going through something bad, try to find a purpose in it.
- Understand that life is not fair. There is nobody keeping score, and you will not necessarily be dealt a fair deck. However, life can always have meaning, even in the worst of situations.
- Freedom to find meaning. Remember that you are always free to make meaning out of your life situation. Nobody can take that away from you.
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I love understanding human behaviour!