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Logotherapy: Meaning of Life and Frankl Essay

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian man born in 1905. He was the father of Logotherapy which is referred to as the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy. Frankl followed in the footsteps of other famous psychologists including Sigmund Freud. He pioneered the thought that a person can move forward in one’s life after a traumatic or rough experience by finding new meaning in life. Though many of his ideas were derived from Freud’s and Adlers previous thoughts, he also took an new approach to helping people. Thus the beginning of Logotherapy.

He was first published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis when he was in high school. He then went to secondary school and began working on his degree in psychiatry and Neurology in medical school. Frankl went to the same school in Viennese as Sigmund Freud. At first Frankl was extremely interested in Freudian psychoanalysis but soon started to disagree with his therapy methods. Frankl thought that Freuds views were to narrow and did not agree with Freud’s idea’s that sexual impulses could explain the majority of human behavior (Hoffman, 1995).

After studying Freudian psychoanalysis, he became interested and focused on environmental and societal factor to explain human behavior, which was Alfred Adler’s psychology view (Frankl, Viktor Frankl recollections: An autobiography , 1997). While studying the teachings of Freud and Adler he began forming his own very different therapy known was logotherapy, which is defined as healing through meaning. After graduation he was promoted in the hospital in Vienna to the head of suicide and depression prevention, where he treated over 3,000 women.

During this time, he formed his own private practice where he began to utilize logotherapy (Frankl, Viktor Frankl recollections: An autobiography, 1997). He then could ask his clients questions about how they were feeling and what was keeping them alive and moving forward in such a low time in their lives. He then noticed because of the question that he was asking people seem to be suffering from lack of meaning in their lives than the loss of employment (Hoffman, 1995). In 1937 Frankl started to write articles about what he called logotherapy.

Then in 1938, Frankl had to give up his private practice and was forced to relocate. He was transferred to the Rothschild hospital where he could only treat Jewish patients; due to the Nazi control (Hoffman, 1995). The Nazi euthanasia program forced extermination on many clients who were suffering from brain injuries and psychological illnesses, and Frankl was forced to watch these executions. To try and save the mentally ill personnel he began to falsify documents to help avoid euthanasia. He would change their diagnosis so that they would not be transferred for the euthanasia program and could stay with their families.

While at the hospital he would get about a dozen of men and women who attempted to commit suicide. Where he tried to help them find meaning and life and to continue the fight. He was then married in 1941 to Tilly Grosser, and a year later Frankl’s and his family were arrested and brought to concentration camps. While in the concentration camps Frankl knew that he could not change his situation but could help those around him and himself by counseling in his barracks. During his imprisonment Frankl dug ditches, volunteered at the typhus ward, and also set up a suicide prevention program (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 1959).

After the long hard days of the prisoners being beaten, starved, Frankl would help the prisoners understand that their experiences were helping them develop strengths for the future (Ivey, Ivey, & Zalaquett, 2010). When Frankl was in Auschwitz he first wrote “The Doctor and the Soul” and it was then discovered and then the book was destroyed. In April of 1945 Frankl’s camp was liberated. Frankl and his sister were the only two who survive during their stay throughout the various concentration camps. His father died from starvation and his mother and wife were murdered by the gas chambers.

He then reconstructed his book “The Doctor and the Soul” and it was then published, and nine days following he published a second book which sold over 11 million copies before he died and became known as “Man’s Search for Meaning”. The original title of that book was “Saying yes to life in spite of everything”. This book describes his experiences throughout his stay in concentration camps and also his theory of logotherapy (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 1959). During this time Frankl met his second wife named Elenore Schwindt and had a baby girl soon after they were wed.

Frankl went on to author over 38 books and to speak around the world on his experiences and logotherapy. Frankl lived a long life and died on September 2, 1997 when he was 92 years old. Logos is a Greek word that which stands for meaning. Therefore logotherapy focuses on a person’s search for meaning, the search relates to finding purpose in one’s life or tasks (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 1959). Frankl found that humans are more oriented towards meaning and seek meaning in all their circumstances (Kimble & Ellor, 2009).

The idea of logotherapy began back in 1921 when Frankl was still in high school (Guttmann, 1996). Then while in the concentration camps, the people who had a better chance of survival were those that had hope of being reunited with loved ones, ones with faith, or ones that felt as if they had a purpose in life that they had to complete. This is how logotherapy started off by 1960 logotherapy gained worldwide recognition. Logotherapist do not tell their patients what to see but simply corrects their ability to see (Kimble & Ellor, 2009).

Logotherapist also help search for positive meaning that underlines behavior, thought and action. Throughout therapy certain techniques are used. Paradoxical intention is a technique used to help patients with anxiety, phobias and obsessive compulsions (Guttmann, 1996). It is part of therapy when you confront your fears, in essence you tell yourself to do the opposite of what you truly want, like try not to fall asleep when you are truly trying to sleep. A specific strategy that logotherapist use is dereflection; it is used when clients focus on negatives (Ivey, Ivey, & Zalaquett, 2010).

Dereflection is a technique that you shift attention from oneself and onto others, problems often disappear. Frankl noted that the meaning of life is different from person to person and from situation to situation. Therefore he states that there is not a general meaning in life for all humanity (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 1959). There were three different basic principles that are composed to make up logotherapy, and help discover meaning. The first basic principle of logotherapy is life has meaning under all circumstances.

The second principle is that all people have a will to achieve meaning in their life. Finally the third principle is people have freedom under all circumstances to activate the will to meaning and to find meaning (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 1959). Throughout a clients therapy the goals concerning the outcome of their treatment consist of the client being able to be aware of his/her choices. The goals guide the clients to understand current experience, and past experiences and the meaning for the purpose of life.

They also recognize factors that block freedom and can accept freedom and responsibility. The tragic triad is composed of three different elements guilt, death, and unavoidable suffering. Any part of the tragic triad can happen to anyone and it will always be a part of mankind. Each person reacts differently to each situation. When we are faced with one of these elements it is then when we realize we need to improve our lives and begin to act. Situations cannot be changed but your attitude on the situation can be (Guttmann, 1996).

But when life has no meaning it becomes empty, is what Frankl calls existential vacuum. The existential vacuum creates a hole, which needs to be filled. People try to fill their hole with superficial things or anything that provides some satisfaction; such as drugs, eating to an excess or not at all, anger, obsession, or fear. Behaviors such as depression, aggression and addiction were caused by the loss of meaning. There are also two levels of meaning. Ultimate meaning is a meaning that we can never reach.

It can be a god or science as the search for truth, nature, and evolution for those who do not believe in god or an ultimate being (Guttmann, 1996). The other level of meaning is meaning in the moment, which is the understanding meaning of each moment by fulfilling the demands that life places on us. Frankl points out that there are three ways to find meaning in life and is often referred to as the meaning triangle. The first way to find meaning is through creative works. It is what and how we give to the world through self-expression.

The second is by experiencing; by what we take or receive from the world through nature, culture, relationships, and interactions with others and with our environment. The third way to find meaning is with a change of attitude. Even if we can’t change the situation or the circumstances, we can still choose our attitude towards the condition. These are the ways that a client can help find meaning in their life. These attitudinal values as Frankl calls them, is when being confronted with a hopeless situation a person has a way to find meaning (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 1959).

Throughout Frankl’s life he was inspired to help people. While throughout his experiences he was able to develop logotherapy which has become a widely used therapy process and techniques. His life experiences and trials helped him to form a therapy that not only people with issues should follow but all of us as well. He still helps find people a meaning and purpose in life. References Frankl, V. (1955). The Doctor and the Soul. New York: Random House. Frankl, V. (1959). Man’s Search for Meaning. New York: Random House.

Frankl, V. (1997). Viktor Frankl recollections: An autobiography . New York: Plenum. Guttmann, D. (1996). Logotherapy for the Helping Professional. New York: Springer Publishing Company. Hoffman, E. (1995, March 18). Viktor Frankl at 90: A Voice for Life. America, pp. 17-22. Ivey, A. E. , Ivey, M. B. , & Zalaquett, C. P. (2010). Intentional Intervieing & Counseling. Belmont: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning. Kimble, M. A. , & Ellor, W. J. (2009). Logotherapy: An Overview. Journal of Religious Gerontology, 11:3-4, 9-24.


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