An Exploration Of Finding Meaning In Life Through Logotherapy

What motivates you to live? What is the meaning of life?

For centuries, mankind has questioned everything. Mankind’s quest for the answer to what drives us, and what pushes us forward in times of darkness is not exempt from analysis. In fact, it’s been a consistent theme since the dawn of time. Stoicism, although not directly attributed to answering ‘what drives us’, skirts around the topic and creates a general set of principles to help us deal with negative externalities in life.

While many philosophers have pontificated on the subject of mankind’s driving force, and the ‘will to live’, there’s a problem inherent with such an analysis. In order to research such a basic, and instinctual topic, one needs to experience a visceral, cerebral experience that brings him or her to a basic, instinctual level, before having such an epiphany. One needs to examine our animalistic base, and then explore logically from there.

One such analysis is known as Logotherapy, from the Greek word logos(wise). Logotherapy, developed by Viktor Frankl, is an influential school of psychotherapy, that is founded on the pillars of ‘what motivates mankind’. Before we delve into Logotherapy, however, it’s important that we discuss Viktor Frankl—who he was, and why his unique perspective provides for an incredibly powerful source of credibility and authority.

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Viktor Frankl was born in 1905, in what was at that time known as Austria-Hungary. Frankl was a neurologist, and psychiatrist. His early life was relatively unspectacular, but from an early age he displayed an interest in philosophy, as well as psychotherapy. Initially interested in Freud and Adler’s work, he began to see their faults, and eventually diverged from their teachings—becoming particularly interested in depression, as well as suicide.

During 1933-1937, Frankl, in completing his residency in neurology, was responsible for setting up the Selbstmörderpavillon, translated in English to “the suicide pavilion”. It’s estimated that Frankl, along with his staff, treated upwards of 30,000 women who had suicidal tendencies.

In September of 1942, his life was shaken. Frankl, along with his wife and family, were deported to a Nazi concentration camp, known as Theresienstadt ghetto. Whilst there, and during his stay at Auschwitz, Frankl worked as a doctor in the psychiatric care unit, focusing on mental health, helping newcomers deal with shock and grief.

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In 1946, after three years in a concentration camp, Frankl released his book entitled Man’s Search for Meaning, which details his experiences as a holocaust survivor, as well as his theory, which became known as Logotherapy. The book is divided into two parts—part one is a detailed account of his experiences, whereas part two discusses Logotherapy.

His time in the numerous concentration camps began to shape his philosophical, and psychiatric theory. While he had read books on the subject of ‘psychological healing’ prior to his imprisonment, he had never experienced it to the degree in which he had become accustomed to. Particularly intrigued as to why some prisoners lived longer than others, Frankl began to organize his thoughts and document how the average prisoner’s life in a concentration camp was reflected in their mind. As a doctor focusing on grief and shock-stricken inmates, he was in a very unique position.

Hundreds, and during some weeks thousands, of helpless inmates were carted in Auschwitz, the most-feared concentration camp, weekly. Between the inmates sleeping next to him, and those seeking treatment, Frankl noted that each prisoner, without exception faced three stages of psychological reactions once entering the concentration camp. These stages were; shock, apathy, and depersonalization.

While seemingly unimportant, the noted documentation of these stages was very important for Frankl. As he began to notice, while every inmate experienced these stages, some experienced them to a less cerebral degree. Some inmates seemed less depressive than others, and featured a happier disposition. These inmates—with some expected variability—outlived the other inmates.

Discovery

As he began to poke and prod, Frankl noticed something that separated these individuals from others—hope. There is never not meaning in life. Every moment no matter how painful, dehumanizing or horrendous it is, has meaning. By extension, Frankl suggests, even suffering is meaningful. The inmates that survived the longest—the ones that outlived the rest, had hope. Frankl suggested that he could tell whether or not an inmate would live just by looking at their faces—the face of a dejected, depressed inmate was obvious and clear as day. Without hope, they were doomed.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The next question that Frankl sought to answer was an important one, and the foundational maxim of Logotherapy—why did some men have hope, and others not?

The answer, was love.

“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 have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.”

Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning recounted several instances where he would be driven into brief stints of depression; after a beating, during a late-night march in bare feet, or watching his friend get treated inhumanely. He’d vacillate from depression by thinking, and longing for his wife. The men whom lasted the longest, invariably had a wife, or a job that they loved. It was this motivator, the unquantifiable love, that pushed men in inhuman circumstances to existentially escape the physical realm, and put mind above body.

What we can get from this

To answer this, Frankl codified three ways that he discovered is how we can find meaning in life – A job, love, and how we react to suffering. It’s important to realize that while it’s easy to read this and assume that Frankl is saying we should all suffer in order to find meaning—he’s not. He IS suggesting, however, that should we not have a job/deed, or love that allow us to find meaning in life, we can still find meaning by choosing how to react in a negative situation—our mental freedom is one of the only things that can never be taken from us, theoretically speaking.

The average man will never be faced with such a dire circumstance such as the atrocities that Frankl and so many others dealt with. What we can do, however, is choose how we react to life’s adversities.

A fair assessment of Logotherapy is that it provides a simplistic solution to a complex question (life). Since life is such a complex series of events, Logotherapy offers a solution that may not be representative of life’s true hardships and intricacies. In saying this, my own personal evaluation is that, this criticism in itself may have flaws, by assuming that a complex question must have a complex solution. Even the assumption that life is complex can be debated. It’s a cliched saying that ‘life is hard’,  or complex—and even if it is, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a complex question has a simple solution – sometimes the answer we seek is right in front of us.

Viktor Frankl died in September 1997, and his works are still read today. Several Logotherapy institutes exist today named after him.

Read more: Does Life Have Inherent Meaning Without Belief In God? 

26 thoughts on “An Exploration Of Finding Meaning In Life Through Logotherapy”

  1. Nice job here mang. I’m a big Frankl fan myself; Man’s Search for Meaning played a crucial role in my personal development, and was central to finding my way into these dark, awful corners of the interwebs.
    I feel like I really need to cook up a blog of my own soon bc a topic like this one is just bursting with rich opportunities for discussion & learning — much, much more than I could add here. For now it suffices to say that those 2 quotes in the middle there really sum shit up: You always have the freedom to choose your attitude, and Love makes the difference when it comes right down to the actual act of choosing said attitude. These 2 maxims should be studied and considered by anyone trying to lead a great life bc understanding them sheds light on so many other related core concepts… they’re like the Rosetta Stone — once you really get them, lots of other things will just fall right into place.
    Damn. This is one topic I’d like to write volumes about. But alas, there’s a whole family of shitlibs waiting on me…..Happy Thanksgiving fellas

  2. Viktor Frankl, a close confidant of snake oil peddlers Freud and Adler, shamelessly lied about his experiences in Auschwitz to generate sympathy and promote his writings. In his autobiography, he insists on having spent over half a year there, and his other books include detailed, almost juicy descriptions of what was going on in the camp. Yet later he confessed that he only spent three days there, while a documentary source claims that he was never even admitted to the camp as a prisoner.
    I’d rather say that before anyone else: the last thing men of the West need today, in a great crisis of morality, decency and faith, is a lying Jew telling us how to live and view our lives.

  3. Great article. It is very important to one’s mental & physical well-being to keep hope. This ties in with living in the now; don’t dwell on past events as their is nothing you can do to erase the bad ones, & elevating the best ones above the present will discourage you & make you neglectful of what you have in this moment. Same with the future because it causes us to be disappointed with reality & always looking forward to something bigger & better, although there’s no harm if it pertains to planning for the next step in life.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Return of Kings!

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  4. I remember that in one of the writings of Mr dr Thomas Szasz (great writer, if you have the time i recommend two books, the myth of mental illness and The meaning of mind) I found a dark rumour that dr Viktor Frankl was nothing but a hoax, he was never in a concentration camp, all of that was fake, and also apperently he practice lobotomy in the USA. I dont remember where it was written, but thomas szasz also speaks badly about Jung so who knows, but anyway dr Szasz books are worth reading, no regrets i promise

    1. Thomas Szasz was among the four “psychologists” who pushed towards (and succeeded in) declassification of homosexuality, transsexuality and other derangements as mental illnesses, letting loons our of the asylums and into the streets. And later into schools, cultural establishments, administration and eventually, the government.
      Names of his three fellows are Frank Kameny, Erving Goffman and Loren Mosher. Such a (((coincidence))), I must say.

      1. Szasz’s point was that the brain can be ‘ill’ but ‘mental illness’ was obfuscating concept as it conflated, brain (i.e. physiology) with mind, something not easily reducible to brain, particularly insofar as it is evaluative.
        There is a lot of criticism that can be made against Szasz but he was one of the few (anti-)psychiatrists who resisted the big pharma sponsored push towards ‘biologising’ mental illness, so that the content, and therefore meaning systems, evaluations – any spiritual content – ended up becoming irrelevant or at best epiphenomenal; a mere byproduct of the disease process. Szasz consequent position against certain types of medical / pharmaceutical treatment probably did endanger some patients, but the wider point is sound: however much ‘mental illness’ may be biologically based, it can never be reduced to mere disease process. In this sense, Frankl, and others like Laing etc who are more concerned with psychological or psycho-dynamic factors, and in the formers sense ‘meaning systems’ / spirituality are quite right. A regular physician cannot treat of adversity, or existential crises of meaning, they can only treat of any biological (or other?) symptoms that might arise therefrom. An integrated form of mental health / psychiatric treatment would indeed need to overcome reductivism in either direction.

      2. those behaviors may be a sign of mental illness, but I don’t think they make someone technically crazy. Certainly they need to realign their values, but to say that homosexuality is a mental illness in the same way as schizophrenia seems disingenuous.

  5. Did you mean (((Viktor Frankl))) ???
    I am sure there were and are a lot of good White, Christian thinkers, who can help the Red Pilled straight white males of today in finding meaning in our lives, rather than some “clever” Jew.
    For example, how about the book titled: “Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice” written by one of the greatest German leaders of the XX.th century instead?
    I will surely give the thoughts of (((Viktor Frankl))) a miss…

  6. I can’t remember for sure whether it was Frankl or Frohmm, but assuming it was the former Dale Carnegie once wrote about a mental technique for keeping your chin up which basically involved working out what was the worst thing that could happen, then accepting it in your mind / heart as though it was ‘upon you’ or ineluctable, and then working out what you could do to improve it. Basically it’s a response to a problem endemic to mental health, namely catastrophism. The point here is that you can be in a concentration camp (or whatever) and enjoy a healthier mental and spiritual life than someone holidaying in the bahamas if the latter is at the mercy of – if you like incarcerated within – their thoughts. Frankl’s insight is certainly an important one, including for subsequent mental health treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy / mindfulness etc which endeavour to persuade us that we are not at the mercy of our thoughts, and that our thoughts are not reality however much we may feel that they are. The idea of slipping the freedom to choose how to response to events ends up being reworked within psychology / psychotherapy to see events not as merely physical circumstances (such as forced incarceration) but also the events of our mind: if we have thoughts that are unhelpful, we then have the option of evaluating them, and deciding on the basis of that evaluation, on what to with them, to stop them, distance or attenuate them, or re-work them into something more helpful. Recognising that our thoughts may sometimes be catastrophic but still manageable is very similar, as in all cases it is about managing ones mental and spiritual health. Historically though mental health / psychology has not been very successful at incorporating meaning systems / experiential meaning into treatments as there is a normative assumption that health is necessarily superior to a deficiency in health. That might seem unproblematic on first sight, but it does assume that the end of life is necessarily to manage successfully in a predictable and socially conformist fashion

    1. ” Dale Carnegie once wrote about a mental technique for keeping your chin up which basically involved working out”
      When you say ‘working out’ you mean going to the gym and excercizing?

        1. They say that Carnegie’s books really were the benchmark of self help – and all the other self help books and gurus out there (like Toby Robbins for example) are essentially a rehashing of his ideas.

        2. from the little I’ve read Carnegie was all about integrity rather than selling a product. Tony Robbins has a hypnotic voice and some neat ideas stolen from NLP but basically he’s a salesman. I’d say the nearest thing to Carnegie today is Stephen Covey’s 7 principles of effective leadership, which focuses on principled leadership and integrity as a basis for building success on trust. Compare that to say 48 laws of powers, the rules of seduction etc

        3. Robbins also has the gift of gab. If one wants to know the srcret to Robbin’s success, one should not focus on Tony, but instead focus on his clients. Every interview I have seen on TV with a Robbin’s client – these people seem to be somewhat emotionally ‘broken’ and are willing to part with their money to have someone blow smoke up their asses which is exactly what Tony Robbins does.
          That said, I’m not saying his methods don’t work, but they are very elaborate and not simple at all. I’d rather try a more abridged method likey Covey’s.

        4. I bought Covey’s 7 principles way back, and always felt like a better person whenever I read it. Robbins is quite different. He’s a motivational speakers, more like a personal guru or even a personal trainer in a sense, with all the limitations that implies – not least because he has a golden voice (if you listen to him on audio) and has mastered the art of making it sound as though he’s speaking to you personally. The closer you look at what he says though the more it sounds a teensy bit hollow: “I became a millionaire by explicitly focusing on my goals, and you can too…now write down on a piece of paper..”….sure he’s right, but he’s just taken a bit of wisdom from every self-help book that’s ever been sold, added some NLP and the tony robbins big trademark win you over grin to produce …well basically nothing you haven’t heard before. Use Robbins definitely – don’t get me wrong I used to like him – but you’ll get real jewels from the likes of Covey and Carnegie even if they make you rich quick

        5. it’s been ages since I read but yes that’s a pretty good summary (though I don’t think I got the right way through it to be honest). It’s all about laying a good foundation, above all in your person as a ground to building success and successful relationships – he’s very much into the win-win thing, and the need to build trust and cogency as a basis for success. Its pre new age self help and much of its genuine gold

  7. And yet we don’t have permission to talk about how the white people suffering from the alienation, atomization and deracination of modernity have struggled to find meaning by reconnecting with their white identity.

  8. Have to hand it to the ‘chosen people’. They pioneered and monopolized the fields of mind fuckery. And a what a powerful weapon it turned out to be. Greater than any nuclear arsenal.

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