Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Man's Search for Meaning

I just finished Victor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning" This book is one of the most deeply spiritual books I've read. It's short and describes Dr Frankl's experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and other concentration camps across Europe. Dr Frankl is also a Neurologist and Psychotherapist and lays out in the second part of the book his model of psychotherapy he termed Logotherapy. The experiential part forms the authoritative basis for the second therapeutic section. As opposed to Freudian psychoanalysis which is based on man's need for pleasure or others founded on man's need for power, Logotherapy's basis is man's search for meaning in life and focuses on the future rather than the past. I'm certain that there are much more erudite reviews of this hugely important work, but I consider this to be one of those experiences or works that crosses ones path and depending on the timing can be a critical evolutionary influence on one's life, so thought I would pass on my own clumsy thoughts on the chance that others would pick it up and read it as a result.

Logotherapy encompasses an entirely new way to encounter life. It focuses on responsibility, responsibility to find meaning and live within the implied tenets of that meaning. It avoids judgement. Anyone is capable of great good and great evil it is their choice which path they follow. Someone having chosen a path of evil may yet change based upon their own cathartic experiences and follow a separate path later in life. Meaning in life is achieved through love and suffering. If you can avoid suffering you should do so. Abiding suffering with alternate choice is not heroic, but masochistic. When it is not a choice, such as in the case of having a terminal or disabling illness, the way in which the victim suffers is a choice and the way he conducts himself gives meaning to his life, "we are challenged to challenge ourselves."

"Love is the only way to grasp a human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is able to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more see that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he should become he makes these potentialities come true." This is a powerful concept. Through love comes understanding, understanding together with love breeds encouragement. And encouragement is all that is sometimes necessary to get a person moving towards their potential.

Logotherapy (it seems to me) is a way to point someone towards recognizing tangible meaning in their lives and as part of doing so will then realize their potential in actualization of that meaning. He will then knock down the stumbling blocks scattering the path to that actualization by the shear power and force of that vision.

Some of those stumbling blocks can be neurosis: fear of speaking, fear of bacteria, anxiety over not being able to sleep. Frankl describes a way of overcoming these neurosis using a Logotherapy technique described as "Paradoxical Intention" whereby the patient intends for a short time that which they fear. For example the person who has trouble sleeping and is dreading going to bed for fear that they will not sleep would use Paradoxical Intention to try not to go to sleep, in which case they will soon fall to sleep. I'm certain this is not as easy as it sounds, but makes a helluva lot of sense. The anticipation of the response becomes a greater problem than the problem itself. This is a way to fool the mind into diffusing the anticipatory anxiety.

"At any moment, man must decide for better or worse, what will be the monument of his existence."

1 comment:

Steve Harold said...

That's interesting. Having heard about logotherapy recently, I assumed it was a new way of viewing life. How interesting that it has been around for some time.

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