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Man's Search for Meaning: How Logotherapy Was Developed?

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Man’s Individual Meaning

World War II and the Holocaust were terrible times in the history of the world. There have been many novels and poems written by survivors of Nazi concentration camps. The majority of those works centered on the repulsive acts that existed in the camps. While Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning does include accounts of the tragedies that occurred, he uses them to explain how he developed his branch of therapy: Logotherapy.

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Developed the term “logotherapy” from the Greek word Logos, which can be translated to “meaning.” In logotherapy, the focus is “on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such meaning (Frankl 121).” The various and numerous encounters that Frankl relates to readers, clarifies and elucidates to them what his motivations were to begin practicing logotherapy.

In the first paragraph of Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl states “This tale is not concerned with the great horrors, which have already been described enough … it will try to answer the question: How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner (Frankl 21)?” That is exactly what he does; Frankl gives an assortment of examples of situations when not only the limits of the prisoners’ bodies, but also their minds, are tested.

One case given, is a hut crowded with seventy sick men, men who were happy simply because they “did not have to leave camp for work; … did not have to go on parade (Frankl 68).” This shows that the lives of the prisoners were reduced to such a low that being ill, receiving smaller portions of already inadequate amount of bread and soup, and not being forced to work and “go on parade” was cause for joy. They were satisfied, regardless of everything else they had been subjected to and that they would have to work and parade the next day, to just lay there for one day.

For the prisoners, escaping into the past was often the only “refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spiritual poverty” of everyday life at the concentration camp (Frankl 58 – 59). For Viktor Frankl, his wife’s image was his asylum and retreat. While being forced to trod steadily to the work site and enduring physical and verbal abuse from the guards and Capos, the picture of his wife and the mental conversations were enough to sustain him though days of work and nights of despair. With this, Frankl fully understood “that love is the ultimate and highest goal which a man can aspire (Frankl 57).” The endless barrage of insults thrown at them while working in such extreme winter weather, Frankl’s only thought was on his wife. “I didn’t even know if she were still alive. I knew only one thing – which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved (Frankl 58).” Frankl realized that, even if he knew she were dead, he would still continue on as if she were not. Still continue on with her image and his mental one – to – one, heart – to – heart discussions with her. Those two things alone were enough to fulfill him.

Something along this line, though not exactly this, also prevented some prisoners from committing suicide. With the help of Nietzsche’s quote “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”, Frankl convinced two suicidal fellow prisoners that, while they may believe that they have nothing more to expect from life, life still expects something from them. One realized he still had his child to live for, while the other had a series of science books to finish. In neither of these situations could the role the suicidal be taken over by another person (Frankl 100 – 101). These were their purpose, their reason of existence. Both unique and individual, as is everybody’s. Just like no tow men share the same destiny, no two men share the same meaning of life.

Include for readers to better understand how logotherapy is used in treating patients, Frankl incorporate a series of example from his own cases and patients. Logotherapy is also called “meaning – centered psychotherapy by Frankl, the objective of logotherapy is to fulfill the patients future, or rather the meanings wanted to be fulfilled by the patient. He states that a man’s search for meaning is “the primary motivation in his life and not a ‘secondary rationalization’ of instinctual drives (Frankl 120 – 121).” It is not a “defense mechanism” as some doctors believe, but a basic and primitive urge. In the “Logotherapy in a Nutshell” portion of Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl defines three different ways to discover a meaning of life. Those three ways are by “creating a work or doing a deed, by experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering (Frankl 133).” He continues to elaborate on what each of the three things mean and how they are achieved. In simple terms, the first is achieving or accomplishing something, the second is loving someone, and the third is suffering. By accepting and experiencing these three things, the meaning of life can be discovered and revealed.

Man’s Search for Meaning is filled with experiences such as these that caused Frankl to expand the world of therapy and create and practice what some referred to as “The Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” and to others as logotherapy, along with example of cases where logotherapy were used. Frankl realized with imprisoned in different concentration camps that life expected more from him; that he still had not yet found his meaning and his search needed to continue.

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