Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy

Box 15211, Abilene, Texas  79698-5211, USA | Telephone: +1 (325) 692-9597 | Fax: +1 (325) 692-9188

 

Logotherapy

Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy is based on the premise that the human person is motivated by a “will to meaning,” an inner pull to find a meaning in life. The following list of tenets represents basic principles of logotherapy:

  1. Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.

  2. Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.

  3. We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.


The human spirit referred to in Logotherapy is defined as that which is uniquely human.  Though in no way opposed to religion, the term is not used in a religious sense.

Discovering meaning

According to Frankl, "We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering" and that "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".

On the meaning of suffering, Frankl gives the following example:

Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, "What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?:" "Oh," he said, "for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!" Whereupon I replied, "You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her." He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.


— Viktor Frankl


Assumptions

All psychotherapies make philosophical assumptions about the human persons that cannot be proved with certainty.  The assumptions of Logotherapy include:


1.      The human being is an entity consisting of body, mind, and spirit.


2.      Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable.


3.      People have a will to meaning.


4.      People have freedom under all circumstances to activate the will to find meaning.


5.      Life has a demand quality to which people must respond if decisions are to be meaningful.


6.      The individual is unique.


The first assumption deals with the body (soma), mind (psyche), and spirit (noos). According to Frankl, the body and mind are what we have and the spirit is what we are.


Assumption two is “ultimate meaning”. This is difficult to grasp but it is something everyone experiences and it represents an order in a world with laws that go beyond human laws.


The third assumption is seen as our main motivation for living and acting. When we see meaning we are ready for any type of suffering. This is considered to be different than our will to achieve power and pleasure.


Assumption four is that we are free to activate our will to find meaning and this can be done under any circumstances. This deals with change of attitudes about unavoidable fate. Frankl was able to test the first four assumptions when he was confined in the concentration camps.


The fifth assumption, the meaning of the moment, is more practical in daily living than ultimate meaning. Unlike ultimate meaning this meaning can be found and fulfilled. This can be done by following the values of society or by following the voice of our conscience.


The sixth assumption deals with one’s sense of meaning. This is enhanced by the realization that we are irreplaceable. 


In essence, all humans are unique with an entity of body, mind and spirit. We all go through unique situations and are constantly looking to find meaning. We are free to do this at all times in response to certain demands.