Man’s Search For Meaning | Reflections & Notes

Viktor E. Frankl. Man’s Search For Meaning. Beacon Press, 2006. (165 pages)

Teacher’s Guide: (9780807014295.pdf)

REFLECTIONS

This may be one of the most important books I’ve read, ever. Why? Exactly.

Everything from love as grounded in being, tragedy as overcome by telos, and purpose found in aims rather than feelings, is found in this small tome, an incisive exposition of the human condition. Out of the horror of the concentration camps comes the heroism of human will, the ability to choose meaning as the epitome of what constitutes true living, even in the face of tragedy and death. May we all live knowing full well what we’re capable of, and what is at stake.


NOTES

FOREWORD: Harold S. Kushner

He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How. – Nietzsche

Frank’s concern is less with the question of why most died than it is with the question of why anyone at all survived. (x)

Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. (x)

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you. (x)

PREFACE TO THE 1992 EDITION

…in the first place I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time: if hundred of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails. (xiii)

“Don’t aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater (xiv) than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run–in the long run, I say!–success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.” (xv)

I

EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP

How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner? (3)

I had intended to write this book anonymously, using (6) my prison number only. But when the manuscript was completed, I saw that as an anonymous publication it would lose half its value, and that I must have the courage to state my convictions openly. I therefore refrained from deleting any of the passages, in spite of an intense dislike of exhibitionism. (7)

…when we saw a comrade smoking his own cigarettes, we knew he had given up faith in his strength to carry on, and, once lost, the will to live seldom returned. (8)

When one examines the vast amount of material which has been amassed as the result of many prisoners’ observations and experiences, three phases of the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life become apparent: the period following his admission; the period when he is well entrenched in camp routine; and the period following his release and l liberation. (8)

| The symptom that characterizes the first phase is shock. (8)

In psychiatry there is a certain condition known as “delusion of reprieve.” The condemned man, immediately before his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprieved at the very last minute. We, too, clung to shreds of hope and believed to the last moment that it would not be so bad. (10)

If someone now asked of us the truth of Dostoevski’s statement that flatly defines man as a being who can get used to anything, we would reply, “Yes, a man can get used to anything, but do not ask us how.” (18)

I think it was Lessing who once said, “There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose.” An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior. … The prisoner passed from the first to the second phase; the phase of relative apathy, in which he achieved a kind of emotional death. (20)

At such a moment it is not the physical pain which hurts the most (and this applies to adults as much as to punished chil-(23)dren); it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all. (24)

…there are moments when indignation can rouse even a seemingly hardened prisoner–indignation not about cruelty or pain, but about the insult connected with it. (25)

I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare. Since I had always been especially sorry for people who suffered from fearful dreams or delirium, I wanted to wake the poor man. Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at the thing I was about to do. At that moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him. (29)

In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain the apparent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature. (36)

The salvation of man is through love and in love. (37)

Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance. (38)

Another time we were at work in a trench. The dawn was grey around us; grey was the sky above; grey the snow in the pale light of dawn; grey the rags in which my fellow prisoners were clad, and grey their faces. I was again conversing silently with my wife, or perhaps I was struggling not find the reason fo army sufferings, my slow dying. In a last violent protest against the hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious “Yes” in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, which stood on the horizon as (40) if painted there, in the midst of the miserable grey of a dawning morning in Bavaria. “Et lux in tenebrious lucent”–and the light shineth in the darkness. For hours I stood hacking at the icy ground. The guard passed by, insulting me, and once again I communed with my beloved. More and more I felt that she was present, that she was with me; I had the feeling that I was able to touch her, able to stretch out my hand and grasp hers. The feeling was very strong: she was there. Then, at that very moment, a bird flew down silently and perched just in front of me, on the heap of soil which I had dug up from the ditch, and looked steadily at me. (41)

The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent. To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills he human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative. (44)

No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same. (48)

The majority of prisoners suffered from a kind of inferiority complex. We all had once been or had fancied ourselves to be “somebody.” Now we were treated like complete nonentities. (The consciousness (62) of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?) Without consciously thinking about it, the average prisoner felt himself utterly degraded. (63)

In attempting this psychological presentation and a psychopathological explanation of the typical characteristics of a concentration camp inmate, I may give the impression that the human being is completely and unavoidably influenced by his surroundings. … But what about human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings? Is that theory true which would have us believe that man is no more than product of many conditional and environmental factors–be they of a biological, psychological or sociological nature? Is man but an accidental product of these? Most important, do the prisoners’ reactions to the singular world of the concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings? Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances? (65)

| We can answer these questions from experience as well as on principle. The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. (65)

…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. (66)

| And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate. (66)

| Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us than the mere expression of certain physical and sociological conditions. Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to reach tin certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him–mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. (66)

There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings. – Dostoevski

It is this spiritual freedom–which cannot be taken away–that makes life meaningful and purposeful. (67)

If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. (67)

| The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity–even under the most difficult circumstances–to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not. (67)

Psychological observations of the prisoners have shown that only the men who allowed their inner hold on their moral and spiritual selves to subside eventually fell victim to the camp’s degenerating influences. The question now arises, what could, or should, have constituted this “inner hold”? (69)

The Latin word finis has two meanings: the end or the finish, and a goal to reach. A man who could not see the end of his “provisional existence” was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future, in contrast to a man in normal life. (70)

A man who let himself decline because he could not see any future goal found himself occupied with retrospective thoughts. In a different connection, we have already spoken of the tendency there was to look into the past, to help make the present, with all its horrors, less real. But in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of (71) camp life, opportunities which really did exist. Regarding our “provisional existence” as unreal was in itself an important factor in causing the prisoners to lose their hold on life; everything in a way became pointless. Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless. (72)

| Naturally only a few people were capable of reaching great spiritual heights. But a few were given the chance to attain human greatness even through their apparent worldly failure and death, an accomplishment which in ordinary circumstances they would never have achieved. To the others of us, the mediocre and the half-hearted, the words of Bismarck could be applied: “Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already.” Varying this, we could say that most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners. (72)

Any attempt at fighting the camp’s psychopathological influence on the prisoner by psychotherapeutic or psychohygienic methods had to aim at giving him inner strength by pointing out to him a future goal to which he could look forward. Instinctively some of the prisoners attempted to find (72) one of their own. It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future–sub specie aeternitatis. And this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his existence, although he sometimes has to force his mind to the task. (73)

Affectus, qui passion est, desinit esse passio simulatque eius claram et distinctam formamus ideam. – Spinoza

Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it. (74)

He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how. – Nietzsche

…could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygienic efforts regarding prisoners. (76)

it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life–daily and hourly. … Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. (77)

When the (79) impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.” (80)

Was Du erlebst, kann keine Macht der Welt Dir rauben.

(What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.) (82)

…human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death. (83)

We now come to the third stage of a prisoner’s mental reactions: the psychology of the prisoner after his liberation. … What can you tell us about the psychology make-up of the camp guards? How is it possible that men of flesh and blood could treat others as so many prisoners say they have been treated? … To answer this question without going into great detail, a few things must be pointed out:

| First, among the guards there were some sadists, sadists in the purest clinical sense. (84)

| Second, these sadists were always selected when a really severe detachment of guards were needed. (84)

Third, the feelings of the majority of the guards had been dulled by the number of years in which, in every-increasing doses, they had witnessed the brutal methods of the camp. (85)

Fourth, it must be stated that even among the guards there were some who took pity on us. (85)

Life in a concentration camp tore open the human soul and exposed its depths. Is it surprising that in those depths we again found only human qualities which in their very nature were a mixture of good and evil? The rift dividing good from evil, which goes through all human beings, reaches into the lowest depths and becomes apparent even on the bottom of the abyss which is laid open by the concentration camp. (87)

Psychologically, what was happening to the liberated prisoners could be called “depersonalization.” Everything appeared unreal, unlikely, as in a dream. We could not believe it was true. How often in the past years had we been deceived by dreams! (88)

We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time, is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quiet suddenly. This danger (in the sense of psychological hygiene) is the psychological counterpart of the bends. Just as the physical health of the caisson worker could be endangered if he left his diver’s chamber suddenly (where he is under enormous atmospheric pressure), so the man who has suddenly been liberated from mental pressure can suffer damage to his moral and spiritual health. (90)

| During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the influences of the brutality which had surrounded them in camp life. Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly. The only thing that had changed for them was that they were not the oppressors instead of the oppressed. They became instigators, not objects, of willful force and injustice. They justified their behavior by their own terrible experiences. (90)

Apart from the moral deformity resulting from the sudden release of mental pressure, there were two other fundamental experiences which threatened to damage the character of the liberated prisoner: bitterness and disillusionment when he returned to his former life. (91)

But for everyone one of the liberated prisoners, the day comes when, looking back on his camp experiences, he can no (92) longer understand how he endured it all. As the day of his liberation eventually came, when everything seemed to him like a beautiful dream, so also the day comes when all his camp experiences seem to him nothing but a nightmare. (93)

| The crowning experience of it all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more–except his God. (93)

II

LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL

…logotherapy, in comparison with psychoanalysis, is a method less retrospective and less introspective. Logotherapy focuses rather on the future, that is to say, on the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future. (Logotherapy, indeed, is a meaning-center psychotherapy.) At the same time, logo therapy defocuses all the vicious-circle formations and feedback mechanisms which play such a great role in the development of neuroses. Thus, the typical self-centeredness of the neurotic is broken up instead of being continually fostered and reinforced. (98)

To be sure, this kind of statement is an oversimplification; yet in logotherapy the patient is actually confronted with and reoriented toward the meaning of his life. And to make him aware of this meaning can contribute much to his ability to overcome his neurosis. (98)

Logos is a Greek word which notes “meaning.” Logotherapy, or, as it has been called by some authors, “The Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy,” focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as (98) on man’s search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. That is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle (or, as we could also term it, the will to pleasure) on which Freudian psychoanalysis is centered, as well as in contrast to the will to power on which Adlerian psychology, using the term “striving for superiority,” is focused. (99)

The Will to Meaning

Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning. …I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my “defense mechanisms,” nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my “reaction formations.” Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values! (99)

Existential Frustration

Man’s will to meaning can also be frustrated, in which case logotherapy speaks of “existential frustration.” The term “existential” may be used in three ways: to refer to (1) existence itself, i.e., the specifically human mode of being; (2) the mean-(100)ing of existence; and (3) the striving to find a concrete meaning in personal existence, that is to say, the will to meaning. (101)

| Existential frustration can also result in neuroses. For this type of neuroses, logotherapy has coined the term “noögenic neuroses” in contrast to neuroses in the traditional sense of the word, i.e., psychogenic neuroses. Noögenic neuroses have their origin not in the psychological but rather in the “noölogical” (from the Greek noös meaning mind) dimension of human existence. (101)

Noögenic Neuroses

Noögenic neuroses do not emerge from conflicts between drives and instincts but rather from existential problems. (101)

In a similar sense suffering is not always a pathological phenomenon; rather than being a symptom of neurosis, suffering may well be a human achievement, especially if the suffering grows out of existential frustration. I would strictly deny that one’s search for a meaning to his existence, or even his doubt of it, in every case is derived from, or results in, any disease. Existential frustration is in itself neither pathological nor pathogenic. A man’s concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is an existential distress but by no means a mental disease. (102)

…in logotherapy’s attempt to make something conscious again it does not restrict its activity to instinctual facts within the individual’s unconscious but also cares for existential realities, such as the potential meaning of his existence to be fulfilled as well as his will to meaning. Any analysis, however, even when it refrains from including the noölogical dimension in its therapeutic process, tries to make the patient aware of what he actually longs for in the depth of his being. Logotherpy deviates from psychoanalysis insofar as it considers man a being whose main concern consists in fulfilling a meaning, rather than in the mere gratification and satisfaction of drives and instincts, or in merely reconciling the conflicting claims of id, ego and superego, or in the mere adaptation and adjustment to society and environment. (103)

[via: “animal” vs. “human”]

Noö-Dynamics

To be sure, man’s search for meaning may arouse inner tension rather than inner equilibrium. However, precisely such tension is an indispensable prerequisite of mental health. (103)

Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the (104) gap between what one is and what one should become. … I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, “homeostasis,” i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him. What man needs is not homeostasis but what I call “noö-dynamics,” i.e., the existential dynamics in a polar field of tension where one pole is represented by a meaning that is to be fulfilled and the other pole by the man who has to fulfill it. … I architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together. So if therapists wish to foster their patients’ mental health, they should not be afraid to create a sound amount of tension through a reorientation toward the meaning of one’s life. (105)

The Existential Vacuum

The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom. Now we can understand Schopenhauer when he said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom. (106)

The Meaning of Life

What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. (108)

Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it. (109)

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answer for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence. (109)

The Essence of Existence

“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!” It seems to me that there is nothing which would stimulate a man’s sense of responsibleness more than this maxim, which invites him to imagine first that the present is past and, second, that the past may yet be changed and amended. Such a percept confronts him with life’s finiteness as well as the finality of what he makes out of both his life and himself. (109)

[via: There are only two options: the past or the future. “Now” is a myth.]

…a logo therapist is the least tempted of all psychotherapists to impose value judgments on his patients, for he will never permit the patient to pass to the doctor the responsibility of judging. (110)

| It is, therefore, up to the patient to decide whether he should interpret his life task as being responsible to society or to his own conscience. (11)

Logotherapy is neither teaching nor preaching. It is as far removed from logical reasoning as it is from moral exhortation. To put it figuratively, the role played by a logo therapist is that of an eye specialist rather than that of a painter. A painter tries to convey to us a picture of the world as he sees it; an ophthalmologist tries to enable us to see the world as it really is. The logo therapist’s role consists of widening and broadening the visual field of the patient so that the whole spectrum of potential meaning becomes conscious and visible to him. (110)

| By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system. I have termed this constitutive characteristic “the self-transcendence of human existence.” It denotes the fact that being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself–be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself–by giving himself to a cause to serve or another per-(110)son to love–the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence. (111)

[via: Cf. Matthew 16:24: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Cf. Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership: “The meaning of a system lies outside the system.”]

According to logotherapy, 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. (111)

The Meaning of Love

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. (111)

The Meaning of Suffering

We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation–just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer–we are challenged to change ourselves. (112)

In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice. (113)

It is is one of the basic tenants of logotherapy that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has a meaning. (113)

| But let me make it perfectly clear that in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning. I only insist that meaning is possible even in spite of suffering–provided, certainly, that the suffering is unavoidable. If it were avoidable, however, the meaningful thing to do would be to remove its cause, be it psychological, biological or political. To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic. (113)

Meta-Clinical Problems

More and more, a psychiatrist is approached today by patients who confront him with human problems rather than neurotic symptoms. (116)

A Logodrama

The Super-Meaning

What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms. Logos is deeper than logic. (118)

Life’s Transitoriness

Those things which seem to take meaning away from human life include not only suffering but dying as well. I never tire of saying that the only really transitory aspects of life are the potentialities; but as soon as they are actualized, they are rendered realities at that very moment; they are saved and delivered into the past, wherein they are rescued and preserved from transitoriness. For, in the past, nothing is irretrievably lost but everything irrevocably stored. (120)

| Thus, the transitoriness of our existence in no way makes it meaningless. But it does constitute our responsibleness; for everything hinges upon our realizing the essentially  tran-(120)story possibilities. (121)

Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essential transitoriness of human existence, is not pessimistic but rather activistic. (121)

Logotherapy as a Technique

The neurotic who learns to laugh at himself may be on the way to self-management, perhaps to cure. – Gordon W. Allport, The Individual and His Religion

…anticipatory anxiety has to be counteracted by paradoxical intention; hyper-intention as well as hyper-reflection have to be counteracted by dereliction; dereliction, however, ultimately is not possible except by the patient’s orientation toward his specific vocation and mission in life. (129)

The Collective Neurosis

Psychotherapy would not only reflect a nihilistic philosophy but also, even though unwillingly and unwittingly, transmit to the patient what is actually a caricature rather than a true picture of man. (130)

| First of all, there is a danger inherent in the teaching of man’s “nothingbutness,” the theory that man is nothing but the result of biological, psychological and sociological conditions, or the product of heredity and environment. Such a view of man makes a neurotic believe what he is prone to believe anyway, namely, that he is the pawn and victim of outer influences or inner circumstances. This neurotic fatalism is fostered and strengthened by a psychotherapy which denies that mane is free. (130)

Critique of Pan-Determinism

By that I mean the view of man which disregards his capacity to take a stand toward any conditions whatsoever. Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is ultimately self-determine. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. (131)

…freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. (132)

The Psychiatric Credo

Psychiatry Rehumanized

For too long a time–for half a century, in fact–psychiatry tried to interpret the human mind merely as a mechanism, and consequently the therapy of mental disease merely in terms of a technique. I believe this dream has been dreamt out. What now begins to loom on the horizon are not the sketches of a psychologized medicine but rather those of a humanized psychiatry. (133)

A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determine. (133)

…we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions. (134)

Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Ysrael on his lips. (134)

POSTSCRIPT 1984

THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM

“The best,” however, is that which in Latin is called optimum–hence the reason I speak of a tragic optimism, that is, an optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which at its (137) best always allows for: (1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action. (138)

…happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to “be happy.” (138)

…one may say, albeit in an oversimplifying vein, that people have enough to live by but nothing to live for; they have the mans but no meaning. (140)

The fact remains that meaning, and its perception, as seen from the logo therapeutic angle, is completely down to earth rather than a float in the air or resident in an ivory tower. Sweepingly, I would locate the cognition of meaning–of the personal meaning of a concrete situation–midway between an “aha” experience along the lines of Karl Bühler’s concept and a Gestalt perception, say, along the lines of Max Wertheimer’s theory. The perception of meaning differs from the classical concept of Gestalt perception insofar as the latter implies the sudden awareness of a “figure” on a “ground,” whereas the perception of meaning, as I see it, more specifically boils down to becoming aware of a possibility against the background of reality or, to express it in plain words, to becoming aware of what can be done about a given situation. (144)

Logotherapy conceives of conscience as a prompter which, if need be, indicates the direction in which we have to move in a given life situation. In order to carry out such a task, conscience must apply a measuring stick to the situation one is confronted with, and this situation has to be evaluated in the light of a set of criteria, in the light of a hierarchy of values. These values, however, cannot be espoused and adopted by us on a conscious level–they are something that we are. They have crystallized in the course of the evolution of our species; they are founded on our biological past and are rooted in our biological depth. (145)

[via: Predicaments -> Achievements]

Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now. (150)

Sed omnia praeclara tam difficilia quad rara sunt (but everything great is just as difficult to realize as it is rare to find) – Spinoza, Ethics

So, let us be alert–alert in a twofold sense:

Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of.

And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake. (154)

AFTERWORD: William J. Winslade

The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs. – Viktor Frankl

About VIA

www.kevinneuner.com

2 comments

  1. Pingback: The Myth of Certainty | Reflections & Notes | vialogue

  2. Pingback: Evolving Faith Conference | Live Notes & Reflections | vialogue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: