Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy in a Nutshell: There are no Accidental, Meaningless Human Beings

0 (1)

“[H]uman existence,” writes psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “can never be intrinsically meaningless.”1 In other words, you were born for a reason. That may be hard to understand, because many people do not even know why they exist. You are meant to be alive. If it were not so, then you would possibly be dead already. But since you are reading my article, you are, obviously, alive.

However, you are, according to Logotherapy, responsible for finding a meaning to your life. That is thrust squarely upon you, not someone else. There is, then, a rightful place for you in the world, as if it were made for you alone. To accept that view, however, requires a faith-commitment, an existential “leap of faith.” Such a commitment cannot be proven logically or reduced to a logical argument. Therefore, take a leap of faith, that is, keep on seeking until you find a meaning to your life. After all, if the search were not worthwhile, you would not be looking for meaning in the first place.

If that, too, fails, then consider another possibility for a meaning to your life, which Dr. Frankl calls “self-transcendence,” a moving away from self-absorption, self-preoccupation, or moving away from focusing all your attention on yourself. In other words, the meaning of your life is directed to others, helping them find meaning in their lives.

Every day, every hour, indeed, every second, life is a choice, either unconsciously or consciously, to live. Despite life’s many uncertainties, you are responsible – either to your own conscience, to others or even to God, or in all three respects – for staying alive. And you will do that much better with, rather than without, a meaning to life. As Frankl writes, giving advice to those who have not, at the moment, found a meaning to their lives,

“[T]ry to be patient and courageous: patient in leaving the problems unresolved for the time being, and courageous in not giving up the struggle for their final solution.”2

Endnotes

  1. Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books/ Random House, 1986), p. 44.
  2. ———-, The Will of Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: New American Library, 1969, 1st printing 1970), p. 95.