Meaning and The History of Logotherapy

Viktor Emile Frankl describes ‘Logos’ (Frankl, 1978, p. 66)[iv] [1] as “the meaning of being” (Frankl, 1970, p.9)[v] and therefore ‘logotherapy’ as a way to find meaning, “thus logotherapy is a psychotherapy that is orientated towards meaning and reorients the patient towards meaning. (Frankl, 1967, p. 128)[vi].

But logos can also mean spirit[2], without any primarily spiritual connotation, therefore when speaking of logos logotherapy means the humanness of the human being – plus the meaning of being human (Frankl, 1997, p. 18)[vii].

viktor franklThe foundations of logotherapy and existential analysis go back to Viktor Frankl’s school days between 1905 and 1914 when he “was already becoming persuaded of some kind of balancing principle at work in the universe” (Frankl, 2000, p. 47)[i]. His conviction that there was some kind of universal homeostatic principle as a trend towards some kind of “rest state” were intuitions that would stay with him and form critical links to his concept of man and philosophy of life.

He first spoke of logotherapy in 1929 to a small study group of the Academic Society for Medical Psychology that he had founded along with Fritz Wittels, the first Freud biographer and Maximillian Silbermann (Frankl, 2000, p. 64)[ii]. The reason Frankl employed the term logotherapy as the name for his theory, is that the Greek word for meaning is Logos. So logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on mans 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 Frankl speaks of a will to meaning (Frankl, p.104)[iii].

 

logos.0Logotherapy has the first letter of its name associated with the Greek symbol lambda (λ)[3] that forms part of the following formulation ψ=x+y= λ[4] that is used as an analogy to explain the two unknowns where x stands for the unique personality of the patient and where y stands for the unique personality of the therapist (Frankl, 2004, p.3)[viii].

This is a key premise of the therapeutic creed – that logotherapy is not a panacea and that any given therapy does not allow itself to be applied in every case with the same expectation of success, nor can every therapist use all methods equally effectively (Frankl, 2004, p. 3)[ix]. Success is as much to do with the relationship between the patient and the therapist.

The manner in which a person is treated should be grounded on a foundation that has a correct picture of man, a right way of conceptualising man[5] that allows for a narrowing and broadening of view that respects and understands the human quality of the patient.

0203005899Frankl gives an example of what this narrowing and broadening of view means if he were to examine a patient neurologically with a suspected brain tumour, “then I must of course act “as if” he only existed in this dimension. But when I put my reflex hammer aside, I broaden my view again and can again become aware of the human quality of the patient” (Frankl, 1967, p.133)[x].

This can also apply to how projects are viewed and run in terms of the spirit in which they are approached being meaningful and purposeful but also in the manner that one approaches others to get things done.

A manner that is respectful of the human quality from the start.

 

 

[1] Frankl describes ‘logos’ as “the cosmos of meanings”.

[2] In ‘Prisoners of our Thoughts’ one of the first references to logos as ‘spirit’ came from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus around 500BC. To Heraclitus the logos  was responsible for the harmonic order of the universe, a cosmic law that declared “One is All and Everything is One” (Pattakos,2010, p. 190)

[3] It is typically transliterated as “l” – the first letter of logotherapy; hence Frankl used this symbol to denote logotherapy.

[4] While the Greek symbol psi “ψ” is well known the symbol lambda (λ) is less well known.

[5] Frankl says the issue with any therapeutic treatment cannot be whether or not that therapy is based on a world view or philosophy, but rather, whether the world view or philosophy underlying it, is right or wrong, meaning is the humanness of man preserved in it. The Will to Meaning p.15.

[i] Frankl, Viktor. Recollections. USA, Basic Books, 2000.

[ii] Frankl, Viktor. Recollections. USA, Basic Books, 2000.

[iii] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970.

[iv] Frankl, Viktor. The Unheard Cry for Meaning.USA, Simon & Schuster, 1978

[v] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970.

[vi] Frankl, Viktor. Psychotherapy & Existentialism. USA, Penguin Books, 1967

[vii] Frankl, Viktor. The Will to Meaning. USA, Penguin Books, 1970.

[viii] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004

[ix] Frankl, Viktor. On the Theory and Therapy of mental Disorders. UK, Brunner-Routledge, 2004

[x] Frankl, Viktor. Psychotherapy & Existentialism. USA, Penguin Books, 1967