The boomerang only returns to the hunter if it has missed its target [1]. djh06307

If it does its job it does not come back and has been effective by being thrust outwards, pointing to something away from the hunter and ideally, feeding the family.

People are not machines or mechanisms to repair. We do not need cheap escapes from guilt by being victims of conditioning processes or pawns, in the battleground of political turf wars. History shows self interest doesn’t work, so is self actualization really at the top of the pyramid?

Even Maslow admitted “the business of self-actualization” can best be carried out “via a commitment to an important job” [vii]. Self actualization is not our ultimate destination or primary intention. It cannot become an end in itself without contradicting the self transcendent quality of human existence as human beings are people reaching out beyond themselves for a cause to support, a person to love, or a task to be completed.

De-reflection for Self-transcendenceTwo roads in a wood

Evidence shows that logotherapy sees the essence of existence as transcendence and by considering the specifically human phenomenon of self-transcendence it means that human beings are always directed toward something other than themselves, “reaching out beyond himself” (Frankl, 1970, p.8)[i] for a meaning to be fulfilled or another person.

Frankl maintains that man is always reaching out for a meaning, always setting out on his search for a meaning. In other words “what I call the will to meaning is even to be regarded as mans primary concern” (Frankl, 2004, p. Xv)[ii].

Just as paradoxical intention is designed to counteract anticipatory anxiety, triggering off fear of fear, de-reflection is intended to counteract anticipatory anxiety towards the compulsive inclination to self observation, hyper acuteness of conscience and hyper-reflection.

To achieve this, what needs to happen is more than what is achieved with paradoxical intention by ridiculing the trouble with humor, as “one should also be able to ignore the trouble to a certain degree” (Frankl, 1967, p. 152)[iii]. An effective way to ignore the trouble is to be de-reflected away from the anticipatory anxiety but to something else, as the person cannot be left in a vacuum.

Gordon Allport supports this “as the focus of striving shifts from the conflict to selfless goals, the life as a whole becomes sounder, even though the neuroses may never completely disappear” (Frankl, 1967, p. 152)[iv].


The obsessive compulsive pattern- the fight against obsessions & compulsions

The second pathogenic pattern (the first being the Phobic pattern) is relevant to people with obsessive compulsive disorders that are also afraid, but of something that they could do (Frankl, 2004, p. 16)[xix], so the anxiety is different with obsessive compulsive disorders, as the people with these patterns are afraid of the compulsion to do something.

What constitutes the obsessive compulsive pattern is a fight against obsessions and compulsions (Frankl, 1978, p.116)[xx], but the more they fight them, the stronger they become, as pressure induces counter pressure that in turn increases pressure[3]. This is the feedback mechanism that distinguishes the obsessive compulsive patterns “vicious circle of anticipatory anxiety” (Frankl, 1978, p.117)[xxi], from the phobic patterns cocoon.

The obsessive compulsive pattern fears “the potential effects or the potential cause of the strange thoughts” (Frankl, 1970, p. 104)[xxii], fearfully anticipating the effect not the action. This is not a fear of fear, rather a fear of “himself “being either caught by the idea that he might commit suicide – or even homicide – or afraid that the strange thoughts that haunt him, might be signs of psychoses” (Frankl, 1978, p.116)[xxiii].

They are afraid of themselves so they fight against their obsessions or compulsions. (Frankl, 1970, p.104)[xxiv].

The most vicious thing in the obsessive compulsive’s vicious circle is also the compulsive self observation that attaches itself to the anticipatory anxiety but in this pattern we find “a hyper acuteness of conscience, while in the sphere of knowledge and cognition we find a hyper-reflection” (Frankl, 2004, p.206)[xxv]. This is because the characteristic marks are scrupulosity and being overly conscientious and overly conscious (Frankl, 2004, p. 207)[xxvi].

What obsessive compulsive neurotics seek is the absolute truth and certainty, the absolutely perfect decision, “but they run aground in their cramped and violent will for absolute certainty in the judgmental and cognitive absolutism from which they suffer. They experienced what Faust says: “that nothing perfect is granted to humans” (Frankl, 2004, p.207)[xxvii].

By helping the person with paradoxical intention and de-reflection they are enabled to ignore their neuroses, by focusing their attention away from themselves. “He is directed to a life full of potential meanings and values that have a specific appeal to his personal potentialities” (Frankl, 1967, p. 153)[v].

There is a rule that finds its clinical application and clinical validation in both logotherapeutic techniques of de-reflection and paradoxical intention that is “the fundamental anthropological truth that self-transcendence is one of the basic features of human existence. Only as man withdraws from himself in the sense of releasing self centered interest and attention will he gain an authentic mode of existence” (Frankl, 1967, p. 53)[vi].

People are at the center of running projects and may not understand that a goal of self actualization not only may be hampered by directly intending that outcome, but to achieve that goal and by so doing, create many reasons to be fulfilled, is best achieved paradoxically, through self-transcendence. Only by forgetting themselves and reaching out beyond themselves for the sake of their team, stakeholders and other project contributors can they best carry out their task at hand.

This is a phenomenon that is at the center of a project through its people and forms the basis of any project team through its members, so it suggests a good time for companies who run projects to explore the manner in which these phenomena operate and the management styles that best supports them.

[1] In The Will to Meaning Frankl says “As the boomerang comes back to the hunter who has thrown it only if it has missed its target, man too returns to himself, and is intent upon self-actualization only if he has missed his mission” P. 38.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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