Viktor Frankl and Logotherapy: The Search for Meaning Through Healing

To quote the great medical doctor, psychiatrist, neurologist, and philosopher Victor Frankl; is also to quote our own lives.

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

A line that emotes a bevy of thoughts, feelings, and questions; Viktor Frankl writes in his 1946 book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” about finding meaning in one’s life to survive one’s suffering.

Everyone suffers. I suffer. You suffer. Your friends suffer. My ancestors suffered. Our kids will suffer. Everyone.

While not alone in suffering, we can be alone with our thoughts on each particular suffrage. My suffering may be that of financial ruin. Yours might be heartbreak. Our parents’ suffering might have included raising us.

My point is that every one of us has a story to tell. A scar to bear. A pain we must bear and defeat. We don’t reach the mountaintop without perseverance, breathing difficulties, and punishment.

We know this. We understand this. Yet, when it comes time for us to suffer, and deal with the hand we are dealt we do one of two things. We can crawl back into bed and cry and whine and do nothing, gaining nothing and learning nothing, or, we can accept our cards, face life head-on, and not give in to its woe.

Viktor Frankl survived four separate concentration camps: Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering III, and Türkheim. His parents were a part of these camps and did not survive. Viktor’s own wife would succumb as well. Viktor would survive, and thrive, from his experiences during the 1940s, creating “Logotherapy.”

Logotherapy involves “healing through meaning,” as mentioned earlier. Logotherapy requires one to take a step back, acknowledge their situation (suffering) in life, reflect, learn, grow, and move on. There is meaning behind every moment in life. There is light at the end of every tunnel.

That light, in how brightly it shines, is entirely up to you. And me. And everyone else we know. It’s how we react to a moment in life, for what the result will be.

One example that is extremely challenging is death. When losing a loved one, we suffer. We know they are lost. Gone forever. Depending on our spiritual beliefs, the person we once knew is dead and buried. They are gone and no longer among us. It is in the moment we learn of their death, that suffering begins.

To continue on with the death example is to pit two people against one another in an emotional state. I may handle that suffering a bit differently than you might handle it. I may dwell, cry and crawl back into bed; while you may celebrate a life lived, honor the decedent and continue on living passionately. One suffering, two different meanings.

Viktor also writes, “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.”

We know there are going to be challenges (again, sufferings) throughout our life. We must face these challenges like the men and women we are, and find the meaning behind them.

While I am fairly new to the teachings of Viktor Frankl (via my therapist), I assure you his work fascinates me already. Logotherapy is something I had not heard of until this weekend. I wish I had learned about Logotherapy while in mortuary school.

Sure, you learn about Sigmund Freud and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, philosophers and psychiatrists in their own right, but Viktor took a more modernistic approach to suffering. If anyone can teach us about suffering, it’s a survivor from not one, not two, not three, but FOUR concentration camps.

If he can find the meaning behind that, I can find meaning behind my own version of suffering. You can too. We just have to look for it. 

There is meaning behind healing. Logotherapy.

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