Logotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that was developed by a man named Viktor Frankl. The term “Logotherapy” is derived from the Greek word “logos” which means “meaning”. Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who, during World War II, spent 3 years in various concentration camps, and from his experiences in those camps came logotherapy and his incredible book, Man’s Search For Meaning. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in psychology and first- hand experiences of concentration camps during World War II.
So what exactly is logotherapy, and how does it apply to me? Well, to put it simply: logotherapy is the practice of finding the meaning for your problems and suffering, as well as meaning for your life. This is why I love logotherapy. The practice of logotherapy doesn’t throw you under a microscope to pick out and label every little thing that is wrong with you. In fact, that can be counter- productive because it directs your focus on whats wrong and expands it. Doing so makes labels such as depression and anxiety seem like insurmountable problems instead of tools for growth. Instead, logotherapy forces you to ask yourself what the meaning of your suffering is. For once you find the purpose of your suffering, your pain becomes the teacher rather than the punisher, and you allow yourself to grow from the pain instead of being it’s victim.
“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
The basic principals of logotherapy are easy to comprehend and apply.
- Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
- Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
- We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.
As you can read from the quote above, you are free to decide your attitude towards you situations, and that’s all you really need. Life is suffering. You are free to decide how you react to it. Viktor Frankl believed you can find meaning in three different ways:
- By creating a work or doing a deed
- By experiencing something or encountering someone
- By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering
If you feel stuck inside the existential vacuum, its likely due to lack of direction and purpose for your life. With all the information we have available, it can be difficult to decide what the meaning of life is and what you should do with your life. However, the worst thing you can do is to not take a stance and lay idle in the existential vacuum. Decide your purpose and if in the future you decide you were wrong, that’s fine! Remember: you have the freedom to decide your purpose, and if you got it wrong the first time, you’re just one step closer to the truth. Those who have found purpose for themselves are those who accomplish great things and are usually more at peace with themselves and their lives as a result. Most problems are of the spirit, for spirit exists beyond mind and matter, and influences both. Find the meaning for your existence in this world that the spirit experiences through the body and mind. Most forms of psychotherapy are quick to forget the influence of the spirit or fail to mention it at all! Logotherapy, however, does not, and is easily applicable to your own life without the need for anyone else’s input.
AN EXAMPLE OF MY USE OF LOGOTHERAPY
A few months ago, I was suffering hard. I took a hard fall and bruised my hip bone, and shortly after I contracted a serious cold. I could barely sleep due to pain and sickness, and I had no transportation at my disposal except for my own two feet and my longboard, which was now out of the picture with my injured hip. Needless to say, I was miserable. And to put the icing on the cake, I still had to work full time due to the need support myself as well as the lack of staff to cover my position.
Luckily, I live within a mile of my place of employment, but when every step is painful, a mile can seem a marathon. Work was no longer a place to excel and develop, but a place of quiet misery and torture as I begged for time to speed the clock and set me free. I couldn’t remember the last time I suffered so hard, and found myself demanding to know why I deserved such punishment. That was the moment when I remembered Viktor Frankl and Man’s Search For Meaning.
So I asked myself, “Why am I suffering so badly, and what is the suffering trying to teach me?”
What I learned was profound. I had been shown through my suffering that health is the most valuable thing I have. When I was sick and hurt, it was as if all the joy was sucked out of my life. I was no longer able to practice my martial arts, exercise, or enjoy other activities I love such as art or reading. All I seemed to be able to focus on was how badly I felt, and my only ambition was to crawl into my bed and find sleep.
I felt a growing appreciation for the time I spent healthy and came into a fuller realization of what health did for me. When the body and mind are healthy, the spirit can move into higher vibrations because it is not being held down by the dull, low vibrations of sickness and stagnant energy. I remembered how opportunistic and exciting life was when I was healthy, and saw how narrow and troublesome life became when I wasn’t.
Not being able to properly breathe because of a runny nose and coughs taught me how happy I can be with just the unrestricted flow of fresh air in and out of my lungs. Likewise, not being able to move about without pain made me grateful for simple movement once I had healed.
I realized that most of the problems that my fellow human beings and I suffer from are those of health. Balanced, strong, and healthy bodies foster minds and spirits of the same likeness and vice versa. This idea is nothing new, it is simply Natural Law. The Law of Correspondence states: as above, so below. As below so above.
Logotherapy is an incredible tool I invite you to use to solve your problems from suffering you cannot change, to self- inflicted suffering. Use logotherapy for the small things and the big things, and see what you can learn from your experiences instead of choosing to be the victim of them.