Some Thoughts About Logotherapy

What I like most about this book, is the way in which Viktor Frankl uses his experience of the death camps to explain his philosophy of logotherapy. It's not the most catchy title for a philosophy of thought, but it is actually quite exciting as philosophies go.

According to logotherapy, all humans strive for a meaning in life, and our maladies are caused by a loss of meaning. We often lose meaning when events happen that are out of our control. The solution then, is to realise that no matter what happens, we have the freedom to choose what something means to us. We don't have to be at the mercy of external events. Bad things will happen, but we get to decide if they destroy us or not. In other words, while it may seem delusional, we can take an empowering meaning from anything that happens.

Since meaning is so subjective, it must go beyond having to be right or wrong, or even having to "know the truth", and is more akin to having faith, that things are what we understand to be true, at the current time, with the current information we have, and with the understanding that this interpretation remains open to change.

This mode of thought may seem woolly and even a bit liberal, but we all know the problems caused by having fixed ideas and rigid rules to live by, based on someone else's truth or outmoded truth. I am sure we also can recall beliefs we once held strongly, that seem idiotic now. Or situations where we passed judgement on someone or something else too quickly, because we thought we had all the facts, only to realise that we didn't and as a result our interpretation was wrong.

Many holocaust survivors, like Primo Levi, killed themselves, perhaps because they chose to believe (in his words) "that only the worst survived" ie that survivors were those people that were ruthless enough to ensure that someone else died in their place. Viktor Frankl took a different meaning, that he had something to teach and share from his experience. Neither of them are wrong. But which choice is most empowering?

desertfrost desertfrost
41-45, F
2 Responses Oct 16, 2010

In order to have a larger meaning about the current moment, we have to choose what that meaning is, or as he put it, "At any moment, man must decide, for better or for worst, what will be the monument of his existence" (pp 124) and so it follows that the meaning must be subjective. In any case, what I wrote wasn't a book review, but thoughts generated by the book, hence the title :)

I don't know deeply logotherapy, but what I understood from Frankl's book was not that meaning is subjective and we can attach different meanings to different situations (which can also be true by the way).<br />
I think what Frankl believed in was that we can endure and survive anything in life as long as we have a larger meaning or purpose for life, something beyond the immediate circumstances that we can focus on.