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Meaning Seeking/Making: Contributions of Viktor Frankl The Alberta Pastoral Care Association 45 th Annual Conference April 15 - 16, 2013 © Paul T. P. Wong,

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Presentation on theme: "Meaning Seeking/Making: Contributions of Viktor Frankl The Alberta Pastoral Care Association 45 th Annual Conference April 15 - 16, 2013 © Paul T. P. Wong,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Meaning Seeking/Making: Contributions of Viktor Frankl The Alberta Pastoral Care Association 45 th Annual Conference April , 2013 © Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D, C.Psych

2 Overview Dr. Frankl’s Logotherapy & Spirituality Comparing Logotherapy with Positive Psychology The basic concepts of Logotherapy Logotherapy & Spiritual Care

3 The Socio-political Milieu of Logotherapy Logotherapy was first developed after the devastating First World War and the collapse of the monarchy Became widely accepted during time of meaning crisis caused by the Second World War and the collapse of traditional values

4 Viktor Frankl & the Medical Ministry Logotherapy is adjunct to medical treatments & psychotherapy Healing needs to occur at the spiritual level Designed to address questions of suffering & death

5 Religion vs. Logotherapy People have accused Frankl of sneaking religion into psychotherapy. Frankl is very clear that religion and psychotherapy are two different but overlapping domains. Religion is about salvation of the soul whereas logotherapy is an adjunct to healing of the person. Both disciplines address spiritual and value issues.

6 The Importance of Spirituality Spirituality is one of the three dimensions of personhood. The other two are biological and psychological. Logotherapy recognizes the spiritual nature of human beings and the individual responsibility to live according to enduring values.

7 Human Dimensions of Personhood Spiritual PSYCHOLOGICAL Biological Psychosomatic Noetic Sociocultural Context Sacredness Transcendence Compassion Will to meaning Conscience Defiant spirit Responsibility Perception Memory Cognition Emotion Relationship

8 The Noetic Dimension It is the healthy core or “medicine chest” of human beings. It contains uniquely human attributes, such as: will to meaning, ideals, creativity, faith, love, conscience, self-detachment, self- transcendence, humor, goal-striving, commitment & responsibility.

9 The Noetic Dimension (cont.) It is Frankl’s way of capturing what is right about people and what is distinct about human beings. Human beings are motivated to serve others and understand the larger scheme of things. It represents the common denominator of all spiritual traditions.

10 The Spiritual Core manifests itself in… 1.Meaning seeking & myth making 2.The desire to serve God and others 3.A sense of awe & sacredness 4.Belief in the transcendent realm 5.Responsibility to God & people

11 Logotherapy as a Depth Therapy Viktor Frankl was a student of Sigmund Freud and was influenced by psychoanalysis. Human beings are not only motivated by the will to pleasure (Freud) & the will to power (Adler), but also the will to meaning. The will to meaning often lies latent in the unconscious because it is blocked by our pursuit of pleasure & power.

12 Two Approaches to Meaning Logotherapy There is a God and Ultimate Meaning. Life has intrinsic meaning & value. Meaning is based on objective values. Life has both negative & positive existential givens. Existential Psychology There is no God and no Ultimate Meaning. You have to create your own meaning & value. Meaning is based on subjective values. Focuses only on existential anxieties

13 Two Approaches to Positive Psychology Existential Positive Psychology Focuses on positive & negative Meaning is the primary life goal Meaning is a terminal value Emphasizes existential meaning & spiritual beliefs Focuses on inner personal transformation & values Positive Psychology Focuses on the positive Wellbeing is the primary life goal Meaning is an instrumental value Emphasizes cognitive meaning & rational thinking Focuses on activities & character strengths

14 Logotherapy & Positive Psychology Although logotherapy emerged from discovering meaning in suffering, Frankl is primarily concerned with the existential challenges of how to become fully human through self- transcendence.

15 Logotherapy literally means therapy through meaning. It is a spiritually-oriented psychotherapy. It is designed to make clients aware of their need for meaning & their responsibility. “Inasmuch as logotherapy makes him aware of the hidden logos of his existence, it is an analytical process” (Frankl, 1984, p. 125). What is Logotherapy?

16 Modern life is characterized by meaninglessness, boredom, & alienation. Many people seek to assuage inner emptiness through distractions, escape, & addiction. Such attempts only serve to increase it. Existential vacuum may lead to both the tragic triad & neurotic triad. Meaning therapy is uniquely suitable to address these issues. Existential Vacuum

17 The Tragic Triad death pain guilt

18 The Neurotic Triad addiction depression aggression

19 Freedom of will: Both freedom from a negative condition and freedom to something meaningful Will to meaning: This is a universal & primary human motivation Meaning of life: Meaning can be found in all situations The Basic Tenets of Logotherapy

20 Freedom & Responsibility Frankl emphasizes the responsible use of freedom. Human existence can only be understood in terms of responsibility or “responsibleness.” The will to meaning entails responsibleness to meet the demand quality of every situation. He differentiates between cause & reason.

21 Human Autonomy We always have the reason & freedom to transcend causality. Exercising the human capacity for freedom and responsibility is related to basic human motivation for autonomy and authenticity.

22 The Will to Meaning It is a primary & universal motive for self- transcendence & the quest for meaning. It is the origin of a purpose driven life. It is uniquely human and universally spiritual. It can be suppressed or blocked by other pursuits.

23 Meaning of Life Life has meaning under all circumstances. Each person must discover the meaning potential of each situation. The ultimate meaning lies in its pursuit. The situational meaning can be experienced through three avenues of value.

24 Creative value: giving something to the world through creative works Experiential value: receiving something from the world through appreciation Attitudinal value: taking a heroic stand towards suffering and fate Three Basic Pathways to Meaning

25 Frankl’s Concept of Tragic Optimism It is possible to remain optimistic in spite of the tragic triad of pain, guilt, & death. We maintain optimism by discovering meaning through the three values (creative, experiential, attitudinal).

26 Acceptance of the worst Affirmation of the value and meaning of life Self-transcendence (altruism) Faith in God and others Courage to face adversity Wong’s Elements of Tragic Optimism

27 The Search for Ultimate Meaning It is a matter of choice or presupposition. Such a global belief is more adaptive than the alternative that life has no ultimate meaning. It is a life-long process; we can only approximate ultimate meaning. It is closely related to theistic beliefs.

28 Situational Meaning “Every situation, every unrepeatable moment, offers a specific meaning potential. To respond to these meaning offerings of the moment is to lead a meaningful life” (Fabry, 1994, p. 37).

29 Situational Meaning There is meaning potential in every situation. The search for situational meaning can be facilitated by our global belief in ultimate meaning & enduring values. Responsibleness means meeting the demand quality of every situation.

30 A Meaning Mindset Meaning Mindset represents a basic value orientation different from the happiness or success mindsets. You cannot really practice Logotherapy without embracing a Meaning Mindset. A Meaning Mindset facilitates the discovery of meaning potentials in every situation.

31 Commitment to a Greater Good “Meaning comes from commitments that transcend personal interests; it comes as Frankl puts it, from ‘reaching beyond the self toward causes to serve or people to love’” [UC, p. 35]’ (Fabry, 1994, p. xix)

32 Self-Transcendence & Well-being Recent research on self-transcendence has demonstrated that it is related to  Well-being & life satisfaction  Spirituality & religiosity  Especially for the elderly & terminal patients

33 Self-Transcendence as Calling Duffy and associates (2013) emphasize the importance of living out a calling rather than simply perceiving a calling, in promoting life satisfaction and well-being. This research reinforces Frankl’s emphasis on self-transcendence as a way of life.

34 Humans are spiritual beings. The will to meaning flows from the noetic dimension and represents what is uniquely human. To be fully human is to become fully engaged in pursuing self-transcendence and assume full responsibility for one’s life.

35 Spiritual Care for the Suffering Whether one is in old age or in the terminal stage of cancer, individuals can still grow spiritually, in terms of meaning, faith, courage, compassion, and altruism.

36 Meaning seeking never ends. “The search for meaning is a never- ending attempt to make sense of life in spite of apparent chaos and arbitrariness. We cannot find meaning once and for all, just step by step.” (Fabry, 1994, p. xvi)

37 Meaning Making “Frankl cautions that we cannot invent meanings arbitrarily; we can only discover the meaning inherent in the situation” (Fabry, p. xvi). Meaning making needs to be based on time-tested values. Meaning making is often related to creative values and myth making.

38 Conclusion Meaning is a key component in spiritual care for cancer patients. Logotherapy focuses on the responsibility to discover & fulfill the will to meaning through self-transcendence & authentic living. Meaning therapy is integrative. It focuses on the human capacity for meaning-seeking & meaning-making.


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