Along with Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler’s individual psychology, there is a Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy.
In this article, we’ll find more about this psychotherapy and its founder.
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As you can guess from the title, the founder is none other than Viktor Frankl.
He was an Austrian psychiatrist (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997) who founded, after his experience in various Nazi concentration camps, a meaning-centered school of psychotherapy which he called “LOGOTHERAPY“. Since then, his theories have been considered a part of existential and humanistic psychology.
Frankl was also a prolific author. He is best known for his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) in which he recounts his experiences and extends the meaning of his new psychotherapy.
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The roots of logotherapy
Victor Frankl spent three years in four different concentration camps: Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Kaufering III, and Tuerkheim!
But after all the suffering, he came out with an unexpected philosophy, that life has meaning under all circumstances.
This wasn’t new for Frankl. As a young schoolboy, he was very keen on questions related to the meaning of life and death. When he was still five years old, he dreamed about developing a life-saving medicine !!
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“Everything can be taken from a man but . . .
the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.”
-Viktor E.Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p.75.
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Here we are finally.
Victor Frankl was a vivacious reader of the existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. He took from his philosophy a fundamental concept: the will to meaning, and opposed it to the will to power (Nietzsche and Adler) and to the will to pleasure (Freud).
Rather than power or pleasure, Frankl believed “that striving to find meaning in life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans”.
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(logos: greek for “reason”)
The literal translation of the word logotherapy is ―therapy through meaning. It can also be translated as ―healing through meaning.
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The Three Pillars of Logotherapy
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Nietzsche
We can’t deal with logotherapy without mentioning the tree basic pillars or the three fundamental assumptions of the theory (Frankl 1967; p. 18):
(1) Meaning of Life
The philosophy of meaning of Life starts with the basic conviction that “…life has unconditional meaning, which can not vanish under any circumstance” . In other words, whatever the situation whether it is miserable or fortunate, life holds always, without exception, a meaning.
(2) Freedom of Will:
It means that even if humans are finite beings who cannot be free from conditions, they still have the freedom to take a stand and to face whatever conditions that might confront them (Frankl, 1988; p. 16).
(3) Will to Meaning:
For humans, the main motivation for living and acting goes deeper than pleasure or power. According to Frankl, it is unquestionably the striving and the yearning for meaning. With meaning, we can endure any suffering, but when the meaning is lost, even the most comfortable life will seem bland and tasteless.
- Frankl, Viktor – Man’s Search for Meaning. An Introduction to Logotherapy, Beacon Press, Boston, MA, 2006.
- Maria Marshall – Prism of Meaning – Guide to the Fundamental Principles of Viktor E. Frankl’s Logotherapy (2011)