Why am I making such a big deal about this, asking everyone to define conscience?
a) Frankl used the word. It’s part of his approach to healing. I want to know what he meant by it.
b) Our basic assumptions about human nature influence how we relate to people
c) Particularly in this case, if I want to help you and I believe in the existence of conscience and its power to overcome negativity, then that means I believe in your ability to overcome negativity.
Conscience is the ability to clearly see reality and hear that it is personally addressing me and demanding something of me. This kind of hearing uses a “spiritual ear,” and by spiritual Frankl meant uniquely human.
In an interview Frankl said, “Conscience on the animal level is the dog slinking under the couch because he’s wet the carpet. True conscience begins only where fear of punishment ends, where you have made a decision to behave morally.”
This is not a demand someone else makes of me, where I have a vested interest in not getting a whipping. It’s a demand I make of myself because the situation cries out for a response.
Whenever I see people who are struggling, whether they are depressed or anxious or frustrated or too controlling of their children or is too permissive with their children or in pain I know everything seems dark for them but if I believe in conscience I won’t only see them as they are, but also as they could be. They can choose differently. They can demand something better from themselves. They have an awesome power within them.
Their capacity for conscience gives me faith in their ability to overcome their challenges. And it also gives them faith in themselves because when you see someone only as he is, that is how he will see himself. But when you see him as he could be, you will help him to become that. This is why understanding conscience is important to me. (Batya Yaniger)