Picture a person who comes into the therapist’s office saying he’s depressed and because of this he can’t go on fun trips with his family or hold a job. This is the case discussed in Kathy’s blog.
While most counselors would join with the client in trying to get rid of the depression, she suggests focusing on helping the person live out his values.
This difference in Kathy’s orientation (which is not logotherapy but also focused on values) is manifested in the therapy room by the kinds of questions the therapist asks. In most psychotherapeutic approaches the basic question is “How do you feel?” This can go on ad infinitum as in: “And how do you feel about that…?”
If we look closely at logotherapy we will find that instead of asking “How do you feel?” the ongoing mantra-like question on the part of the logotherapist is “What do you know to be true?” I don’t think these two facts about logotherapy – the “What do you know?” question and the emphasis on values – is accidental.
It’s not that logotherapists don’t care about feelings. We do. Yes, listen to your feelings! But keep your perspective on what voice is influencing these feelings and take a stand towards them.
Is it the voice of lies? – “Who do you think you are?” “You’re useless” “I hate him!” What happens when feelings have been influenced by the voice of despair, jealousy, and incompetence? Should we then listen to them? We know very well what acting on these feelings leads to.
We shouldn’t listen in order to act on them but on the other hand we do need to listen to our feelings in order to learn from them. What is making me feel this way? How should I relate to it? What do I need to do about it?
Feelings are one of our most important guides and sources of information. At the same time they’re not the ultimate truth. They go into the psychic realm but they don’t take you into the spiritual dimension. They don’t go back far enough.
The logotherapist would help the person dereflect from his self-absorbed depression to values that really matter more to him, and to see how ways of fulfilling these values are being offered him in his concrete reality. Of course the therapist has to be skilled, because it’s not a matter of insensitively saying, “Oh, never mind how you feel…”
But there is a different voice with different kinds of feelings. There is a voice deep down inside saying, “I love her but I just don’t know how to show it” or “This is important to me but I’m afraid and confused.”
The logotherapist says:”What do you know to be true?” – true to your most authentic self, true to your values, true to your needs right now, true to the opportunity life is offering you.