Recently I had one of those weird experiences where I felt like I was invisible. In order to protect the guilty I won’t go into details, but did you ever answer someone’s question about what to do in a situation with what you thought was a good idea, and got an answer that showed your suggestion went right over the person’s head? That’s what happened to me. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, this feeling of being invisible is devastating. When I’m in a healthy place it’s just plain comical.
We all feel a sense of belonging to a group when we have something to contribute, and the group values our contribution. Our “being” in the world is the same. We feel a sense of belonging on this earth when we make valuable contributions that are recognized as such.
One writer who has popularized Viktor Frankl is Josef Fabry. The whole thrust of his books is that everyone wants to be a Somebody – with a capital “S.”. No one wants to be a Nobody. I cringe when I read this. I cringe because I identify with the feeling of wanting to be a Somebody but I don’t believe that this is the ideal way I should be. In fact, the whole point of logotherapy is diametrically opposed to it.
I don’t mean to say that logotherapy is opposed to being a Somebody because you have nothing worthwhile to contribute. Logotherapy is opposed to the idea that you would contribute only in order to be a Somebody.
If the goal of accomplishing anything is only for our own self-glorification it’s always disappointing. We want more of it but no matter how much recognition we get it’s not satisfying. It’s like the sergeant in the movie Good morning Vietnam who’s constantly demanding everyone should salute him.
Paradoxically, what really does make us happy is having something we care about so much that we don’t think about ourselves. That’s what’s most rewarding and enriching. This is the reason why logotherapy encourages self-transcendence and the reorientation in attitude that comes with it.
When we’re feeling low we don’t see the truth of this. We don’t want to hear that fulfillment in life comes from fulfillment of meaningful values. Maybe this is one of the reasons logotherapy is not so popular. It challenges people to see that they’re heading down blind alleys. It challenges them to go more deeply into the truth of themselves and the meaning of their mandate.
Even so we can use our feelings of self-pride no matter what level we’re at to motivate us, and work towards developing the awareness that the goal in life should not be self-aggrandizement but commitment to causes and values that you are part of in a much grander way than the petty attention you can manage to squeeze out of people.
The truth is that you have a task to do and you are that special Somebody who can do it. What should you do in the world? Ask yourself two questions and you’ll get the answer, more or less. a) What has God given you? b) What does the world need?
The goal is not to be a Somebody so that everyone will think you’re hot stuff. The goal is to recognize in a deep way how great you really are and how the world deserves to benefit from what you have to give. Your life means something.