Logotherapy doesn’t throw out all of the basic therapy skills yet it has a particular unique approach and quality to it. For example, when I want to help a person get in touch with her inner voice and other voices are drowning out what she knows deep down to be true, I might ask: “Was there someone in your life in the past that spoke with that voice”? This is no different from general therapy.
However, when a person has related a troubling situation, something that happened that made her wish it had never happened, wish she could just wipe it off her radar, I will help the person explore two different directions of growth coming from this experience.
One is to strengthen the awareness of all of the person’s values and strengths that are underlying the negative feelings. For example, underlying a sense of failure may be an indication of the person’s honesty, conscientiousness and so forth.
The second direction for growth is acceptance of the reality, as jarring as it is, and learning to see life’s invitation to grow in that area of stuck-ness revealed by what happened there. This affords an opportunity for growth that extends way beyond the specific incident. We want to encourage the person to see it differently. Isn’t it good that this happened? Isn’t it good that you are so fed up with yourself that it’s motivating you to change? Now you have an opportunity to embrace this challenge instead of just going along with the usual routine and letting it continue to bubble beneath the surface and eat away at you. Sure it’s scary, but it’s good to discover what bothers you and believe you can move forward!
One area in particular that I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with is finding the boundary between what is a real need and what is “spoiling one’s self.” If I ask myself what I need in order to feel good about life and what I have to stay away from in order to not be depressed – as long as I know my self, I will know the answer.
But it’s not enough to know myself. I also have to assert myself and answer the internalized voices saying “You don’t really need that” or “Why can’t you do this? What’s your problem” by saying, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. There’s just one thing. Your advice may be good for someone else but it’s not good for me. I know myself. I know what I need to be happy and I know what I have to stay away from to not be depressed.”
This is one aspect of the logotherapeutic edge. My needs are a blend of the unique personality I’ve been blessed with, my past experience and where I am right now on the continuum of growth. It’s good to try to stretch past my comfort zone, with the one stipulation that I first know what my comfort zone is.
This is the meaning of you – your uniqueness. The meaning of the moment is the meaning of your unique needs in the context of this incident and the opportunity for growth that it’s opening up for you.