What are values?

How do you think each of the following perspectives on values would impact the therapeutic relationship?

Carl Rogers

“[Values are] the tendency of any living beings to show preference, in their actions, for one kind of object or objective rather than another…” [The infant] prefers some things and experiences, and rejects others. We can infer from studying his behavior that he prefers those experiences which maintain, enhance or actualize his organism, and rejects those which do not serve this end…(Freedom to Learn, Carl Rogers)

Viktor Frankl

“Values which are realized in creative action we should like to call “creative” values. In addition to these, there are values which are realized in experience: “Experiential values.” These latter are realized in receptivity toward the world – for example, in surrender to the beauty of nature or art….The third group of values lies precisely in man’s attitude toward the limiting factors upon his life. His very response to the restraints upon his potentialities provides him with a new realm of values which surely belong among the highest values…These values we will call attitudinal values. What is significant is the person’s attitude toward an unalterable fate…The way he accepts…what courage he manifests…what dignity he displays…” (The Doctor and the Soul, pp. 43-44)

“Objective values become concrete duties, cast in the form of the demands of each day and in personal tasks. The values lying back of these tasks can apparently be reached for only through the tasks. It is quite possible that the whole, of which all concrete obligations are a part, never becomes visible to the individual person, who is limited by the perspective of his day-to-day responsibilities.” (The Doctor and the Soul, Frankl, p. 42)

“The conviction that one has a task before him has enormous psychotherapeutic and psychogenic value. We venture to say that nothing is more likely to help a person overcome or endure objective difficulties or subjective troubles than the consciousness of having a task in life. That is all the more so when the task seems to be personally cut to suit, as it were; when it constitutes what may be called a mission. Having such a task makes the person irreplaceable and gives his life the value of uniqueness…The more he grasps the task quality of life, the more meaningful will his life appear to him. While the man who is not conscious of his responsibility simply takes life as a given fact, existential analysis teaches people to see life as an assignment.” (The Doctor and the Soul, pp. 56-58)

“It is my conviction that man should not, indeed cannot, struggle for identity in a direct way; he rather finds identity to the extent to which he commits himself to something beyond himself, to a cause greater than himself…It makes no sense to confront man with values which are seen merely as a form of self-expression…The meaning which a being has to fulfill is something beyond himself, it is never just himself.” (Psychotherapy and Existentialism, Frankl, p. 9-11)

“Charlotte Buhler “conceives of man as living with intentionality, which means living with purpose. The purpose is to give meaning to life…The individual…wants to create values.” Even more, “the human being” has “a primary, or native orientation, in the direction of creating and of values.” (Will to Meaning, Viktor Frankl)

“The logotherapeutic concept of human nature takes our longing for meaning into account. The logotherapist does not disregard our physical and psychological conditions, our drives, the importance of childhood, environment, and upbringing. But these influences are supplemented by the assumption of a dimension in which we can take on a task for its own sake, not just to release inner tension, gratify a need, or respond to social pressure. Logotherapy replaces the nihilistic concept that we are “nothing but” an evolved animal, a product of chance, with the positive idea that we are “essentially more than.” (Meaningful Living, Elisabeth Lukas, p. 21)

Alei Shur

“Reason has two primary functions: perception and evaluation. When reason accurately perceives reality, there is no mistaking it; any who have the ability to reason will be in agreement. When there is disagreement it is for one of two reasons: a) The thought processes are not working properly, in which case reason is not clear and straightforward or b) reason has been corrupted by something. Thus, in order to arrive at a true, objective perception reason must be both straightforward and pure.

“Reason also evaluates. Think for a moment. More than we are busy perceiving, we are busy evaluating. Our first reaction when meeting someone is “I like this” or “I don’t like this.” This is what we mean by evaluation. We taste a food and immediately express satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Again, this is the meaning of evaluation. In the store we want to buy something and we look for what suits us best and when we find it we weigh whether or not it’s worth the price. These are two functions of evaluating. Evaluation is not measured by the yardstick of truth and falsehood…A person only values what suits him personally. It is the subjective function of our capacity to reason…

“…Perception and evaluation are not interdependent. Developmentally, the capacity to evaluate precedes the capacity to perceive. An infant evaluates and chooses what is comfortable for him and rejects what is not comfortable for him. The capacity to perceive develops slowly. An adult is liable to perceive the truth but not value it. The conflict between objective perception of reality and subjective evaluation is apt to cause severe inner conflict. A spiritually developed person will value what he perceives as true.” (Alei Shur, Vol II)

All three of these thinkers are saying that values are subjective. Yet each is saying something different. What is the essential difference between them? How are they defining values? What are their assumptions?

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