Two last interview questions from the logotherapy podcast interview to share…
M: Frankl drew some very clear lines on where logotherapy ended and where religion began, and yet, it is generally well accepted that logotherapy is highly compatible with a faith-based outlook on life. As someone who deals with both the therapy and the spiritual aspects of logotherapy, what do you see as the advantages and the disadvantages of this approach?
B: I’ll start with the disadvantages. People can use faith as an escape from facing themselves and facing reality. This may be one of the reasons why the world, especially the world of mental health professionals, remains suspicious of and resistant to logotherapy particularly because of its spiritual resonance.
They want to make sure therapy is professionally done. It’s easier to keep the realms separate if they are kept completely separate. Then there is no way the boundary can be crossed.
There is a smidgen of truth to their perspective. But I think the real reason is because of the association of psychology with the field of science, which is limited to the physical dimension. In any event, this negative attitude towards the spirit in human development is a fearful attitude. Those professionals who take this perspective don’t understand that a true logotherapist will not cross the bounds of sound therapy into the realm of religion.
On the positive side I would say this: Frankl used to say that he didn’t invent suffering; suffering exists. By the same token faith exists; the divine encounter exists. We can try to ignore it but it will still be there. We can only benefit by acknowledging the third presence in the room.
Among the most important side-effects of faith-based therapy is that the therapist sees the client eye to eye. The logotherapist has no superhuman powers but is actually listening together with the client to hear how God is speaking to this person through his or her reality.
For the client a faith-based approach helps to increase awareness and evoke the person’s natural moral sensitivity. Moreover it helps develop a basic trust in life and acceptance of what is. To be meaning-centered is to be God-centered. At the end of the day God is the Other with a capital “O” – That’s all. There exists a unifying force in creation. The world has order to it. It was created for a purpose. I was created for a purpose, and everything that happens in my life is leading me towards my unique destiny. The more I can see God operating in my life the more this will strengthens my sense that my life has purpose, that I’m not a victim but can do something with my life.
I had a client who said “God has brought me here. – What does God want me to do with this?” This is a very healthy attitude. Shall I take that away from her???
Anything we can do to support and nurture and facilitate the client’s relationship with God will build all of that person’s relationships.
I guess it boils down to the conviction that, paradoxically, our relationship with God is not a religious issue. – It’s the basic human state of being!
M: Is there anything else you would like to share?
B: Frankl was a very large, all-encompassing personality and his concepts are large and sometimes hard to understand. Conscience is about morality but not only about morality. Responsibility means more than our conception of what it means.
I sense this all-encompassing quality to Judaism as well. Judaism (and Israel as the Jewish national homeland) seems to stand alone amongst the nations and seems to stand for its own parochial ideals. But ultimately the concept of being a light to the nations means just that: to fulfill its mission to bring the message that all of humanity can stand as one, at peace, under one God. Like the pledge of allegiance that I recited in grade school with my right hand on my heart: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Can we rise to the challenge to pledge allegiance to one world under God?
I believe that people are waking up to the message of a loving God that’s running the world and finding the goodness within themselves and they are standing up for love and goodness. Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (first chief rabbi of the modern state of Israel) had an expansive personality similar to Frankl’s and we can see evidence of it in his writings. “Trust is trust,” he wrote in Orot Ha’Emunah. It is all-encompassing. One cannot possibly be said to trust in God if he lacks trust in his own being.
Similarly Rabbi Kook said “love is love.” Love cannot possibly mean you should love God but hate a particular group of people.
This is the lie that Israel is fighting against with radical Islam. To say that God is great and therefore we should hate a group of people because of it is ludicrous. God is great. God loves all of creation. Therefore we should love all of creation.
I said earlier that logotherapy and Judaism can enrich one another. It’s more than that. Each one has the power to allow the other to more fully emerge in the world so that the world can fully emerge as a vehicle for God’s love being manifest in the world.
As true logotherapists,, whenever and wherever we find evil and deceit, we have to show the way to love. This is our mission. And with God’s help we will get there.