I have been thinking lately about logotherapy and the media. What are the messages I’d like to see disseminated and how can the tool of media be used to further this goal?
One major message and key therapeutic edge of logotherapy over other approaches is the way it changes a person’s orientation from one of feeling disadvantaged (and the complaint that goes along with that) to feeling advantaged.
There is meaning to be found not just in spite of but even through a distressing situation. When you encounter numerous obstacles on the way to a goal you have to muster up abilities you didn’t know you had. It turns out that on the way to achieving your goal you’ve achieved perseverance, courage, faith and humility. It turns out that these are more important than your original goal in terms of human achievement.
For example Elisabeth Lukas cites the case of a young woman whose face had been badly marred by a car accident and her husband had left her. “Nobody wants me. I don’t want to live anymore!” was her reaction to this. The therapist suggested that she has a valuable Geiger counter for spotting true friendships from people who will not exclude her because of her looks but admire her for her courage. Not many people have this special gift for making this distinction. This made her smile for the first time and slowly began to be involved in social activities. (Meaningful Living, p. 64)
In the case of the logotherapeutic parenting workshop in Rwanda (See “Logotherapy Heals Communities”) the father came to see how his situation was giving him an opportunity to fulfill values particularly because of the situation he was in.
Particularly from a position of disability he could serve as a positive role model to his children to not go through life expecting handouts. Thus paying the school fees in spite of his exemption had meaning to it, a meaning it would not have if he was not disabled. Insisting on paying the school fees showed that he had found a way for his suffering to serve him. From a position of disability he was able to challenge other parents and say to them “Why aren’t you supportive of your children? What’s your excuse?” Furthermore he became aware of his appreciation for what the teachers had done to help his children and he became aware of his responsibilities towards his children.
The search for meaning cannot be done flippantly. He came to all of this awareness on his own. Values of appreciation, responsibility and dignity were something he had to discover within himself.
All the therapist does is to listen, while trusting that there is some aspect of the situation that the person will find meaningful. We only have to help the person discover what it is.
What is it that takes the person beyond merely being affirmed and supported for his feelings or being challenged for his cognitive distortions to giving comfort? It is the belief that meaning is not a fiction. It’s real. We’re not here just to manage with this rotten deal we’ve been handed in life.
As logotherapists we assume that there is something you can do with everything you’re given in life. Everything has a purpose and every life, even when a person suffers, has a unique meaning to it and even advantages that others don’t have.
Thus this reorientation from being disadvantaged to being advantaged comes from a fundamental belief that absolutely every situation in life is unconditionally meaningful.
In a similar vein I have been thinking about logotherapy in the media as something based on a fundamental belief: There are blogs, websites, Facebook, youtube, books, podcasts and so forth. All of these are tools for spreading information.
If I ask myself what is the deeper meaning in the use of media for me the answer will again be: the belief that every moment has unconditional meaning.
We can divide the discovery of meaning in the media into three fundamental beliefs:
A) Networking rests on the belief that we are connected by meaning
B) Brainstorming rests on the belief that our thoughts are connected by meaning
C) Logoeducation rests on the belief that we are connected to meaning as evidenced in our longings and in our reality
These assumptions will bring us to use the media differently that we would without these beliefs.
Networking: The first question that arises in my mind when I hear about a project is: Who else is doing this? Who can I connect this person to?
Brainstorming: When I want to work through what something means I seek others to discuss it with to see what they can contribute to my understanding and how they can stimulate my thoughts.
Logoeducation : When I write I think to myself: How can I evoke meaning in those who are reading this?
Certain kinds of media are better for one goal or another. Youtube is great for getting a message across to a wide spectrum of people in a powerful way. All of this requires more thought. This is just a beginning…..