There exists a tension in logotherapy between the need to learn skills and logotherapy being a basic orientation to life. If it is a theoretical therapeutic approach, then like any other approach there are skills to be practiced and concrete tools to apply step by step. If it is an orientation then all there is to do is adopt a different orientation towards life.
The truth is more complex than this. Logotherapy is both made up of skills and comprises an orientation or way of looking at life.
One way to approach this complexity is to simply divide the realms in two. Separate out the skills to be practice while internalizing the principles that make up the orientation. In a different post I made the beginning of an attempt to outline the basic tools of logotherapy and to even make the connection seamless by showing the close connection between the tool and the spiritual weltanschauung that supports it. For example, logotherapy employs the tool of paradoxical intention because a human being has the capacity to look at himself from a distance and even laugh at himself.
What I’m thinking now leads in a new, added direction. The orientation itself yields skills to be learned. What do I mean by this? We begin by looking at life itself. What’s it all about? How does a human being function? How is the noetic realm and how is it revealed? How can we access it?
I will let you in on a little secret. What got my wheels turning in this way was a workshop I attended taught by a fellow by the name of Amit Kedem emphasizing the holistic nature of a person as body and spirit blended together. He prefaced the skills with an explanation of how a human being functions. After all, if we don’t understand human nature how can we know how to work with it? One of the principles laid out was that a) there is always an emotion and b) every emotion is expressed in the body. This is important to know because the emotion reveals the inner self.
Now, armed with this information we can notice our bodily sensations, locate them and identify the emotion they carry. Since the body is a reliable indicator of emotion, it follows that if someone says he is happy but his body language shows otherwise, there is a gap between his emotions and his awareness or at least his willingness to admit it to others. He went on further to speak about the use of imagery and described it as a muscle that has to be used if it is to be developed.
This led me to think that in logotherapy, particularly in logotherapy where we use the language of what is a human being we can draw conclusions about the skills required and the muscles that need to be worked for human development based on this understanding.
We are “spirit beings,” with a somatic, psychic and noetic dimension, and the noetic identifies the person in his essence.
What does this assertion imply in terms of concrete skills that can be spelled out and practiced and muscles that can be worked? What are the tools of human spiritual development and what is the process by which growth takes place?
In order not to get lost I will focus on one specific point: values.
We live in a world of values. As Frankl wrote “We are pushed by drives but we are pulled by our values.” Here in Frankl’s words we have a statement about human nature. We are pulled by our values.
What are values and what is the process by which they are accessed? What are the skills or tools for working the muscles that would allow us to discover and clarify our values?
When we hear the word values we think of universal values or values belonging to one culture or another. However, there is not a one-size-fits-all set of values. In logotherapy values are something that point to meaning. Like meanings, values are revealed by a unique individual in a unique situation.
We can add to the assertion that every emotion is expressed in the body and reveals the inner self that every emotion points to a value based in the spirit.
Conscience is what Lukas called our “spiritual ear,” or the capacity to discern which value the person is called-upon to fulfill in any given situation, when no moral system can bring the person an answer with absolute certainty as to what he must do.
(As a footnote, see the Jewish Chasidic leader Rebbe Nachman’s assertion in his book Chayei Moharan par. 197 that the main work of service to God is in the realm left up to our free will, where no one is instructing us as to what to do and there always remains a degree of uncertainty)
Based on this understanding, if we wish to know what skill needs to be developed and what muscles to work, clearly we need to employ a practice of working our conscience muscles.
Conscience is developed by sharpening one’s ability to correctly interpret the meaning of the situation confronting him on all levels, both actual and potential and also by learning to access one’s inherent will to meaning and spiritual sensitivity as to what is good and what will bring a positive outcome.
Socratic questioning (especially the question “for what?”) is important because it orients us to embrace the moment for what it is and to look forward in thinking of what we can do with it. We are receptive (not in opposition) in our relationship to life. Dr. Welter’s style of questioning is a very helpful muscle practice because it adds an element of surprise and forces the person to think in new ways, that is to say, to think.
This is only a very beginning elementary start to considering this question of spiritual muscles exercise. I invite you to add your own thoughts to this.
Forgetting everything you know about logotherapy skills: What would flex the spiritual muscles of correct interpretation of reality and hearing how it is calling you?