Affirmation in logotherapy is different from affirmation in other approaches. First of all it’s an unspoken acknowledgment of the absolute worth of the person sitting across from us and a transmission of that worth. Although every approach begins with this assumption, the focus on meaning in logotherapy means that the therapist or helper is entering into the encounter with the absolute belief that this person’s life is meaningful and the conviction that the events of his life have something to say. We therefore find value in listening to him and are honored to facilitate his process of emerging worth and witnessing the wonderful meaning of his life. The therapist or friend is curious and awesomely and expectantly listening to discover what this life is all about.
At first, the affirmation will consist of being there with him in his experience so that he is not alone. We’re used to thinking of empathy as being with the person in his feelings about what happened but sometimes, as odd as it sounds a person needs affirmation that it even happened. It almost seems as if it’s not real if no one else acknowledges it, as if it’s a figment of your imagination. The logotherapist is here with you in the moment, also when in this moment you are still smarting from the pain of the past.
However we don’t lament with him over the problem as if to confirm that life is meaningless and our job is to collaborate in this struggle against the unfairness of life. Instead we assume that this person’s life belongs to all of life. In other words, you have a place to fill in the world and you are capable of contributing something unique to the world and receiving pleasure from the world.
Thus we take a position of expectation and hope. We’re looking to affirm that this person’s life has a mission. Everything that has happened or is happening now, plus all of his or her inner resources, including all of the circumstances, gifts of personality, talents, potential, values and response-abilities are pieces of the puzzle of that mission. All of these things shed light on the meaning of every moment.
We wonder: How are these challenges of life opportunities for creating a meaningful life? What are the capabilities that can potentially be actualized? What does the person care about deep down, whether on a conscious or unconscious level? What is getting in the way of him being himself or her being herself? In other words, who is this person, underneath it all?
What flows from this is a focus on the person’s strengths and what follows is affirmation of the responsibility he knows about deep inside. Meaning is only discovered in response to a situation. So what is the meaning in this unique situation and what is the meaning in the response that can be taken by this singularly unique individual?
With this orientation we create a space or magnetic field in which there is a total encounter, where we’re totally nonjudgmental and where the answers come not from me and not from you but from beyond both of us.