I’ve just been doing the dishes after reading the book Viktor Frankl by Anna Redsand and suddenly it hit me. We’ve been telling people the uniqueness of logotherapy is that it puts meaning squarely in the center of concern.
The conversation then turns to words like “future-orientation,” “goals,” “optimism” and we find ourselves struggling to explain how logotherapy is different from positive psychology and coaching and people end up scratching their heads wondering about what all the fuss is about.
It struck me how this is not it at all! The sentence “logotherapy is focused on meaning” needs to be extended to get to the main referent. “Logotherapy is focused on what it means to be a human being.
Everything else flows from that one sentence. Logotherapy assists people to love as human beings, to take responsibility as human beings, to laugh at their fears as human beings and to turn suffering into a human achievement as only human beings can.
Only human beings search for meaning. Only human beings feel life is worth living if their life has meaning. Only human beings are capable of love in the spiritual (human) sense.
When explaining logotherapy people get stuck and rack their brains over the meaning of meaning. We try to explain that meaning is the potential for fulfilling values. Well, that’s not how they think of meaning. To most people meaning is about knowing why something happens, and we’re saying that we can’t know why, because the ultimate meaning is beyond the scope of our comprehension.
Yet we are called to do something with our life because every life, under no matter what conditions it lived, is unconditionally meaningful.
Thus logotherapy is healing through meaning but the real meaning we’re after is the meaning of being and becoming human.
This fact lies at the crux of logotherapy’s unique contribution to the world of therapy. It is the source of logotherapy’s anti-reductionist stance. It is what drives other therapists mad: “How do you dare make values part of the discussion?! – As soon as you bring up values you will have to explain that what one person finds meaningful another sees as evil…” and so on and so forth.
All of the arguments are felled in one sweep with one answer. What is the goal of therapy? How are we being of help to people? We are helping them find their meaning, and the key to their meaning is their humanity, in the human spark we firmly believe can be found as a birthright and imperative in every human soul.