A Skip, a Leap and a Paradox on the Road to Meaning

The healing process in logotherapy can be divided into three parts or stages:

a) Emotions

b) Values

c) Responsibilities

a) The emotional plane:

The first stage consists of emotional processing. The client is expressing all of the distressing emotions that come to the fore. The overwhelming feeling that comes with any kind of suffering or perception of obstacle in life is that life is unfair. If we only allow the person to obsessively go over the traumas and the pain without any compass pointing elsewhere they would stay stuck there. The reason why you react in this way of feeling life is unfair is because you want life to make sense and there is no way to process what happened in a way that will make sense to you.

The conclusion you come to by the end of your outpouring of emotions is that your life is senseless and meaningless.

Since this is not a good place to be stuck in, we need to acknowledge their pain while at the same time listen for “meaning cues.” What is the meaning, that longing in the spiritual unconscious that got crushed? We want to be careful not to allow the person to be stuck in feelings of victimhood and we certainly don’t want to get sucked into the whirlpool with them.

b) The value dimension. Discussion around values brings back meaning, because values are always meaningful! Therefore, wherever values are found, whatever seemed to the person to be senseless before is redeemed and now becomes meaningful. This putting of things into a meaning context can come in a variety of ways. You might have faith in an ultimate meaning even though you don’t know what that meaning is. You might pay attention to what is still intact/what remains. Rather than feed energy to what is missing you say, “Let me do something with this that I value and magnify its value by my attention to it. Let me keep going despite this thing that’s getting in my way…” You might access strengths you didn’t know you had such as the defiant power of the human spirit, choice and other human qualities that you discover within yourself in the process.

The conclusion you come to once you access this level of values is life is meaningful. Since everything has values attached to it and values are always meaningful, absolutely everything in life is meaningful.

At this point you refuse to accept that life is meaningless and this conclusion brings you to embark on a search for meaning

c) The third stage is responsibility, a task, a mission or a commission. At this stage you are capable of saying “How can I take the gifts or challenges I’ve been entrusted with and use them faithfully?”

The ability to shift consciousness from emotions to values is a skip.

The shift from values to responsibility is a jump.

Throughout this process, the texture of the road you tread upon is paved with humility Without humility you could not get there.

Humility is a paradox on the road to meaning.

Humility makes me realize it’s not about me and what I want and what I expect from life. Paradoxically it’s all about me but only because I am part of something much larger than myself. Something is expected of me.

When we are in the emotional dimension we are cut off from our relationship with G-d, cut off from our deep, authentic being and that’s why we go on about how life is unfair. The feeling that it’s all about me comes from the emotions which are part of our material being and part of our impulse for survival.

It is only when we start to access values that we can come to a feeling that life is meaningful, and this is always a place of connection and direct dialogue. When it’s not “all about me” but there is an “other” to relate to, there is an opening for responsibility.

Frankl wrote about self-transcendence as the essence of human existence. Man reaches out for values and meanings beyond himself. In logotherapy we are not engaging with the psychological unconscious that is focused on “me” but the spiritual unconscious that is reaching out to the world in love and relatedness. As Dida commented in our group meeting, Frankl’s wisdom is the wisdom of the heart.

Furthermore Teria noted that no other approach embraces all of life as logotherapy does. We do not look to soften suffering or compensate for it or adjust to or cope with it. We’re not giving compensatory comfort. We address suffering full face and bring the client fully face-to-face with himself by relating to the person’s fundamental desire for the suffering to make sense.

Unlike certain existentialist philosophers who said we will help the person live despite the meaninglessness of life, logotherapy helps the person actively search for the meaning – in the way it provokes us to see what ought not to be and what ought to be.

If this is what I don’t want, what is it, then that I most deeply do want? It provokes you to question life in a different kind of way. Who do I most deeply want to be? It provokes a search for the truth, in comparison to the distortions and misperceptions we’ve built up about life thinking life is unfair. Life is unconditionally meaningful despite the way things appear.

As Aryeh put it, life is not about me. I’m about life. It’s not about power and self-actualization. It’s about what I can give, about finding my place. What makes the suffering meaningful is it doesn’t necessarily have to be for my benefit. It’s looking at what I have and the contribution I can make with what I have.

The fundamental reorientation of logotherapy is that it’s not what we expect from life but what life is expecting from us. Life has given us the capability to become someone.

The true ‘you’ is beyond who you think you are. We are not focused on self-indulgence but on self-emergence. It is the call of “Adam where are you?” It’s about you but it’s you in relation to. The freedom is freedom to respond to that which addressees you and invites you and calls you.

When you are open to this, when the answer to “Where are you?” is “Here I am” then you are led there.

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2 Responses to A Skip, a Leap and a Paradox on the Road to Meaning

  1. Laura says:

    This is beautiful because the meaning of our life is not something we have to create. The meaning is given to us inherently because we are here. We just have to find our meaning through our responsibilities given to us in the gift of reality by Another.

  2. logogroup says:

    Beautifully put, Laura.

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