Logotherapy elevator statement

by Batya Yaniger

One of the important marketing rules is imagining you’re on an elevator, the doors and soon closing and you’ve got half a minute to say something that captures the essence of what you do. Here is my logotherapy “elevator statement.”

The basis of logotherapy is that everything has a reason, and whether or not we know what the reason is, everything can be used for a good purpose.

We grow by getting in touch with what makes us human – our conscience, our love, our choice, our responsibility and our values.

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by Danny Kern

Rav David Ebner said in the name of the Sefat Emet the following idea.  On Pesach we need to chew the Marror until it is sweet.  To chew and chew until the bitterness goes away.   The Sefat Emet said the Maror represents our slavery in Egypt and the long galut.  The whole Pesach Seder is our attempt to find meaning in those events.

This simple idea hit me hard.  It’s an encapsulation of so much of Viktor Frankl’s teachings and philosophy.  The Maror of course can be expanded to represent all of life’s trials and tribulations.  Chewing represents taking the meaning out of these events; chewing and chewing until we find that meaning.  The meaning may not be apparent at first glance, but it’s there, and our job is to “chew” it out.

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Wedding Heaven to Earth

by Haya Baker Winiarz

Our world can be completely rejuvenated
through our partnership with God.
A flash preview of this occurred
at the foot of Mount Sinai.

The 6th day of this Hebrew calendar month of Sivan,
which takes place this year on Sunday May 27,
marks the festival of Shavuot. On this holy day,
several thousand years ago,a barrier between
mankind and heaven was forever removed.

For the first time since the exile from Eden,
the divine presence was revealed to a core group
of 60,000 people at the foot of Mount Sinai.
The shroud was forever lifted, not only
for the children of Israel,who had just emerged
miraculously from exile in Egypt, but for all mankind
who from that moment on, had access to the merging of
heaven and earth. From that moment forward,
we were forever wed to the divine!

On Shavuot, which literally means “weeks”,
we complete the counting of seven weeks
of progressive personal ethical preparations
for the annual renewing of the vows between
mankind and God!

On this day we received a permanent download
into our souls and a hard copy forever
of our sacred Torah, the blueprint for the
building of a sacred world,
from the living word of God.

Every year, as we return to this holy time,
the heaven literally comes down to earth
and can be sensed as we be open to the
remembering of ultimate truth,
that God is and was always with us,
and is indeed within us.

The indestructible, unconditional life-force,
deep within our hearts which makes our eyes shine
and inspires us to bring goodness into our world,
can never be destroyed and it is from that kernel
of truth revealed on Mount Sinai,
that a better world is forever being recreated.

The Midrash describes that humble Mount Sinai
in the heart of the desert, was suddenly blanketed
with flowers and Trees upon the revelation of God.
The Midrash also describes that all of the children
of Israel,camped at the foot of the mountain,
were recreated at that moment completely healthy,
without illness or injury.

It is in this spirit that I enjoy asking God to
recreate us as we were meant to be.

Many of you amazing people who recently participated in my
foundations course online, report experiencing a taste
of this in your own lives.

Our sages teach us that our world will be completely
rejuvenated through our partnership with God.
In our wondrous times we can subtly and profoundly
rediscover the inner meaning of our commitment
to this relationship, to this personal and collective
divine commission.



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Expanding horizons

Dear blog readers,

I’ve started a new blog called themeaningseeker.com

themeaningseeker.com will be made up of daily essays on logotherapy and will serve as the home base for my logotherapy courses.

meaningtherapy.wordpress.com will continue on a new footing which will more closely approximate my original intention for it. It will be comprised of weekly essays by a variety of logotherapists and lay people with a logotherapeutic message to convey.

If you have an essay you’d like to submit, please send a comment to any blog post with your email address and I will contact you. May we enrich each other with meaning!


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Unhealthy and Healthy Detachment

There are two different phenomena that take place when we relate to unwanted reality: unhealthy and healthy detachment.

Unhealthy detachment manifests in the phenomenon of dissociation – withdrawal from reality in the face of a traumatic or stressful situation. This can range from mild detachment from one’s surroundings as in daydreaming to extreme detachment even from one’s own physiological and emotional reality.

This defensive reaction is a coping mechanism and in that sense it does show strength, as it is attempt to protect one’s self. However it’s unhealthy when it becomes a pervasive reaction that comes up in unwanted life situations and this turns it into a severe psychological disorder such as PTSD.

A completely different kind of detachment takes place when one takes a stand toward what’s happening and says “This is wrong.” “I won’t do this.” “This is boring.” or “This is bad for me.” In this second case one is detached from reality not in order to escape from it but rather in order to orient one’s self to have a true relationship towards it.

In the first case the person is beset by fear and withdraws even from his own person-hood. In the second case the person shows strength and becomes a conduit for positive change.

The irony in healthy detachment is that by detaching from what is wrong one becomes more connected on the level of creating a meaningful relationship.

Thus if I’m not afraid to admit my wrongdoing and apologize for it or call someone on his hurtful words and express this, I will detach myself from what’s wrong in the situation and become more strongly connected to what’s meaningful about the relationship with this person.


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Murphy’s Law

One day last week my son had a day off and he said to me “Let’s go to the beach.” I said, “It’s a crazy idea. – Yes, let’s.”

Some people are spontaneous and some people want to check everything out, and they just can’t bring themselves to do something on the spur of the moment.

This reminds me a little bit of Murphy’s Law, or “If anything can go wrong, it will” has always seemed to me to be a reasonable idea. If you check to make sure the breaks on your car are in working order, it will save you much heartache, and probably your life.

But I have some problems with it when the same concept it applied in what I consider to be unreasonable or extreme ways. At a workshop I once attended, the topic for the day had something to do with choosing between Murphy’s Law and being spontaneous. The idea being put forth was that Murphy’s Law (as it was being applied to life, beyond any meaning Murphy had ever dreamed of) represents an unhealthy attitude toward life. One should always be spontaneous and not worry about checking everything out all the time. I had a strong negative reaction to this because of my own personal experience. There have been times I didn’t give something enough forethought and planning and the results were disastrous.

In the workshop I protested with an example I thought would make perfect sense to the facilitators. “What if my adolescent kid doesn’t take money for the bus because he’s being spontaneous and then he’s hitching a ride home late at night?” This didn’t seem to bother the facilitator, who continued to drive home his point.

On the other hand I can argue just the opposite when Murphy’s Law is used so pervasively that the amount of “checking” and “making sure” that needs to be done would preclude the ability to get anything done.

For some things there just are no guarantees. There is no way to be sure about your success doing something, and you have to take a risk. If you’re afraid to take any risks you’ll never accomplish anything in life. Sure, it might not turn out the way you would like. But if it seems like the right thing to do, you hope for the best.

Probably one person’s reasonable risk is another person’s unreasonable risk. But I think this is one of those things where the truth lies somewhere in the middle. If planning ahead will make life better for you, why not? But if something feels right to do even if you don’t know what the result will be, you don’t have to be immobilized by your inability to see what will come of it.

Maybe the difference is between being able to know the result, where you might as well check it out and take precautions, and being unable to foresee the result, where you have to just trust. Any thoughts?

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Giving and Receiving Meaning

In the post “The Realness of the Intangible” I shared a meaningful teaching my study partner and myself learned from Alei Shur. Today I want to share our continued learning.

Until now we learned that the world was created at a particular point in time and that the ten commandments were revealed as a “user-manual” for creation at a particular point in time. Yet this revelation is not limited to a particular point in time but is continuous.

Today we learned that a) revelation begins with potential which subsequently unfolds and b) there is a parallel process going on between creation of matter and the revelation of the user-manual.

On the first day of creation matter was created, a “something” from “nothing.” At that point on everything was created from this original substance. We can say that whatever creativity unfolds was there in a potential state from the beginning. At the beginning, potential was created.

The same holds true for the “user-manual.” Whatever creative process unfolds in our understanding of the ten commandments was in a sense always there, present from the start. The law was given together with its hidden potential. This is the context in which we who uphold rabbinic Judaism view the rabbinic debates and their unending clarifications.

My friend commented how apropos it was that we were studying this on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when entire communities with their chain of tradition of grandparents, handing down to their children and their children to their children were wiped out.

Then the book makes a surprise (to us) move and says that although the creative process of creation continues and the creative process of Torah, the “user-manual” for creation continues, something about it is not a potential being developed but rather a continuous renewal of the original creation.

The gift of potential was given long ago. If I think about a child’s potential, I think of a talent that was inherently there but once the talent was given that’s the end of the gift. Now it’s all up to the receiver of the talent to work and develop the talent.

Here we’re saying something different. The unfolding creation and revelation of how to use creation existed in a potential state from the first moment. But this creation of potential was not the end of it. The One who gave life continues to renew life. The potential for material substance to renew itself was an intrinsic part of creation, but the enlivening of this material substance is an ongoing creation. In our prayer we say, G-d renews every day the work of creation. The Creator of old continues to give us new life at each and every moment. Similarly there is an ongoing spiritual enlivenment in the wisdom of the law and how to live our lives.

And then the book adds something still more surprising to us: There are two different types of potential. There was creation of heaven (and the potential for creating heaven) and there was creation of earth (and the potential for creating earth).

Exactly what this means was not so clear to us but he goes on: The parallel of these two kinds of potential in creation extends to the presence of two different kinds of potential present in the revelation at Sinai.

One kind of potential is the potential for continuous renewal in the ongoing deeper understandings of God’s will, attributes and leadership. The other kind of potential is the potential for receptivity to what will be revealed through those who study the law in every generation, in every condition of life. This is the source for our faith in tradition.

We have gotten so far removed from this consciousness after the Holocaust. There is a rigidity of clinging to whatever is written in a book and we’ve forgotten that what is written in a book was written down only so as not to forget what was spoken orally. As my friend Rivkah put it “Making that place in your self to receive is what makes it possible for renewal to come through you.”

This is one of those posts that are here because I am sharing my meaning, not because of logotherapy. Yet it always comes back to logotherapy when what is sought is meaning. What is being discussed is giving and receiving meaning. I feel a great discomfort whenever I participate in a discussion that is purely critical and analytical in nature. A quality of receptivity is missing from the discussion. It is only through the giving and receiving together, as in the continuous revelation and receptivity to God’s word or as in the midrashic metaphor of rain coming down and the earth receiving it or of male and female bonding, that something fruitful comes forth and there is birth.

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