Logotherapy and Existential Analysis

Logotherapy and Existential Analysis has been developed by Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, during the last century. It is considered the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” after Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology and is an internationally acknowledged and empirically based meaning-centered approach to psychotherapy and counselling. Logotherapy is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard’s will to meaning as opposed to Adler’s Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud’s will to pleasure.

Logotherapy is founded upon the belief that the driving force in human beings is the search for a meaning in one’s life. For Frankl, humans are “the beings who can decide in one moment who they are in the next moment”. To my opinion Frankl, at his time, brought back dignity to man in the field of psychotherapy.  Logotherapy supports the clients to rediscover their self-responsibility and their freedom to leave their roles as victims. There is no long-term addressing the “buts” – because there can always be found a “nevertheless”. Frankl’s most famous book is “Man’s search for meaning”. The direct translation of the original German title is “Nevertheless say yes to life” which expresses even better the defiant power of the human spirit which Frankl experienced himself.

Logotherapy is based on the following premises:

  • There is a freedom of will and hand in hand with this freedom of will goes responsibility.
  • Human beings can either choose to be oriented towards the will to pleasure, the will to power, or the will to meaning. When we are oriented towards the will to meaning we become truly humans.
  • Every life has an inherent meaning and meaning can be discovered in any situation and life circumstance.
  • This meaning can be found by a) giving something back to the world (creative value), b) receiving something from the world with gratitude (experiential value), or c) taking a stand towards fate (attitudinal value)

 

So Logotherapy is not about asking what we can get from life, but about asking what life demands of us in this certain stage in life, about our own responsibility in this moment. It is about awakening the defiant power of the human spirit. It is about putting a distance between ourselves and our symptoms, saying I am not my symptoms. It is about learning that we can act contrary to what circumstances or instincts dictate. And sometimes it is about laughing at our fears.

Frankl called this existential shift a “Copernican revolution”, since it points to a radical change of perspective, where man turns away from a demanding and expecting attitude towards life and what it should offer, to meeting with openness the demands and invitations of his life situations. This existential shift is therefore the key to discover and experience meaning, perceive the world and values as well as to assume responsibility for one’s own life.