Viktor Frankl Term Paper

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Viktor Frankl: Psychotherapy

Viktor Frankl's name will always be remembered in the history of psychotherapy as the man who brought existentialism to the field. Having gone through some truly agonizing and painful experiences in Auschwitz from 1943-45, Viktor Frankl founded a new school of psychotherapy that focused on meaning of life and man's connection with the soul and universe. F believed that his therapy had sprung from his days at the concentration camp and realized that for survival of man's body and soul, a meaning is needed. In other words, F maintained that man needs a sense of purpose to survive some excruciatingly difficult experiences and to emerge from them stronger and healthier. For F. himself that meaning was "to help others find their meaning." [1]

Viktor Frankl was of the view that man works unceasingly due to an inner drive. This drive is what helps him maintain equilibrium in life and attain a purpose and ultimate happiness. While his theory has often been criticized for being reductionist, Frankl has also been widely appreciated for his work on existentialist psychotherapy. His reductionist view of man's existence led him to declare that "Man is nothing but a complex biochemical mechanism powered by a combustion system which energizes computers with prodigious storage facilities for retaining encoded information." [2]

From this view came into being another related theory by Frankl as he assumed that "all cultural creations of humanity become actually by-products of the drive for personal satisfaction." [3]Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Viktor Frankl Assignment

By 1946, Frankl had developed a clearer form of his theory of psychotherapy with the publication of his Magnus opus Man's Search for Meaning in English. In the book, he clearly understood that "long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was the meaning of life, a naive query which understands life as the attaining of some aim through the active creation of something of value."[4] Frankl explained that "to look for the general meaning of man's life would be comparable to asking a chess player: 'What is the best move?' There is no such thing as 'the best move' apart from the one that is best within the context of a particular situation of a particular game." [5] He realized that meaning of life might not remain the same throughout one's life. The purpose of life, the thing that gives a person motivation to move ahead may alter day by day and situation by situation.

The psychotherapy is based on the premise that without meaning of life, man leads a bored life that gives rise to various problems. A person who is living a meaningless life is not necessary living an evil or negative life but a life without a purpose, without a desire to look forward to the next day and this kind of life lies at the core of many psychological problems.

While speaking of the will to meaning, I referred to meaning orientation and meaning confrontation; while speaking of the meaning of life, I must now refer to meaning frustration, or existential frustration. This represents what could be called the collective neurosis of our time. The dean of students at a major American university has told me that in his counseling work he is continually being confronted by students who complain about the meaninglessness of life, who are beset by that inner void which I have termed the "existential vacuum." Moreover, not a few instances of suicide among students are attributable to this state of affairs. [6]

Frankl's theory of psychotherapy gave birth to the school of logotherapy. Logos is a Greek word, which means many things in English including reason, definition, argument and rationality. The author after his terrible experiences at death camps realized that it was only meaning of life that gave him strength to surmount all troubles and come out alive. At the core of his theory lies the belief that more than will to pleasure and will to power, it is the will to meaning that keeps a person alive and serves as the primary motivating force.

Once one has served a cause or is involved in loving another human being, happiness occurs by itself. The will to pleasure, however, contradicts the self-transcendent quality of the human reality. And it also defeats itself. For pleasure and happiness are by-products. Happiness must ensue. It cannot be pursued. It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness. [7]

He took issues with Freud's theory that man should not meaning of life or he becomes sick. Frankl vehemently opposed it and explained that a true human being is a person who has some meaning that turns into an inner drive and helps him lead a meaningful, fulfilled and satisfied life. Frankl explains:

The precept primum vivere, deinde philosophari -- first survive, then philosophize about it -- was invalidated. What was valid in the camp was rather the exact opposite of this precept, primum philosophari, deinde mori -- first philosophize, then die. This was the one valid thing: to give an accounting to oneself on the question of ultimate meaning, and then to be able to walk forth upright and die the called-for martyr's death. If you will, the concentration camp was nothing more than a microcosmic mirroring of the human world as a whole. And so we may be justified in applying what is to be learned from the experiences of the concentration camp to conditions in the world today. [8]

The harsh conditions of the concentration camps taught Frankl the invaluable lesson about meaning of life. He realized that if one's life has a powerful meaning attached to it then life "remains meaningful literally up to its last moment, up to one's last breath." [9]

Logotherapy is an unorthodox form of psychotherapy which identifies closely with existential movement. It is because existentialism is also based on the premise that meaningful life gives a person his reason for being in the world.

For what matters above all is the attitude in which we take toward suffering, the attitude in which we take our suffering upon ourselves.... It is one of the basic tenets of logotherapy that man's main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain, but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has a meaning [10]

Existential movement rejected a single perspective of looking at and understanding life and shifted the burden of living from external forces to internal ones. In other words existentialists maintain that man himself is responsible for how his life turns out. Frankl believed that we must look towards others to give our life some meaning and warns that: "a doctor cannot give meanings to his patients" instead meaning originates from "one's whole being -- one's life is itself the answer to the question of its meaning." [11] Frankl further clarifies "it is never up to a therapist to convey to the patient a picture of the world as the therapist sees it; but rather, the therapist should enable the patient to see the world as it is," [12]. In other words, it is the job or responsibility of the patient to find a meaning to his life:

The logotherapist leaves it to the patient to decide what is meaningful and what is not, or, for that matter, what is good and what is bad... But he may well show the patient that there is a meaning and... that life not only holds a meaning, a unique meaning, for each and every man, but also never ceases to hold such a meaning -- that it retains it, that it remains meaningful literally up to its last moment, to one's last breath. [13]

Logotherapy is a pluralistic view. It originates from the belief that man's meaning of life arises out of his own being and may alter as he goes through life. This alteration is justified on the grounds of personal growth. A person as he grows, may come to see that a meaning that he had hitherto been holding dear doesn't serve him anymore and may thus develop a new perspective with which to view his life. Meaning of life doesn't have to be one single idea. This is because as a person goes through life and continues to achieve his goals, his perspective changes and he develops a new meaning in order to stay motivated. Frankl explains that, "if this tension is to be preserved, meaning has to be prevented from coinciding with being. I should say that it is the meaning of meaning to set the pace of being." [14]

This means that a person needs to be healthy and motivated. But this can happen only if he refuses to let go of what he can become or how his life could be. A person with a better and healthier vision of tomorrow would continue to strive to make that vision a reality. On the other hand,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Viktor Frankl.  (2005, February 10).  Retrieved April 2, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Viktor Frankl."  10 February 2005.  Web.  2 April 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Viktor Frankl."  February 10, 2005.  Accessed April 2, 2020.