Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy: 3 Fundamental Principles

Viktor Frankl's Logotherapy: 3 Fundamental Principles

The Viktor Frankl logotherapy is also known as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy.”  The first psychological school belonged to Sigmund Freud, the second to Adler. Viktor Frankl founded the third school. In this article we will focus on this.

Freud claimed that man is oriented towards “pleasure.” Adler later said that it is “power” that man is focused on. But Frankl had a view of man in which he saw him as a being that focuses on “meaning”.

Historians in psychology agree that the study of psychoanalysis is also somewhat the study of the life of the founder Freud. In the same way, we can say that we can better understand Frankl’s life by studying logotherapy. For we cannot possibly understand the development of the third school of psychology without understanding the life history of the person who started it.

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was born on March 26, 1905 in Vienna. He survived four concentration camps, including Auschwitz. From a young age he showed an interest in the study of medicine and the natural sciences. He also had a very critical mind towards the views of reductionism.

He got his calling very early. His own search for meaning began long before the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, he worked on his best-known book,  Man’s Search for Meaning.

Viktor Frankl was convinced that the human spirit makes us unique. To reduce life and human nature to “insignificantness” as many philosophers and psychiatrists of the time did, was not the most appropriate way of looking at life.

The Life of Viktor Frankl

By the age of nineteen he had already developed two fundamental ideas.

  • First, we must answer the question that life asks about the meaning of our lives, because we are responsible for our existence.
  • Second, the ultimate meaning is beyond our understanding and will remain there. It is something we must have faith in as we pursue it.

Frankl’s experience in the concentration camps showed him that humans have the ability to find meaning. They find meaning in any circumstance in life, even in the most absurd and painful.

Man’s quest for meaning

In his work,  Man’s Search for Meaning,  Frankl writes about his experiences in the concentration camps (Turckheim, Kaufering, Theresienstadt and Auschwitz). The book describes the abuse that the prisoners endured. But it also talks about the beauty of the human mind. In a nutshell, the book is about how to transcend horror and find meaning even in the worst of circumstances.

Viktor Frankl passed away on September 2, 1997. He was 92 years old and left a huge legacy. Through his life and work, he reminds us that we can all create meaning that will save us in difficult moments. Whatever we do or how uncertain life may be, it will never go away.

Viktor Frankl .’s Logotherapy

As we said, Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy is recognized as the third Viennese school of psychotherapy. It made its worldwide debut in the 1940s. Logotherapy is a method of overcoming human conflicts that cause suffering.

It allows us to find meaning in difficult, painful situations. They even become opportunities to grow. This method ensures that we find meaning in all events of life. In this way it becomes possible to lead a full life.

In the term logotherapy, logos refers to “meaning”, something that people are always looking for. Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy is thus therapy through “meaning.”

The principles of logotherapy

The 3 fundamental principles of logotherapy

The three fundamental principles or pillars of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy are the following:

  • Free will
  • The longing for meaning
  • The meaning of existence

Free will

Free will unfolds through a specifically human capacity known as “distance from the self.”  It is the ability to see, accept, direct and visualize oneself. According to Frankl’s teaching, it frees us from three spheres of influence:

  • instincts
  • Heredity
  • Environment

Man possesses these three things, but they do not define us. We are not predestined or finished. We are free from these three aspects. Whenever people get liberated from something, it’s for a reason. Herein lies the concept of responsibility. Man is free to be responsible and he is responsible because he is free.

From this existential analysis, man is responsible for the realization of meaning and values. Man has a calling. He must realize the meaning of his life and the values ​​that give it meaning. Man alone is responsible for this calling.

The longing for meaning

The desire for meaning and the transcendence of self-consciousness are characteristic of people and are closely linked. Man always points beyond himself, in the direction of a meaning which he must first find and attain fulfillment of. The desire for pleasure (Freud) and the desire for power (Adler) have led man to narrow-mindedness. But these concepts are the opposite of transcending themselves and would thwart our existence.

From the perspective of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy, pleasure and power are consequences of reaching an end but not the end itself. That is why people who pursue only pleasure or power live in frustration. They feel sucked into a huge existential void. The desire for meaning is not looking for power or pleasure. It doesn’t even look for happiness. His focus is on finding an argument – ​​a reason – to be happy.

The meaning of existence

The meaning of existence

We have listed the two principles. They are talking about a person who is willing to take a position in total freedom regarding the circumstances of life. It is based on a meaning it conveys. This is the profile of the person who is looking for meaning. Life has meaning. And that meaning is unique to each of us. So it is our duty as conscious and responsible beings to find our own version of this meaning.

We do it through three fundamental channels that refer to three categories of values.

  • Sometimes it leads us to the realization of creative values.
  • At other times it affects us from an experience. For example, when we witness a sunset or when someone holds our hand.
  • And at other times we will be confronted with the limitations of life itself (death, suffering).

In any case, life will always contain a hidden meaning to the end. It is a compelling and persistent call to discover and realize it. These are the three fundamental principles of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy. As we have seen, it is a humanistic existential view of man. It can be difficult to understand if we are not familiar with existentialism. But when we consider what it all has to offer for our understanding of life, it is worth the effort.

Works Cited

V. Frankl (2013). Man’s Quest for Meaning, Shepherd.

V. Frankl (2003). Before the Existential Void: Towards a Humanization of Psychotherapy. Shepherd.

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