From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy
Viktor E. Frankl, M.D.

On the meaning of Death
Does death decrease the meaningfulness of life?


On the meaning of suffering | On the meaning of Work | On the meaning of Love |
Either life has a meaning and retains this meaning whether it is long or short, whether or not it repoduces itself, or life has no meaning at all, in which case it take on none, no matter how long it lasts or can goon reproducing itslef. If the life of a childless woman were really meaningless solely because she had no children, then humanity lives only for its children and the sole meaning of existence is to be found in the next generation. But that is only a postponement of the problem. For every generation hands the problem on to the next generation unsolved. The only meaning in the life of tone genration consists in raising the next. But to perpetuate something in itself meaningless is meaningless. If the thing is meaningless, it does not acquire meaning by being immortalized.

From all of which we see once again that life can never be an end in itself, and that its reproduction can never be its meaning, rather it acquires meaning from other, non biologic grames of referrence. intellectual, ethical, aesttthetic and so on. These frames of reference therefore represent a transcendental factor. Life transcends itself not in "length" in the sense of reproduction of itself, but in height by fulfilling values or in breadth in the community.

But if the community itself is to have meaning, it cannot dispense with the individuality of the individuals that make it up. In the mass, on the other hand, the single unique existence is submerged must be submerged because uniqueness would be a disrupting factor in any mass.The meaning of the community is constituted by individuality, and the meaning of individuality by community, the meaning of the mass is discrupted by the individuality of the individuals composint it and the meaning of individuality is submerged in the mass.

By escape into the mass, man loses his most intrinsic quality, responsibility.As soon as someone acts as if he were a mere part of the whole, and as if only this whole counts, he can enjoy the senssation of throwing off some of the burdern of his responsibility. This tendency to flee from respons. is the motif of all collectivism. True community is in essence the community of responsible persons, mere mass is the sum of depersonalized entities.

In the moral sphere the collective point of view leads to the idea of collective guilt. Men are made responsible for something they are not actually responsible for. In judging or as the case may be condemning men in this manner the person who judges evades the responsibility for his judgement. Of course it is ever so much more facile to ealueat or devaluate races wholesale, rather than rank every individual human being in one of the two morally relevant races to which all men belong, ther ace of the decent and the race of the rotten.

During no moment of his life does man escape the mandate to choose among possibilities. Yet he can pretend to act "as if" he had no choice and no freedom of decision. This "acting as if" constitutes a part of the human tragicomedy.

To be human means not only to be different, but also to be able to become different; that is to change.

Freedom of the will is opposed to destiny. For what we call destiny is that which is essentially exempt from human freedom, that which lies neither within the scope of man`s power nor his responsibility. However, we must never forget that all human freedom is contingent upon destiny to the extent that it an unfold only within destiny and by working upon it. As a matter of fact the mistakes of the past should serve as fruitful material for shaping a better future, the mistakes should have taught a lesson. Man is free to take a purely fatalistic attitude toward his past, or to learn something from it.

Neurotic fatalists, impressed byt the ideas of individual psychology, are prone to blame childhood educational and environmental influences for making them what they are and having determined their destinies. These persons are attempting to excuse their weaknesses of charracter. They accept these weaknesses as given facts, instead of seeing that having ha such unfortunate early influences only makes it more incumbent upon them to practice self-restraint and seek to school themselves differently. Neurotic fatalism is only another disguised form of escape from responsibility the neruotic fatalist is betraying his uniqueness and singularity when he seeks refuge in typicality and coursts the unalterable destiny of belonging to a type. In this connection it does not matter whether the type under whose laws a person believes himself to fall is a characterological type, a racial type, or a class type. A faulty upbringing exonerates nobody, it has to be surmounted by conscious effort.

On the meaning of Suffering


While the values of the first category are actualized by doing, experiential values are realized by the passive receiving of the world (nature, art) into the ego. Attitudinal values, are actualized wherever the individual is faced with something unalterable something imposed by destiny.

The very essence of attitudinal value inheres in the manner in which a person resigns himself to the inevitable, in order therefore for attitudinal values to be truly actualized, it is important that the fate he resigns himself to must be actually inevitable. It must be what Brod has called "noble misfortune" as against the "ignoble misfortune", the latter being something which is either avoidable, or for which the person himself is to blame.

"Life is not anything, it is only the opportunity for something. " For the alternatives are either to shape fate (that is, one`s unalterable situation) and so realize creative values, or if this should really prove to be impossible, to take such an attitude toward fate that in the sense of attitudinal values, there is achievement in suffering.

On the meaning of Work


The misfortune of being unemployed seems to them to wipe out all responsibility to others and to themselves as well, to cancel their responsibility to life. This misfortune is blamed for failures on all planes of existence. Apparently it somehow does a person good to imagine that the shoe pinches only in one spot. To explain everything as the result of a single factor, which is fixed by fate, has a great adventage. For then no task seems to be assingned to one, one has nothing to do but wait for the imaginary moment when the curing of this one factor will cure everything else.

The satisfactions with work are not identical with the creative satisfactions of life as a whole. Nevertheless, the neurotic sometimes tries to escape from life in general, from the freightening vastness of life, by taking refuge in his work or profession. It is on Sunday, when the tempo of the working week is suspended, that the poverty of meaning in everyday urban life is exposed. We get the impression that these people who know no goal in life are running the course of life at the highest possible speed so that they will not notice the aimplessness of it. They are at the same time trying to run away from themselves- but in vain.

The certainity of death terrifies only the person who has a guilty conscience toward his life. Death marking the end of a lifetime can frighten only the preson who has not lived his lifetime to the full.

On the meaning of Love


Love is living the experience of another person in all his uniqueness and singularity. In his surrender to the Thou the lover experiences an inner enrichment which goes beyond that Thou, for him the whole cosmos broadens and deepens in worth, glows in the radiance of those values which only the lover sees.

The spiritual core is what lies back of those physical or psychic appearances, it is what "appears" in those appearances. The bodily and psychic linements of the personality are the outer "dress" which the spiritual core "wears".

As a unique person she can never be replaced by any double, no matter how perfect a duplicate. But someone who is merely infatuated could probably find a double satisfactory for his purposes. His affections could be transferred without difficulty to the double. For his feelings are concerned only with the temperament the partner "has" not with the spiritual person that the partner "is".

Even in love between the sexes the body, the sexual element, is not primary, it is not an end in itslef, but a means of expression. Love as such can exist without it. Where sexuality is possible love will desire and seek it, but where renunciation is called for, love will not necessarily cool or die.

For a neurotic person who fails to gain fulfillment in a particular realm of values ends either by overvaluing or devaluing that particular aspect of life. Neurotic straining after happiness in love leads, precisely because of the strain involved, to unhappiness. On the other hand, the person who is negatively fixated on the love life, who devalues it in an effort to make himself feel better about what he has not attained and consider unattainable such a person also blocks his own way to erotic happiness. Inner resentment coupled with renunciation bring s about the same result as revolt and protest against fate, both reaction patterns rob the individuals of their own cahnce.

People who go in for such superficial eroticism flee from the obligations of real love, from any sense of having true ties with the partner, because such ties involve responsibility. They take refuge in a collective concept, preferring a "type" their partner at any given times i more or less chance representative of that type. They choose the type rather than any particular person. Their lvoe is directed toward preferred is that of the chorus girl. As such she cannot step out of ther framework, cannot drop out of her role among the others who are tripping in step across the stage. In life as well she must keep in step. Today}s average man takes this type of woman for his erotic ideal because she cannot in her impersonality, burden him with responsibility. The type is ubiquitous.

The woman will do her best to cenceal all personal qualities, in order not to bother the man with them, and in order to give the man what he is looking for, his preferred type. The woman or rather the contemporary urban doll is completely engrosse in her appearance. She wants to be taken as a member of a sex, and therefore she puts her body, in the forefront. She wants to be impersonal and to represent whatever type happens to be the fashiom happens to be going well in the market place of erotic vanities.

Instead of seeking one another and so finding each other`s selves, finding the uniqueness and singularity which alone make each other worth loving, and their own lives wortth ligving, they have settled for a fiction. In the mutual surrender of love, in the givina and taking between two people, each one`s own personality comes into its own.

Scheler defines love as a spiritual movement toward the highest possible value of the loved person, a spiritual act in which this highest value is apprehended. Love perceives the value potentialities in the beloved person. Love sees person the way God meant him. It reveals to us the valuational image of a human being. What love sees is therefore no more no less than this "possibility" of a human being.

Love helps the beloved to become as the lover sees him. For the loved one wants to be worthier of the lover, a worthier recipient of such love, by growing to be more like the lover's image, and so he becomes more and more the image of what God conceived and wanted him to be.

For the lover the sexual act is the physical expression of a psycho-spiritual union.

Kant has remarked that man wants to be happy, but that what he ought to want is to be worthy of happiness.

If man can find and fulfill a meaning in his life he becomes happy but also able and capable of coping with suffering. If he can see a meaning he is even prepared to give his life. On the other hand, if he cannot see a meaning he is equally inclined to take his life even in the midst, and in spite of all the welfare and affluence surrounding him.

Happiness is not only the result of fulfilling a meaning but also more generally the unintended side effect of self-transcendence It therefore cannot be pursued but rather must ensue. The more one aims at it the more one misses the aim.

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