What motivates people the most? They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want their being-in-the-world to be for a purpose. Everyone wants to feel their life means something. You’re not like a gnat on the wall. You belong here. The world needs you in it and is missing a vital piece without you. Without this we feel empty inside. We need this awareness like we need air to breathe. Everyone has different challenges and different needs but one thing everyone needs is to fill their emptiness. But to have a purpose there has to be something you care about. You have to have an instinctual sense for what you most deeply want. In today’s society people have lost their sense of direction. Losing your healthy instincts amounts to a loss of your humanity because in the absence of healthy instincts telling you what matters to you, you will flock to gurus who will tell you what to do or become a conformist who unblinkingly parrots the party line. Frankl calls this phenomenon a frustrated will-to-meaning. Consider how frustrated you get when your plans get thwarted. Well, it’s bad enough when you weren’t able to do what you wanted to do. Not knowing what you most fundamentally want is even worse. Because then you don’t care about anything. You lose hope. Your entire existence is called into question. You don’t know what in the world you’re here for and you lose your will to live. Frankl coined the term “Existential Vacuum” to describe what happens as a result a frustrated will to meaning. Your existence feels empty. You don’t know what you’re living for. The existential vacuum manifests itself in various forms, like suicidal ideation, substance abuse and violence or boredom, pleasure-seeking and power-hungry behavior. Nothing matters anyway so why not? But they are all futile attempts to fill the hole in your heart. But the hole just gets deeper. The existential vacuum cuts through socio-economic barriers. There are those who “have everything” but don’t have any sense of what they’re living for and there are those who have been disillusioned by life and lack of direction and purpose. Therapy is very eclectic these days. Therapists and clients alike run after every new theory because maybe this is another tool and another technique and another approach that can help me with my problem or help me to better help others. Logotherapy isn’t “just” another approach. I’m not saying that because I think it’s all you need or because I’m being arrogant about it. I’m saying it because logotherapy deals with the guts of what it means to be human. It gets down to the basics. Disregarding logotherapy is like going to the doctor for strep throat and then as you’re walking out the door you say, “Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I’m having trouble breathing.” You might try dulling your senses with tranquilizers or antidepressants or comfort food but drugs and other temporary fixes won’t give you something to live for. The aim of logotherapy is to regain one’s will and one’s humanity. By filling the existential hole their life is whole again. Otherwise they just relapse back into their problems. If other therapies would say, “We know there’s an existential vacuum. We are doing something about it” then we wouldn’t need logotherapy. But they don’t. So it makes perfect sense to me when Frankl quotes Magna B. Arnold who said, “Every therapy must in some way, no matter how restricted, also be logotherapy.”
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