Logotherapy is the healing approach created by Dr. Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), psychiatrist, neurologist, holocaust survivor and author of the bestseller Man’s Search for Meaning
Logotherapy is based on three principles:
- Freedom of Will: Human beings are not determined but self-determining
- Will to Meaning: Human beings are motivated by higher values
- Meaning of life: Life has meaning independent of our perception of it
Logotherapy is used effectively in the treatment of depression, addictions, illness and a wide variety of therapeutic issues, and it is particularly helpful for people who have lost their sense of meaning and purpose. Logos is the Greek word for ‘meaning’. Hence, Logotherapy is healing through meaning. It is not what happens to you in life that determines your quality of life; it is your attitude towards what happens that makes the difference.
Perspective makes all the difference. Logotherapy changes the way you view yourself, it changes the way you view life and it changes the way you relate to people and things.
How does Logotherapy change the way you view yourself?
It helps you to see yourself from an outside perspective. This is helpful in two ways. First of all, when you are seeing yourself from an outside perspective, you can look dispassionately at what you are doing and decide, ‘Who do I want to be?’ And then you are not locked into your behavior. You can move and change and BE who you want to be.
In addition, when your focus is on meaning and not on yourself, then you find a ‘why’ to live for, something that matters to you more than the anxiety that is driving your behavior. This provides a strong and powerful motivation to change your behavior for the sake of someone or something you care about.
How does logotherapy change the way you view life?
Everything is seen in a meaningful context. So for example, the context of a prisoner in a concentration camp giving away a piece of bread to someone who was starving to death, has a meaning in the context of what is happening that it would not have if someone was living a life of luxury gives someone a slice of bread. Someone who is in recovery from addiction who says ‘No thank you’ to a glass of fine wine has meaning in the context that it would not have for someone who was never addicted. In the first case it shows incredible selflessness. In the second case it shows incredible courage. Selflessness and courage are examples of what is important. You learn to focus on the important things.
When you view life this way, problems become more than ‘something to solve.’ Problems and challenges are the raw material with which to make positive change. Someone reflecting on her or his problem says ‘I never saw it that way before.’ And then the same problem that loomed large before now turns into something that serves them.
How does logotherapy change how you relate to people and things?
You are always in a dialogue. You understand that you are here for a reason, that everything you do matters. Therefore you are responsible to someone or something. In fact, you are responsible before your image of who you really should be. Viewed this way, you are never a detached observer. You are an intrinsic part of the world and you have a unique and irreplaceable role to play in the big picture of things.