Logotherapists are not the only people who are talking about how to live a meaningful life. Here is one example.
Here is an example of the meaning of values based on ACT. Questioning the helpfulness of your thoughts and answering whether you are living according to your values are among its many useful ideas.
Yet, no matter how much its techniques and principles have been borrowed and modified by other modalities, logotherapy has something to offer that remains unique.
In logotherapy, a) the frame of reference for defining values is not the self. Rather, values are objective truths and b) the goal in therapy is not self-actualization but rather actualization of values
In logotherapy, the frame of reference for defining values is not the self. Values are objective truths.
Is value a ‘personal preference?’ If so, it follows that nothing is objectively valuable. In contrast, if values have objective truth, this implies that values are important even if we are not aware that they exist.
Our perspective on values makes a huge therapeutic difference. Matters of personal taste are framed in terms of needs and benefits; objective truth overrides personal preference. As a result people will be willing to sacrifice and people will find strengths they did not know they had when they think there is something more important than their comfort.
Thus, to contrast logotherapy with the psychoanalytic concept of homeostasis, Frankl pointed out that stronger than the interest in maintaining equilibrium is the human motivation for values. “I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my “defense mechanisms,” nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my “reaction formations.” Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values!” (Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 121)
The goal in logotherapy is not self-actualization but rather actualization of values
Frankl compares self-actualization to happiness. Aim for it, and you’ll miss. Self-actualization, like happiness, is not the goal but the result of doing something meaningful. (See The Will to Meaning, 1988, p. 38 and Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 154) Moreover, the more you forget yourself, the more you actualize yourself. By giving yourself over to a cause or by loving another human being you become fully human. (See Man’s Search for Meaning, 1984, p. 133) In short, logotherapists are in the business of helping people to focus on higher ideals. How is this helpful to the sufferer?
Whatever supports the human spirit is therapeutically effective.
Logotherapy utilizes what is human in us. Human beings are hardwired for altruism. We naturally long for values, and fulfilling values feels fulfilling. The individual…wants to create values (The Will to Meaning, p. 38) Therefore, we can help those who are suffering by turning their attention away from themselves and on to something they care for enough to want to do it for its own sake, not for any personal gain. (See Meaningful Living, Lukas, p. 21 and Psychotherapy and Existentialism, p. 40, The Doctor and the Soul, 1983, p. xvi and The Will to Meaning, 1988, p. 33)
A reciprocal relationship exists between our longing for meaning and the world we live in. Each person has a space he or she is meant to fill. I can discover meaning in the world because I am an intrinsic part of the world I am in. I am part of something greater than just my small self.
Thus Frankl writes: It is my conviction that man should not, indeed cannot, struggle for identity in a direct way; he rather finds identity to the extent to which he commits himself to something beyond himself, to a cause greater than himself. (Psychotherapy and Existentialism, p. 9) (See also Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 121 and p.133)
Your uniqueness makes you responsible
To describe uniqueness, Frankl uses the metaphor of a mosaic. Just as one piece of stone shows its value by its placement in the mosaic, so each individual person finds his or her value and identity within the framework of community. Likewise, community is incomplete when it does not value the individuals in it.
Thus Frankl distinguishes between the ‘mass’ and community. The mass does not tolerate individuality…The meaning of individuality is submerged in the mass (while in the community it emerges)…to be equals to be different.” …For the uniqueness of every individual human being means that he is different from all other human beings.…By escape into the mass, man loses his most intrinsic quality: responsibility…True community is in essence the community of responsible persons; mere mass is the sum of depersonalized entities.“ (The Doctor and the Soul, Frankl, pp. 70-73)
Why, by escape into the mass, does man lose his most intrinsic quality of responsibility?
Now consider Frankl’s statement about the mass and about living and dying for the sake of values in light of John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine” – ‘Nothing to live or die for…’ To the liberal mind, we only need erase borders and all will be well with the world. This is an illusion. The ideology that threatens to destroy the world today is not a result of values that are important enough to live or die for. Values are worth defending! But there is a world of difference between the desire to conquer the world and the desire to create a world that celebrates uniqueness.
‘To be’ is ‘to be different.’ Therefore ‘to be’ is to be responsible for filling your unique space in the world.
Man loses his responsibility when he no longer recognizes the essential place and contribution of each individual and each nation to the whole of the mosaic.