How to Survive Existential Crises: Logotherapy in a Nutshell

by Sean Aubin at Velocity, WAT

An explanation of the concept of logotherapy from Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning“. In particular, how there are three ways to find meaning in life:

  1. Working towards (not completing) a great work.
  2. Loving someone else.
  3. Finding meaning in unavoidable suffering

Notice how there’s no mention of explicitly pursuing happiness or peace. To Viktor, those things were side effects.

The first two are pretty basic, but the last one requires some explanation.

Life is filled with (often cruel) randomness. Consequently, it’s not uncommon to find yourself in an unpleasant and inescapable state. Maybe you have cancer, maybe you just got kicked out of school or maybe you’re jewish and you just got put in a concentration camp. Viktor maintained that even in these states, with hard work, you could still find meaning and a reason to continue on.

In the book, Viktor explains that as long as action or meaning can be found in this suffering, it becomes manageable and instead of being omnipresent and all-consuming, it becomes an understandable burden to learn and grow from.

He has applied this concept to victims of rape, sufferers of grief and those with suicidal tendencies.

Published by

Seanny123

Master's student at the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience.

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