Viktor Frankl

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Bruno Bettelheim (review date Autumn 1959)

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SOURCE: "A Note on the Concentration Camps," in Chicago Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, Autumn, 1959, pp. 113-14.

[Bettelheim was an Austrian-born American psychologist, psychoanalyst, and educator whose works include A Good Enough Parent: A Book on Child Rearing (1987). In the following review of From Death-Camp to Existentialism, he examines the relationship between Frankl's concentration camp experiences and the development of logotherapy.]

This small book [From Death-Camp to Existentialism] consists of two parts, quite unequal in size. In the first 90 pages the author presents personal reactions to his experiences in German concentration camps. This is followed by barely 14 pages of sketchy comment on the particular type of existential psychoanalysis he practices, which he calls logotherapy. Both subjects—the concentration camp and existential psychoanalysis—have been dealt with much more adequately by other authors. The merit of this volume lies in the important connection he establishes between these two seemingly disconnected phenomena. Existentialism, in line with the author's profession (he is professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna), is discussed mainly in terms of its influence on psychotherapy.

That the impact of the concentration camp can, as the author puts it, "strike out" the prisoner's "whole former life" is the experience that is crucial for understanding the connection between the camps and existential philosophy. For those who permitted themselves to respond to the experience rather than deny it, it soon transcended their own personal lives and led to the realization that the verities they had lived by up to that shock experience of "nothingness" were false gods. Whatever the person's calling had been, that is where the realization struck home most forcefully. Those active in politics, and they formed the majority of early inmates, were suddenly forced to realize that the principles they had lived by and the goals they had lived for—not just the tenets of their particular party—were simply not applicable to this experience or to this political setting. In the same way, the sociologist or psychologist had to realize that suddenly the basic principles and categories of his vocation no longer applied. Like so many physicians who did not function as such in the camps, Dr. Frankl had to face this in his own field. As he puts it briefly, "the medical men among us learned first of all: Textbooks tell lies!" Among other things, he refers here to the fact that prisoners remained free of illnesses which physicians had expected camp conditions to bring on; also that persons who for years had suffered from what might be called psychosomatic diseases, or from conditions like insomnia, were suddenly free of them. "For days," he notes, "we were unable to wash and yet the sores and abrasions on hands which were dirty from work in the soil did not suppurate."

In the concentration camps the prisoners were at the mercy of a ruthless environment with virtually no power to influence it. On the other hand, they had to make decisions every moment, and each decision, even on matters that in the outside world would have made little or no difference, could and did mean life or death in the camps. Those prisoners who came to understand the nature of the conditions they lived under, also came to realize what they had not perceived before: that they still retained the last, if not the greatest, of the human freedoms: to choose their own attitude in any given circumstance. Those who understood this fully came to know that this, and only this, formed the crucial difference between retaining one's humanity (and with...

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it often life itself) and death as a human being (or physical death): Whether one retained the freedom to choose autonomously one's attitude to extreme conditions even when they were totally beyond one's ability to influence them.

This then, constitutes in the thinking of the author, the link between his very sketchily and impressionistically described experience in the concentration camp, and his belief that a new type of psychotherapy is needed to complement psychoanalysis. Because, according to the author, psychoanalysis can free man of his crippling inhibitions, but fails to guide him toward accepting the steady search for meaning as the true essence of man's life. This, he claims, his logotherapy helps man to accept.

Whether one was free of neurotic inhibitions or compulsions made little difference when imprisoned in the camp; but whether one was able to continue, even under such extreme circumstances, the search for the personal meaning of one's life, this was more important than even bread and water. Food and drink were always totally insufficient and the prisoners knew utter deprivation; they could be borne successfully only through commitment to a search for meaning even in this extreme situation.

E. K. Ledermann (review date Autumn 1959)

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SOURCE: A review of Das Menschenbild der Seelenheilkunde, in The International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Vol. V, No. 2, pp. 158-59.

[Ledermann, a German-born medical doctor who specializes in homeopathic medicine, is the author of Existential Neurosis (1972). In the following excerpt from a favorable review of Das Menschenbild der Seelenheilkunde, he examines Frankl's assertion that modern psychologism must recognize a spiritual dimension in human life.]

"A Criticism of Dynamic Psychologism" is the sub-title of this book [Das Menschenbild der Seelenheilkunde]. "—ism" stands for a weltanschauung. Psychology is a science and uses certain concepts which result from a certain theory. All science is tentative, as one theory is replaced by another in the course of time. "—isms" are dogmatic. When they are introduced into the realm of science they lead to hypostatization, i.e. a scientific concept is made into an all-embracing entity. In the case of psychologism man becomes the result of his instinctual or social or archetypal forces. These are conceived as driving forces. As a result his spiritual nature is ignored. Frankl called it a spiritual dimension. Values disappeared as true and independent realities, the meaning of life is lost. The result is spiritual frustration, which Frankl has recognized as the outstanding modern form of neurosis.

I agree with this criticism of modern medicine. Frankl has had the courage to show up clearly the fallacy of psychologism which threatens to undermine the spiritual aspect of human existence. I differ from Frankl in his denial of drives or instincts in man … [He] says they are only "abstractions", quoting Wilhelm Keller. Concepts are necessary to build up science, and of course they are, and cannot be anything else but, abstractions. The mistake of psychologism is to ignore the limitations of the science of psychology.

Robert Hassenger (review date Autumn 1960)

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SOURCE: A review of From Death-Camp to Existentialism, in Thought, Vol. XXXV, No. 138, Autumn, 1960, pp. 454-56.

[In the following review of From Death-Camp to Existentialism, Hassenger focuses on Frankl's assertion that logotherapy is a necessary supplement to current psychoanalysis.]

Dr. Frankl, of the Medical Faculty, University of Vienna, has penned a work which might well be required reading for anyone who would understand the metaphysical malady of our time. This brief yet gripping account of the author's three years in concentration camps [From Death-Camp to Existentialism] serves as a background against which he outlines the basic concepts of the "third Viennese school of psychotherapy," founded to contribute toward the completion of psycho-therapy's picture of man. He terms his approach "logotherapy."

It is Dr. Frankl's contention that each age is characterized by a particular frustration, which is the primary social factor in the etiology of neuroses. Today "existential frustration" plays the chief role, "existential" meaning, in this context, "anything pertaining to man's quest for a meaning to his existence." Contemporary man is crippled by a sense of the meaninglessness of life, leaving an "existential vacuum" within him. This is manifested primarily by the phenomenon of boredom, which in our day sends more people to the psychiatrist than Freud's "libido" or Adler's "will-to-power" (the "first" and "second" Viennese schools of psychotherapy, respectively.) This horror vacui can lead to a psychic illness, termed by Dr. Frankl a "noogenic neurosis," emphasizing its spiritual root. Only a therapy which pursues man into the noetic, spiritual dimension can illuminate the possibilities of meaning. And it is here that logotherapy attempts to go beyond the other schools of existential analysis (as the Daseinsanalyse of Binswanger), stopping not with the illumination of being, but seeking rather to reorient the patient toward meaning. The author's personal experiences in the death camps have served to convince him that only the knowledge of a life task, only a "will-to-meaning," enables one to survive in these "limit situations" (Jaspers' Grenzsituationen). Dr. Frankl is fond of echoing Nietzsche's words: "He who has a why to live for, can bear almost any how."

But this must not be taken to mean that the logotherapist imposes his personal values on the patient. Rather, he strives to shore up the patient's sense of autonomy, not giving him a life meaning, but enabling him to find his own personal life task, by opening up the full range of possibilities. True to his existential élan, Dr. Frankl insists that life's meaning includes the meaning of suffering and death. Here logotherapy comes to grips with the current attitude which sloughs off suffering and denigrates death. Up to the last moment of life, he states, suffering offers the opportunity for the fulfillment of meaning and the realization of value. It is not for man to question the meaning of his life; instead "it is he who is questioned by life; it is he who has to answer, by answering for life. His role is to respond—to be responsible." The psychotherapist cannot, of course, dictate that to which the patient is to be responsible. Each individual must decide whether he will be accountable to his fellows, his conscience, or to God.

Dr. Frankl rails against what he terms "homunculism," a sort of nihilism which misinterprets man as a mere product, whose psychic life is to be explored solely by method and technique. He pleads for a humanism which will look behind the disease to rediscover the genuinely human, the Homo humanus. This is a rightful criticism of the reductionist theories, which say to man, "you are nothing but …," explaining him from one point of view. And yet a note of caution must be injected here. Dr. Frankl seems to be open to the charge that he protests too strongly the more empirical approaches to the psyche. Granted such an accusation runs the risk of setting up dogmatic and a priori criteria to which all knowledge is supposed to conform: strictly ready-made notions of what constitutes valid knowledge seem to border on Platonism. Certainly extreme caution must be exercised lest the dichotomy be accepted: either science, which is knowledge, or mythology, which is nonsense. The assumption that a theory must be either science or mythology is an overt or cryptopositivism. And yet without some grounding in the empirical, a psychotherapy is in danger of transgressing its proper limits, to become the vehicle for considerable gratuitous and unsophisticated philosophizing.

Logotherapy is intended as a supplement rather than a substitute for the more traditional forms of psychotherapy. The urgency of Dr. Frankl's message for mid-twentieth-century man cannot easily be dismissed. Logotherapy, the third Viennese school, can undoubtedly help fill in the picture of the whole man, of man in all his dimensions, including the spiritual. But only if it resists the tendency to construct a Weltanschauung, which has been the penchant of its predecessors.

Harry A. Savitz (review date April 1961)

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SOURCE: A review of From Death-Camp to Existentialism, in Jewish Social Studies, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, April, 1961, pp. 120-21.

[In the following positive review of From Death-Camp to Existentialism, Savitz focuses on Frankl's concentration camp experiences and discusses the psychological factors that enabled some people to survive such horrors.]

This small book [From Death-Camp to Existentialism] brings to focus many shocking scenes of human tragedy and at the same time it reveals a number of keen psychological observations worthy of serious contemplation. In these pages we hear the authentic, restrained voice of a victim of a Nazi concentration camp—a man-made hell. The author is professor of neurology and psychiatry on the medical faculty of the University of Vienna. His voice and language are restrained—often too restrained, for he attempts the difficult task of giving an unbiased picture. Dr. Frankl himself is the victim. He is the subject and the object of many observations, and how can one psychologically obtain complete detachment under such circumstances? Furthermore, in describing horrors without the heat of emotion, the author deprives himself of sufficient light to see and evaluate them clearly. Nor does he attempt to narrate these bestial brutalities and the inhumanities of man to man, but rather he attempts to reveal the inner self, the subjective experience of a psychiatrist who survived them.

Frankl was a prisoner in Auschwitz for three years. He lived in a landscape surrounded by electrified barbed wires. Men were brought in daily in carload lots, like cattle. Not only were they deprived of their belongings but they were stripped of all of their human and personal traits. They lost all feelings, were de-humanized and depersonalized. No ethical or moral considerations occupied the prisoner's mind; his only aim and goal was to survive at all costs. Stripped of all human values, helpless and miserable, the prisoner was neither alive nor dead.

What were the vital mental forces that kept the prisoners alive and enabled them to survive in spite of all the miseries, and even prevented a number of them from committing suicide? The author gives some psychological clues to this human riddle. First, there was what is known as the "delusion of the reprieve." The condemned man, immediately before execution, gets the illusion that he may yet be reprieved at the very last moment. The fortunate were condemned to die immediately, in the gas chamber or crematorium. The survivors, who were a few hundred yards away, saw the chimneys send up a column of smoke to the sky; yet they clung to shreds of hope. Perhaps relief will soon come. This is a latent defense mechanism in the soul of many hopeless human being.

Another defense mechanism is "cold curiosity," a kind of objectivity in the midst of the most miserable circumstances. As an example, the author tells of standing in the open air in the chill of autumn, stark naked, still wet from a shower, trembling yet mentally occupied with curiosity, "What will happen?" This was probably a wish to die peacefully, but when the worst did not happen, a kind of relief was felt.

The prisoner's loss of fear of death, which is a kind of emotional death, is still another form of defense in the process of survival. The horrible environment of the camp gradually erased every trace of human emotion. The longing for home, physical weakness, the loathsome work that each one was assigned to do, blunted all human feelings. Suffering became a daily routine; they saw men dying every day, yet this sight did not make the slightest impression. This, too, was a kind of protective wall that helped some to survive.

Another factor was concern for inner spiritual values. Notwithstanding "cultural hibernation," the inmates ceaselessly discussed politics and religion. It is an interesting phenomenon that more sensitive, though often feeble-bodied, persons were better able to survive than were many of the more physically robust. (We have also observed this phenomenon in institutions for senior citizens. The more learned and cultured among them retain their mental faculties to the end, unlike the others.) Dr. Frankl gives a fine example of this—if a person was able to envisage a loved one far away, he could, as it were, escape from his immediate environment. Here one learns the power of love and its value in human survival.

Humor is also a mental device with survival value in critical situations threatening life itself. It is surprising that in the concentration camp, in a climate of human tragedy, inmates would think of some humorous episode that would lift them above their miserable environment. They would imagine some acquired uncouth mannerisms springing up in the future in the most respectable places. This would bring a smile or a laugh to the poor victims, and it acted, even though just for a moment, as an anaesthetic and helped them to forget their misery.

Looking forward to the future proved to be an aid to survival. In many cases it prevented suicide. In the words of Nietzsche, "he who has a 'why' to live for, can bear almost any 'how.'" By such reasoning prisoners found meaning or purpose for their suffering. Evil appeared necessary—as some Jewish sources have it—for without it there can be no good.

This, finally, brings the author to his basic concept of logotherapy. Whereas Freud introduced the pleasure principle as the motivating force in human activity, and Adler the "will to power," Frankl introduces a third principle. He states that man is dominated by the "will to meaning." That is, each person has a mission in life, which he must discover for himself, and this is the force that gives meaning to his existence and helps him in the struggle for survival. When this "will to meaning" remains unfulfilled, there develops in man "existential frustration." By "existential" the author describes man's quest for a meaning of his existence; by "frustration," the feeling of meaninglessness of life. According to Dr. Frankl, this "existential" vacuum is a source of neuroses, just as is sexual frustration in Freudian psychology, or what Adler terms the "inferiority feeling."

The book has much to offer from a literary, psychological, and philosophical point of view. I recommend it very highly to lay and professional readers alike, although one may differ with some of its conclusions concerning the followers of the Nazi regime. Thus the author seems to be too forgiving toward the camp guards. Granted that some of them were sadists in the purest clinical sense and that there is good and evil in every race and in every nation. However, I feel this is an oversimplification. The brutalities of the Nazi era clearly demonstrate that blind allegiance to a psychopathic personality despiritualizes his followers and turns them into criminal and beastly hordes. Modern civilization is as frail as a thin layer of ice over a river which cracks under the boots that step over it.

Stanley J. Rowland, Jr. (essay date 6 June 1962)

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SOURCE: "Viktor Frankl and the Will to Meaning," in The Christian Century, Vol. LXXIX, No. 23, June 6, 1962, pp. 722, 724.

[Rowland is an American reporter, editor, and author of Hurt and Healing (1969). In the following essay, he examines Frankl's notion of the "will to meaning" as an essential supplementary element in modern depth psychology.]

Two elderly psychiatrists sat together at the round dining table opposite a young psychiatrist and a Methodist chaplain in his middle years. Between the two pairs sat two newsmen, Murray Ilson of the New York Times and myself. The subject was the meaning of human life, and the place of this question in psychiatry.

"The question has no place in psychiatry," one of the older psychiatrists said flatly. "It is a philosophical question." He nodded toward the head table in the ballroom, indicating the man who was to speak: Viktor E. Frankl of Vienna. Dr. Frankl has pioneered the psychiatric approach known as logotherapy, which stresses man's "will to meaning"; as a prisoner in a Nazi death camp during World War II he was able to test his existential psychiatry existentially. On this occasion he was about to address the annual meeting of the Academy of Religion and Mental Health.

"What Frankl says is very inspiring," the older psychiatrist continued. "It reminds me somewhat of an address that Paul Tillich gave at one of our meetings. We psychiatrists could scarcely understand him—he was talking on another level—though he was quite inspiring also. But these questions of meaning and purpose in life have no part in psychiatry."

At this point I challenged him: "I'm not trying to tell you about your profession. I take a flat pragmatic approach. If something is necessary for the healing—for the rejuvenation—of a person, then it must be included by the healer. I don't care what label it wears. In my own experience psychotherapy does a fine job of removing blocks, like surgery does in removing tumors. But such removal also increases the inner vacuum. And that vacuum has to be filled, and filled with the right things, or the result will be dependency and weakness. For instance, if the patient doesn't actualize his drive to love, then it will come back to him like a boomerang, in the form of anxiety—as an anxious desire to be loved. The same applies to actualizing faith and meaning. You or the clergy can put these in any category you like. But they are deep human needs, and they've got to be filled or the counselee is in trouble."

"I agree with you," the young psychiatrist said, leaning forward in his chair. "I've become a very theological psychiatrist. I've had to, in order to heal people."

"No," said the older psychiatrist. "Such concepts have no place in psychiatry."

"Yes," said the younger psychiatrist. "You've got to use the concepts that work."

For a few minutes the two men tried to discuss the issue. But the older doctor spoke in terms of the function of different brain segments in neuroses, while the other spoke about the need to love and the energy of being. Quickly it became apparent that they could scarcely discuss the issue at all, so different were their views of human nature and their categories.

"All this is great material for a sermon," the clergyman commented, and inquired further into the psychiatric mechanisms involved in redemption. The younger psychiatrist could talk with him from a professional standpoint and I could converse on the basis of experience. The other two psychiatrists could not really discuss the issue. The table conversation divided in half.

This development seemed to symbolize the academy's annual meeting fairly well. The much touted chasm between religion and psychiatry did not seem appreciable. Instead, the major chasm seemed to be between those who took a methodological and mechanistic approach and those who took an existential approach, with special emphasis on the question of life's meaning. On this basis, dealing with the practical question of what a person needs to be whole and rejuvenated, clergy and psychiatrists were able to talk fruitfully. A number of participants agreed with a leading psychiatrist who declared: "Dr. Frankl's address was very interesting and inspiring. But it doesn't help us with the people at state hospital." Dr. Frankl's approach received support, however, from a number of other leaders in the field of psychotherapy—Rollo May, for one.

Dr. Frankl called for a new "height psychology," utilizing man's "will to meaning," to supplement traditional depth psychology. He assailed the "pandeterminism which is so pervasive in psychology"; the view that the patient's actions are determined, he said, "plays into the hands of the patient's fatalism, thus reinforcing the latter's neurosis." He supported his discussion with examples of how logotherapy has effected cures, even in some apparently hopeless cases, by mobilizing the patient's will to meaning and capacity for free choice.

Stressing the importance of this view in modern psychiatry, he asserted: "Ever more frequently psychoanalysts report that they are confronted with a new type of neurosis characterized by loss of interest and by lack of initiative. They complain that in such cases conventional psychoanalysis is not effective." In a survey made at the University of Vienna where he teaches he found that 40 per cent of the European students were afflicted with this "existential vacuum," compared with 81 per cent of the American students. "From these percentages we must not draw the conclusion that the existential vacuum is predominantly an American disease, but rather that it is apparently a concomitant of industrialization." He did not, however, explain why the problem of unmeaning was less common among students from highly industrialized countries in Europe.

Dr. Frankl went on to say that "rather than being a 'secondary rationalization' of instinctual drives, the striving to find a meaning in life is a primary motivational force in man." He could not agree, he asserted, with the Freudian thinking that gives primacy to the desire for pleasure. "Logotherapy regards the will to pleasure as a secondary matter," he said during a panel discussion. "Pleasure comes largely as a by-product, not as a result of direct striving—which tends to increase anxiety. This is typically the case in sexual neuroses. We find a forced striving for erection or orgasm, which simply increases the anxiety syndrome. The neurosis feeds on itself."

Picking up this point in conversation with Dr. Frankl, I asked him whether "will to meaning" is the proper term to describe a sound approach to the sexual: "Isn't there also a will to love, which may be sexually directed, and a will to have faith in something?" He agreed, though he gave centrality to the will to meaning. I also challenged his assertion that immortal life would deprive the present of its meaning and significance. "Some people," I suggested, "feel that death deprives life of its meaning. On the other hand, my belief in the eternal life of personal being throws me back completely on the present moment."

"I would put it more strongly than that," the young psychiatrist commented regarding the same suggestion in another context. "When a patient realizes a belief in personal immortality, it creates something like a state of emergency in the present. If 'now' goes on forever, then the only time they have is right now."

Dr. Frankl affably conceded the point but insisted that "if immortal life does not deprive the present of meaning, then neither does death." I quite readily agreed.

This was the kind of conversation one found repeatedly in the corridors of the Biltmore hotel at the academy's annual meeting. And despite the various objections to Dr. Frankl's emphasis, the stress on life's meaning seemed to provide the major note of the conference.

In a panel dealing with the psychological aspects of confrontation with the prospect of mass death, one psychiatrist took a technical approach in discussing the common reactions of apathy, anxiety and escapism. But he urged that Americans can cope with the problem realistically only if they recover a strong awareness of the meaning and values to be found in life.

Viktor E. Frankl (essay date 22 April 1964)

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SOURCE: "The Will to Meaning," in The Christian Century, Vol. LXXXI, No. 17, April 22, 1964, pp. 515-17.

[In the following essay, Frankl explains the "will to meaning," focusing on self-actualization, personal responsibility, and the role of values in life.]

Central to my psychiatric approach known as logotherapy is the principle of the will to meaning. I counterpose it both to the pleasure principle, which is so pervasive in psychoanalytic motivational theories, and the will to power, the concept which plays such a decisive role in Adlerian psychology. The will to pleasure is a self-defeating principle inasmuch as the more a person really sets out to strive for pleasure the less likely he is to gain it. For pleasure is a by-product or side effect of the fulfillment of our strivings, and it is contravened to the extent that it is made a goal. The more a person directly aims at pleasure, the more he misses it. In my opinion this mechanism underlies most cases of sexual neurosis. Accordingly, a logotherapeutic technique based on this theory of the self-thwarting character of pleasure intention yields remarkable short-term results. Even the psychodynamically oriented therapists on my staff have come to acknowledge the value of logotherapy, and one such staff member has used this technique exclusively in treating sexually neurotic patients.

In the final analysis both the will to pleasure and the will to power are derivatives of the will to meaning. Pleasure is an effect of meaning fulfillment; power is a means to an end. A degree of power—economic power, for instance—is generally a prerequisite of meaning fulfillment. But while the will to pleasure mistakes the effect for the end, the will to power mistakes the means to an end for the end itself.

We are not really justified, however, in speaking of a will to pleasure or power in connection with psychodynamically oriented schools of thought, since they assume that man pursues behavior goals unwillingly and unwittingly and that his conscious motivations are not his actual motivations. Thus Erich Fromm in Beyond the Chains of Illusion speaks of "the motivating forces which make man act in certain ways, the drives which propel him to strive in certain directions." But to me it is inconceivable that man can really be driven to strivings; either he strives or he is driven. To ignore this difference, to sacrifice one phenomenon to another, is a procedure unworthy of a scientist; to do so is to allow one's adherence to hypotheses to blind one to facts.

Freud and his epigones have taught us always to see something behind or beneath human volitions: unconscious motivations, underlying dynamics. Freud never took a human phenomenon at face value; as Gordon W. Allport states in Personality and Social Encounter, "Freud was a specialist in precisely those motives that cannot be taken at their face value." But are there no motives at all which should be taken at face value? Such an assumption is comparable to the attitude of the man who, on being shown a stork, said, "I thought the stork didn't exist!" Does the fact that the stork has been misused to hide the facts of life from children in any way deny that bird's reality?

According to Freud, the reality principle is an extension of the pleasure principle and merely serves its purposes. But one could just as well say that the pleasure principle itself is an extension of the homeostasis principle and serves its purposes. Ultimately the psychodynamic approach views man as a being basically concerned with maintaining or restoring his inner equilibrium and seeking to do so by gratifying his drives and satisfying his instincts. Even Jungian psychology essentially interprets human motivation thus; the archetypes of Jungian thought are also "mythical beings" (as Freud called the instincts). Both Freud and Jung view man as bent on getting rid of tensions, be they aroused by drives and instincts clamoring for gratification (Freud) or by archetypes urging their materialization (Jung). In either case, reality, the world of beings and meanings, is reduced to instrumentalities for getting rid of unpleasant stimuli. What has been eliminated in this view of man is the fundamental fact that man is a being who encounters other beings, who also reaches out for meanings to fulfill.

This is why I speak of a will to meaning rather than a need for or a drive toward meaning. If man were really driven to meaning he would embark on meaning fulfillment solely to rid himself of this drive in order that homeostasis might be restored; at the same time he would no longer be really concerned with meaning but rather with his own equilibrium and thus with himself.

Nor is the concept of self-actualization or self-realization a sufficient ground for a motivational theory. Self-actualization is another phenomenon which can be realized only as a side effect and which is thwarted precisely to the extent that it is made a matter of direct intention. Self-actualization is of course a desideratum. But man can actualize himself only insofar as he fulfills meaning, in which case self-actualization occurs by itself—automatically, as it were. Like pleasure, self-actualization is contravened when deliberately sought after or made an end in itself.

While lecturing at Melbourne University some years ago I was given a boomerang as a souvenir. In contemplating this gift I concluded that in a sense it symbolized human existence. One generally assumes that a boomerang returns to the thrower; actually it returns only when the thrower has missed his target. Similarly, man returns to himself, to being concerned with his self, only after he has missed his mission, only after he has failed to find meaning in life.

In his doctoral dissertation Ernest Keen, one of my assistants during a teaching period at Harvard's summer session, seeks to demonstrate that the shortcomings of Freudian psychoanalysis are compensated for by Heinz Hartmann's ego psychology, and the deficiencies of ego psychology in turn by Erikson's identity concept. Keen goes on to contend, however, that despite these correctives there is still a missing link in psychotherapy, and that this link is supplied by logotherapy. It is my conviction that man should not, indeed cannot, struggle for identity in a direct way; rather, he finds identity to the extent to which he commits himself to something beyond himself, to a cause greater than himself. No one has put it as cogently as has Karl Jaspers: What man is he ultimately becomes through the cause which he has made his own.

Rolf von Eckartsberg, also a Harvard assistant of mine, has shown the insufficiency of the role-playing concept by pointing out that it avoids the very problem prompting it—that of choice and value. For the question remains: Which role to adopt, which cause to advocate? The same criticism holds for those who insist that man's primary intention and ultimate goal are to develop his potentialities. One recalls the example of Socrates, who confessed that he had within himself the potentiality to become a criminal but nevertheless decided to turn away from such a potentiality.

What is behind all these arguments that man should try to live out his inner potentialities or—as it is sometimes put—to "express himself"? The hidden motive behind such notions is, I believe, to lessen the tension aroused by the gap between what a man is and what he ought to become, between the actual state of affairs and that which he should help secure, between existence and essence, or being and meaning. To say that man need not worry about ideals and values since they are nothing but "self-expressions" and that he should therefore simply embark on the actualization of his own potentialities is to say that he need not reach out for meaning to fulfill or values to realize, that everything is all right as it is. Pindar's injunction, "Become what you are," is thus deprived of its imperative quality and transmuted into an indicative statement, namely, that man has all along been what he should become and hence need not reach for the stars to bring them down to earth, since the earth is itself a star!

The fact remains, however, that the tension between being and meaning is ineradicable in man, is inherent in his humanness. And that is why it is indispensable for mental well-being. Having started from man's meaning orientation, i.e., his will to meaning, we have now arrived at another problem—his meaning confrontation. The first issue refers to what man basically is: oriented toward meaning; the second refers to what he should be: confronted with meaning.

To confront man with values which are interpreted merely as self-expression will not do. Still less valid is the approach which would have him see in values "nothing but defense mechanisms, reaction formations or rationalizations of his instinctual drives"—to use the definition of two outstanding psychoanalytically oriented therapists. Personally I would not be willing to live for the sake of my defense mechanisms, much less to die for the sake of my reaction formations.

To treat a patient in terms of psychodynamic ideas may very well serve the purpose of what I call existential rationalization. If a person is taught that his concern about ultimate meaning is no more than, say, a way of coming to terms with his early childhood Oedipal situation, then his concern can be analyzed away, along with the existential tension aroused by it. The approach of logotherapy is altogether different. Logotherapy does not spare a patient confrontation with the specific meaning which he must act on—and which the therapist should help him find. In his book Logotherapy and the Christian Faith Donald F. Tweedie recounts an incident in which an American visitor to Vienna asked me to tell him in one sentence the difference between logotherapy and psychoanalysis—whereupon I invited him first to tell me what he regarded as the essence of psychoanalysis. He replied: "In psychoanalysis the patient must lie down on a couch and tell you things which sometimes are disagreeable to tell." And I quickly responded: "In logotherapy the patient is allowed to sit erect but must hear things which sometimes are disagreeable!"

Erwin Straus has rightly stressed that in existential thinking the otherness of the other should not be attenuated. The same holds true for meaning. The meaning which a person has to fulfill is something beyond himself, never just himself. Only if this meaning retains otherness can it exert upon a person that quality of imperativeness which yields itself to a phenomenological analysis of one's experience of existence. Only a meaning which is not just an expression of the person himself can be a true challenge to him. The Bible tells us that when Israel wandered through the desert God's glory went before in the form of a cloud; only in this way was it possible for Israel to be guided by God. Imagine what would have happened if God had dwelled in the midst of Israel in the form of a cloud: rather than leading the people safely, the cloud would have obscured everything and Israel would have gone astray.

Meaning must not coincide with being; meaning must be ahead of being; meaning sets the pace for being. Existence falters unless lived in terms of transcendence, in terms of something beyond itself. Here we might distinguish between pacemakers and peacemakers: the former confront us with meanings and values, thus supporting our meaning orientation; the latter alleviate the burden of meaning confrontation. In this sense Moses was a pacemaker; he did not soothe man's conscience but rather stirred it up. Moses with his Ten Commandments did not spare his people a confrontation with ideals and values.

There is also the appeaser type of peacemaker who tries to reconcile others with himself. Let's face facts, he says. Why worry about one's shortcomings? Only a few live up to their ideals. So let's attend to peace of mind or soul rather than those existential meanings which only arouse tensions. What this kind of peacemaker overlooks is the wisdom of Goethe's warning: If we take man as he is, we make him worse; if we take him as he ought to be, we help him become it.

When meaning orientation becomes meaning confrontation, that stage of maturation and development has been reached where freedom becomes responsibleness. An individual is responsible for the fulfillment of the specific meaning of his own life, but he is also responsible to something, be it society or humanity or mankind or his own conscience. A significant number of people interpret their own existence not just in terms of being responsible to something but rather to someone—namely, to God. As a secular theory and medical practice logotherapy must restrict itself to such a factual statement, leaving to the patient the decision whether to interpret his own responsibleness in terms of religion or agnosticism. Logotherapy must remain available to everyone; to this I am obliged to adhere, if for no other reason, by my Hippocratic oath. In any case, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence, and for that reason the patient must himself decide for what and to what, or to whom, he is responsible.

A logotherapist is not entitled consciously to influence the patient's decision as to how to interpret his own responsibleness or as to what to embrace as his personal meaning. The fact that a person's conscience is subject to error does not release him from his obligation to obey it; existence involves the risk of error. He must risk committing himself to a cause not worthy of his commitment. Perhaps my commitment to the cause of logotherapy is erroneous. But I prefer to live in a world in which man has the right to make choices, even if they are wrong choices, rather than one in which no choice at all is left to him. A world in which both fiends and saints are possible is infinitely preferable to a totally conformist, collectivist world in which man is a mere functionary of the party or the state.

A. H. Maslow (essay date Fall 1966)

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SOURCE: "Comments on Dr. Frankl's Paper," in Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. VI, No. 2, Fall, 1966, pp. 107-12.

[Maslow is an American psychologist, educator, and author of Dominance, Self-Esteem, Self-Actualization: Germinal Papers of A. H. Maslow (1973). In the following excerpt, he concurs with Frankl's theories on the "will to meaning," self-actualization, and the role of values and pleasure in life.]

I agree entirely with Frankl that man's primary concern (I would rather say "highest concern") is his will to meaning. But this may be ultimately not very different from phrasings by Buhler [Charlotte Buhler, Values in Psychotherapy] (1962), for instance, or Goldstein, or Rogers or others, who may use, instead of "meaning," such words as "values" or "purposes" or "ends" or "a philosophy of life" or "mystical fusion." As things stand now, different theorists use these and similar words in an overlapping or synonymous way. It would obviously help if they could be defined somewhat more carefully (not too carefully, however, until more data come in).

Another general consequence of this "levels" conception of knowledge and of science is that an all-inclusive, overarching generalization, however true, is very difficult to "work with" or to improve in clarity, usefulness, exactness, or in richness of detail. Thus, I certainly agreed with Goldstein, Rogers, and others that the one ultimate motivation is for self-actualization, but it has proven very helpful to spell this out in more detail, to subject it to holistic-analysis, to give it operational definition, and then to compare the results of different operations. This "liaison work" between the "idea-man" and the tester and checker is already paying off, e.g., in making possible Shostrom's standardized test of self-actualization [the personal orientation inventory].

Frankl's "will to meaning" and also Buhler's "four basic tendencies" are, I feel, compatible both with my empirical-personological description of self-actualizing people [in Motivation and Personality] (1954) and with my theoretical statements in which self-actualization is used as a concept.

First of all, not all grown people seek self-actualization and of course few people achieve it. There are other ways and goals of life as Buhler has maintained. The theoretical statement that all human beings in principle seek self-actualization and are capable of it applies ultimately to newborn babies. It is the same as saying that neurosis, psychopathy, stunting, diminishing, atrophy of potentials are not primarily inborn but are made. (This statement does not apply to the psychoses, where the evidence is not yet clear. It cannot be ruled out that heredity plays an important role.) It may also apply to adults in the sense that we shouldn't give up hope altogether even for those with a bad prognosis, e.g., drug addicts, psychopaths, as well as certain types of smug "normality" and "good adjustment" (to a bad society), resignation, apathy, etc. This parallels the medical profession's insistence on trying to save life even when it looks hopeless. Such an attitude is quite compatible with being completely "realistic."

Secondly, my experience agrees with Frankl's that people who seek self-actualization directly, selfishly, personally, [dichotomized] away from mission in life, i.e., as a form of private and subjective salvation, don't, in fact, achieve it (unless the selfishness is for the sake of the call, vocation, or work, thereby transcending the [dichotomy] between unselfishness and selfishness). Or to say it in a more positive and descriptive way, those people in our society selected out as self-actualizing practically always have a mission in life, a task which they love and have identified with and which becomes a defining-characteristic of the self. And there was no instance in which I did not agree that it was a worthy job, worthwhile, important, ultimately valuable. This descriptive fact can be called self-actualization, authenticity, fulfillment, the achievement of meaning, self-transcendence, finding oneself, the unitive life, or by other names.

The instances that I have seen in which persons sought direct, short-cut self-actualization were originally cases in which private "lower" pleasure, self-indulgence, and primitive hedonism ruled for too long a period of time. More recently, my impression is that impulsivity, the unrestrained expression of any whim, the direct seeking for "kicks" and for non-social and purely private pleasures (as with some who use LSD merely for "kicks" rather than for insight) is often mislabelled self-actualization.

Or to say this from still another perspective, all self-actualizing persons that I have ever known were good workers, even hard workers—though they also knew how to not-work, to loaf, and to saunter.

It is such facts that we have to deal with, these and, of course, many others of this sort. It is well to admit that there are, in principle, many abstract systems or languages that can organize and integrate these facts equally well or almost so. I am not inclined to make a big to-do about the particular labels so long as they do not obscure or deny the facts. Indeed, at this level of knowledge I think it useful to have various points of view on the same world of facts because, through other people's eyes, we can see more than we can with only our own. It is better to consider this intellectual situation synergic or collaborative rather than rivalrous. Science, at least as I define it, is a division of labor among colleagues.

I think a similar type of discussion is in order with reference to Dr. Frankl's remarks on peak-experiences. I feel I know what Dr. Frankl is trying to say and I agree with his intention, as I did with his cautionary remarks on the mistakes that can be made with self-actualization. I'm pretty sure that we have understood each other in conversation and in correspondence. And yet it is well to spell everything out for others, and also to add what I have learned more recently.

Hunting peak-experiences directly doesn't ordinarily work. Generally they happen to a person. We are ordinarily "surprised by joy." Also it becomes increasingly clear that it is wise, for research strategy, to stress the separability of the emotional aspect from the cognitive aspect of peak-experiences. It is more clear to me now that peak-emotions may come without obvious insight or growth or benefit of any kind beyond the effects of pleasure itself. Such raptures may be very profound and yet be almost contentless. The prime examples are sex and LSD, but there are others as well. Sex, LSD, etc., may bring illumination, or they may not. Furthermore, insight (B-Cognition) can come without emotional ecstasies. Indeed, B-Cognition can come from pain, suffering, and tragedy, as Dr. Frankl has helped to teach us. Also, I would today stress even more than I have in the past, the prime importance of "resistance to peak-experiences," which I once called in a humorous moment "non-peaking." People may either not have peak-experiences or they may repress or suppress them, be afraid of them, and deny them or interpret them in some reductive and desacralizing way. The consequences of being a "non-peaker" loom larger and larger as the years go by. I agree with Colin Wilson (in his Introduction to the New Existentialism) in attributing to this one factor much of the difference between pessimistic, hopeless, anguished Nay-Saying on the one hand, and coping, striving, hopeful, unconquerable Yea-Saying, on the other hand. Dr. Frankl's remarks on tension and overcoming are very relevant and very useful in this connection.

As for the similarity of all pleasures, certainly there is a subjective quality which is generally different from suffering, or despair, or pain. In this sense, any pleasure is a pleasure and falls within the same class as any other pleasure. And yet there is also a hierarchy of pleasures (the cessation of pain, the moratorium of drunkenness, the relief of urination, the pleasure of a hot bath, the contentment of having done a job well, the satisfaction of success, on up through the happiness of being with loved friends, the rapture of being in love, the ecstasy of the perfect love act, on up to the final pleasure-beyond-pleasure of the mystical fusion with the universe). Thus, in one very real sense, all pleasures are similar; in another equally real sense, they are not.

We must certainly accept Dr. Frankl's cautions about contentless pleasure and about the necessity for relating pleasure to its trigger, to its context, and also to its consequences. (One day we shall have to go even further for we shall soon have to grapple with the difficult problem of pleasurable emotions coming from neurotic or psychotic or perverted sources. Like the medieval theologians who had to differentiate the voice of God within from the voice of the devil within, we shall soon have to start questioning the absolute and sacred authority accorded by many today to the "inner voice," "the voice of conscience," etc.)

And yet once we have agreed with Dr. Frankl on the intellectual dangers of making pleasure into a deity, we can then feel quite free to enjoy the small and harmless pleasures of life. Even if they teach us nothing, they are still a blessing. Pleasure itself is not a danger; it is only the man-made theories about pleasure that are a danger.

Viktor Frankl with Mary Harrington Hall (interview date February 1968)

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SOURCE: "A Conversation with Viktor Frankl of Vienna," in Psychology Today, Vol. 1, No. 9, February, 1968, pp. 57-63.

[In the following interview, Frankl discusses his concentration camp experiences and his views on existentialism and modern psychotherapy.]

[Hall]: You were already a psychiatrist in Vienna when Hitler marched into Austria. How did that affect you immediately?

[Frankl]: After Hitler came, I stayed in Vienna. My sister immigrated to Australia and my brother tried to get shelter in Italy. He was captured by the SS and taken with his wife to Auschwitz. I had been assigned to run the Neurological Department of the Jewish Hospital, so I was not only allowed to stay in Vienna myself, but even could keep my old parents with me. My father at that time was a bit more than eighty years old.

Was there any opportunity for you to leave the country?

I tried to get an immigration visa to the United States. Finally, I did. I was free to leave, to develop my theory and to promulgate it. My parents were so happy. They said, "Now Viktor will finally leave here." But at the last minute I hesitated to use the visa for which I had waited so long. I knew that a few weeks after I left the country, my old parents would be brought to a concentration camp. I didn't know what to do.

And they wanted you to leave even though your position was their protection?

Yes. They were insisting. You know, I've never told anyone this—But about this time I had a strange dream, one that belongs to my deepest experiences in the realm of dreaming. I dreamed that people were lined up—psychotics, patients—to be taken to the gas chambers. And I felt so deep a compassion that I decided to join them. I felt that I must do something and working as a psychotherapist in a concentration camp, supporting the people there mentally, would be incomparably more meaningful than just being one more psychiatrist in Manhattan.

As I said, I didn't know what to do. So with a briefcase I covered the yellow star I had to wear on my coat and sat down in the largest cathedral in the center of Vienna one evening. There was an organ concert, and I thought, "Let's sit down and listen to the music and ponder the whole question. Relax, Viktor, you are very distracted. Just contemplate and meditate far from the turmoil of Vienna." Then I asked myself what I was to do. Should I sacrifice my family for the sake of the cause to which I had devoted my life, or should I sacrifice this cause for the sake of my parents. When confronted with this kind of question, one longs for an answer from Heaven.

What you were confronting was yourself, wasn't it? Yourself and the question of how committed you were to what you said you believe.

Yes. I left the cathedral and went home. There, on the radio set, was a piece of marble. I asked my Father what it was. He was a pious Jew and had picked up at the site of a large Viennese synagogue this stone, a part of the [tablets] containing the Ten Commandments. On the stone was an engraved and gilded Hebrew letter. My father told me the letter occurred in only one of the commandments, "Honor thy father and mother and you will stay in the land." Thereupon I decided to stay in Austria and let the American visa lapse.

But you already knew your decision, really, didn't you?

You would be justified in saying this was a projective test. I had made the decision in the depth of my heart long ago and projected it into this piece of marble. You would be perfectly right, but allow me then to add that if I had seen nothing in this marble but calcium carbonate, CaCO3, that also would have been a projective test, but it would have been only the projection of my inner existential vacuum. And so I made the decision and deliberately risked everything. But I couldn't help it.

And so you were sent to Auschwitz. Once in the concentration camp, were you able to help as a psychiatrist?

Only underground, illegally. My time in the camp, except for the last few weeks, was spent in digging and laying tracks for railway lines, in digging a tunnel for a water main. The opportunities for psychotherapy were naturally limited. But I remember once when the lights were out and we lay in our earthen huts. The whole camp had been forced to fast for the day because no one would identify the half-starved prisoner who stole a few pounds of potatoes. Someone asked me there in the dark: "Tell us now, psychiatrist. Where is there hope?" I told them we all faced death. But I told them that, in spite of this, I had no intention of losing hope and giving up. For no man knew what the future would bring, much less the next hour. And I spoke of the many opportunities of giving life a meaning. Human life never ceases to have a meaning and this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death. Unless there is such an unconditional meaning to life, there would be no point in surviving. When the electric bulb flared up again, I saw the miserable figures of my friends, limping toward me to thank me.

What a moving experience! The early title of your book, Man's Search for Meaning, was From Death-Camp to Existentialism. I am going to ask a stupid question. Please forgive me.

There are only stupid answers. No stupid questions.

Was your existential decision made when you stayed in Vienna instead of coming to Manhattan?

That was not my existential decision, for everyone has to make an existential decision in each moment of his life. What is true is that it was one of my existential decisions. What is not true is that I came out of Auschwitz with my theory of psychotherapy. I entered Auschwitz with the manuscript of my book in my pocket. In the camp we were allowed to keep nothing. Not a wedding ring, a medal, or a good-luck piece. But the tenets of logotherapy were justified by the acid test of the concentration camp. My experiences in the camp were my empirical validations of existentialism.

Why do you call your theory of psychotherapy "logotherapy"?

Logos is a Greek word that denotes "meaning." Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man's search for such a meaning. It is this striving to find a meaning in one's life that is the primary motivational force in man. That is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle of Freudian psychoanalysis or the will to power of Adlerian psychology.

Do you regard this concept of man as human only to the extent he reaches beyond himself as a religious concept?

It has nothing to do with theology and the supernatural whatsoever; but it is a tradition of European philosophy, even atheistic philosophy. And this self-transcendence is lived out by what I call man's will to meaning. This will to meaning is frustrated today. More and more patients are approaching psychiatrists with the complaint of an inner void and emptiness, with a sense of meaninglessness, with the feeling of a total and ultimate futility of life. And this condition is not restricted to our culture. Communist psychiatrists have expressed frankly this condition I have called the existential vacuum, this feeling of meaninglessness. It is spreading among youth in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Russia.

Then this isn't just a critical problem in the Western world where we fear this as a sign of our approaching decadence.

Definitely not. But you must not close your eyes to the fact that in your country existential frustration is observed more than anywhere in the world. A random sample gathered by my staff in Vienna among German-speaking students from Switzerland, West Germany, and Austria revealed that 40 per cent of them confessed that they knew this feeling of total meaninglessness from their own experience. But among my American students, not 40 but 80 per cent confess to the same inner meaninglessness. Perhaps this is why the paperback edition of Man's Search for Meaning has sold 355,000 copies in the United States within a few years.

Existential psychiatry and psychology certainly are growing in influence in this country.

Existentialism is greatly misused in this country. Everybody regards himself as an existentialist if he uses the term "being in the world" in every second or third line. In my eyes, this is no credential for an existentialist. The term "being in the world" is borrowed from Martin Heidegger and usually is misinterpreted in a way not at all appropriate to Heidegger's concept of human reality. I discussed this at length with Heidegger himself. And it is for this reason that I don't wish to be identified totally with the movement in this country called existential psychiatry or psychology.

All right, tell me what you, Viktor Frankl, mean by existentialism. Not what Sartre means, nor anyone else but you.

You would be mistaken, Mary, if you assumed that existential psychiatry continues the tradition of Jean Paul Sartre's existentialism. First, let me say what existentialism is not. It is a misconception to think that existentialism teaches and preaches the nothingness of man. What it really teaches, the true lesson to learn from existentialism, is the no-thingness of man. Man is not just one thing among other things. He must not be totally objectified. He must not be manipulated. Man has value and dignity. Existentialism does not teach the nothingness of life or the world.

There is a world of difference between no-thing and nothing.

You are right, Mary. And what I also am standing for in the field of psychotherapy is the fight against the nothing-but-ness of man. It is a two-front war. I am fighting the preachers of life's nothingness—pseudo-existentialists, pessimists—on the one hand and the preachers of nothing-but-ness on the other. For you cannot say that man is nothing but a computer, a set of mechanisms, hopefully to be repaired by a physician or a psychiatrist. Man is a human being and must be envisaged and reached in his very humanness. And he is human only to the extent to which he is reaching out beyond himself, directed toward something other than himself. It might be toward a purpose to fulfill, or another human being to encounter in love. And I would go even further. Above all, the meaning of his life, his existence, is more than just a goal he arbitrarily sets for himself.

What, in your opinion, is the reason for the prevalence of the existential vacuum?

To put it as briefly as possible, unlike an animal, man is not told by his instincts what he must do. And, in contrast to man in former days, he is no longer told by traditions what he should do. Now he often doesn't even know what he basically wishes to do. And what is the result? Either he simply does what other people do or else he simply does what other people wish him to do. Because of this, man increasingly falls prey to conformism. But another effect is neuroticism—an existential despair over the apparent meaninglessness of one's life.

And how does one go about giving meaning to his life?

Meaning is always available for each and every individual, and this is so up to the very last moment. Perhaps this will make it clear. Unless he has been indoctrinated through his college training that man is nothing but the battleground of the civil war between ego and superego, the result of a conditioning process, the simple man of the street will tell you that it is o.k. to be a successful businessman. But the man who courageously and heroically faces an unchangeable fate is held infinitely higher in his esteem. This we must show our patients. I cannot arbitrarily attach meanings to things. Meanings must be discovered and cannot be prefabricated, as is so prevalent in this country and, to a lesser degree, in Europe. Meaning has an objective quality, which is another way of saying it is to be discovered rather than invented. This is an important issue and this objectiveness of meaning is not just my philosophical conviction but comes from experimental psychological research.

What about subjective meanings?

There are, of course, also subjective meanings. One of the subjective meanings is experienced through LSD intoxication. And only those individuals who are no longer capable of discovering objective meaning resort to the subjective meanings that are induced by a biochemical tool such as LSD or marijuana. In other words, existential frustration to a large extent might be responsible for the indulgence in LSD and the like. Caught in this existential vacuum, this abysmal sense of meaninglessness, they also create their nonsense, the theater of the absurd. I don't wish to denigrate the theater of the absurd; it is the voice of our age. But we must not think that it offers a solution to the problems and questions of our age. The answers are beyond any age. They are eternal. But they must be verbalized in the language of our day. Consider the experiment conducted by James Olds, in which he inserted electrodes into the hypothalamus of rats who were then taught to close an electric current by pressing a lever. Finally, they were pressing the lever up to 50,000 times a day, perhaps because they experienced orgasm. These rats then neglected their food and their sexual partners. In the same way, young people who use LSD will neglect the objective and will lose the real meaning in life.

But how does one discover the objective meaning?

In an age when the ten commandments seem to have lost their unconditional validity, man's hearing capacity must be refined and sharpened for the ten thousand commandments that together form a man's life.

What is conscience, Viktor?

Conscience is that capacity of man that enables him to discover the unique meanings of his unique situations. Discover them, rather than give them arbitrary meanings. We have the freedom to give meanings more or less arbitrarily, but we have the responsibility to discover the true meaning in the unique situations. That is why I often tell my American audiences that freedom threatens to degenerate into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend to you Americans that your Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

As we have been talking, I've been wondering about the things you have said. Here in America, we have our own psychology and our psychiatry. In Europe things are happening. What, and what is different?

Again, Mary, you are a catalyst. You elicit for me not only influences, but even thoughts and ideas. For the first time in my life, I am immediately provoked to thought, by your stimulating way of asking questions, by a statement or a judgment. In Europe we still have the tradition in the best sense of the tradition—the explicitness, the awareness of the philosophical background of the problems in the foreground. We know even the hardest clinical facts, the most clinical theories have a better clinical perspective if there is an awareness of the background. This is a thing I call meta-clinic. It's like metaphysical, where there is a metaphysical problem behind a physical reality. You can indicate a lobotomy or sign a prescription for a drug rather than beginning psychotherapy. Or, you can start psychotherapy rather than take a patient's philosophic despair at its face value. All this implies a meta-clinic statement. It means that you regard a patient in one case as a mechanism to be repaired, in the other as a human being to be assisted or helped. If your patient is nothing more than a damaged brain to be operated on, your assumption is like that of the Nazi doctor who sent his patients to the gas chambers. He made a meta-clinical basic assumption that man is nothing but what his brain or his blood makes him to be. If you adopt such a view, euthanasia is a consistent practice.

On the one hand we are sticking to the traditionally felt responsibility to make our underlying philosophy explicit, or to put it another way, to make the metaclinical background loom. It is this tradition of philosophical-psychological concepts that is precious to me and close to my heart and my brain.

Does American thought affect Europe in your field?

More than influence. We Europeans have become addicted to whatever comes from your country. We are not modern enough to develop our own new approaches, but are imitating the Americans. There is a great gulf in Europe, because we do not progress. We are not developing humanistic psychology but reimporting the old mechanistic concept. And it will take some time until Allport and Maslow and perhaps even Viktor Frankl will reach them in Europe.

Isn't it strange that Vienna, where it all started, would regard you as a maverick?

Consider, if you will, up to three times a year I am invited to give lecture tours in this country. By now I have lectured to 85 American universities, seminaries, and colleges, while in Vienna, except for my weekly one-hour lecture as a member of the University medical faculty, I give one public lecture every two years.

Who, in Europe, do you think are the best men in psychology and psychiatry today?

In psychiatry, I would say I admire the soberness of Hans-Juerg Weitbrecht in Bonn and then Professor Schulte in Tuebingen, the follower of the famous Kretschmer. Then, particularly Petrilowitsch. I mention his name as the last of the three, because he confesses to logotherapy; the others don't. Petrilowitsch is in Mainz, where he is at the University Clinic. Kranz, head of the department, is also an admirer of logotherapy. These are the first four, those whom I regard as the most outstanding, reliable, and sober psychiatrists.

As for psychology, there is Professor Lersch of Munich. In addition, I hold Arnold Gehlen in high esteem for philosophy and psychology and sociology and anthropology. I love all the writings of Peter Hofstaetter who heads the department of psychology at the University of Hamburg in West Germany. He has spent many years here in this country and he is experimentally oriented, but he is open-minded.

I'd like to know more about your background. Was your father a doctor?

My father studied medicine, but he was a poor young man from the countryside and could not afford to complete his preparation. For ten years he was a stenographer in the parliament of the Austrian monarchy. Afterwards, he became an official in the State Ministry of Social Affairs. He was particularly concerned with matters of Youth Welfare.

Was he the one who encouraged you to study medicine?

He was proud that I decided to study medicine, but he did not influence me very much.

How did you become interested in psychiatry?

I wonder if you know that when I was a young boy of 16, I began a correspondence with Sigmund Freud. In one of my letters to him, I enclosed a few pages of manuscript reflecting my thoughts on the origin of mimic affirmation and negation—its expression by shrugging or nodding or whatever. To my astonishment, Freud responded immediately and wanted to know if I would allow him to forward it for publication. In 1924, I was sent the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and there I found myself in print.

You were only 18 then. And you never met Freud? That's fantastic.

I met him once—later on. I was walking down the street close to the University, and I noticed a man before me. He reminded me of Freud from the pictures I had seen, but I thought it was impossible. This man was so tattered, his hat, his coat were so worn. He could not be the great Sigmund Freud, I thought. He carried a black wooden stick with a silver handle, and he was beating the pavement and moving his mouth. He suffered from some sort of cancer of the jaw bone, you know. I followed him. I thought, "if this is really Freud, he will turn at the corner into the Berggasse." I knew his address from our correspondence. He made the turn and I addressed him. "Oh, Dr. Freud," I said. "My name is Viktor Frankl." He replied, "Viktor Frankl, Czerningasse #6, Door #25, Second District of Vienna." At that time we had ceased contact because I had become affiliated with the inner circle of Adlerians. So we just talked there in the street. I kept all my letters and postcards from Freud, and I even possessed some case histories written by the young Freud when he was at the same clinic in Vienna where I worked. But they were all confiscated by the Nazis.

So you were a member of the Adlerian group.

Yes. You know old Vienna and its coffee-house tradition. The Freudians met in the Cafe Arkaden and the Adlerians met in the Cafe Siller. But I was not orthodox enough and deviated from the Adlerian teachings. Two of my other professors had contradicted him. I loved them, and him also. I tried to take a middle position. Adler would not accept that, and he insisted that I leave the society. Since the Adlerians have shifted to this country, they have become very broad-minded and integrated. But it was not always so.

Was it your philosophical approach which made Adler expel you?

In a way. You see, Adler was a great man in many respects, but he simply was lacking what I would call a receptive organum for philosophical problems. For instance, throughout my life I struggled with the question of whether or not life had meaning—my personal life or any human's life. Adler published a book on the meaning of life, but if you look it up, you will find that in this excellent book the very question of the meaning of life has been answered in advance. This means that he had presupposed all along that life has a meaning. The question never came to his mind.

This is not a defect; perhaps the defect lies with those who raise the question. The same holds true for Freud. In a letter to Princess Bonaparte, Freud once said, "The moment a man raises the question of the meaning of his life, he is sick." He might be right. But if he is, today the whole of mankind is sick. You cannot say that everybody is sick because nobody is healthy. What point does it make to speak of sickness if there is no health? Today we no longer can say that a man who raises the question of life's meaning is sick. It might have been a valid statement in Freud's day, but no longer.

Then, because you are concerned with this problem, the orthodox view would be to say that you are neurotic.

Exactly. But let me be a neurotic. It has been said that each person offers his own case history when working out a new psychotherapeutic system. Take it for granted. If I can show how I, personally, have overcome this neurosis—if that is what the feeling of meaningless is—then perhaps my case history becomes a new approach to psychotherapy and other people will be able to overcome the same predicament.

What do you think of our American approach to these problems?

The usual way of thinking in this country, I am sorry to say, is unidimensional. You mix everything up. For example, when I wrote my book, From Death-Camp to Existentialism, I tried to combine in a sound and justifiable way both psychotherapy and philosophy. I was intrigued with the borderline problems, but I tried to recognize their separate dimensions.

Why is that different from the typical American view?

Here, you seem to feel that if anything is of neurotic origin, it must be false. Or, if anything is morally tenable, it must be related to mental health. For instance, there is a man running a monastery in Mexico, south of Mexico City, who insists that every young monk who joins the monastery must be psychoanalyzed—in the strict Freudian sense. Last year when I was in Mexico, I met this man. I asked him if he really believed that freedom of neurosis guaranteed truth. That is to say, that freedom from neurosis makes one truly religious. He seemed to believe that it did. I answered him, "On the one hand, I deny that truth can make you free from neurosis, but on the other hand, neither do I believe that freedom from neurosis makes for becoming truly religious."

But that's in Mexico. Do you believe that all Americans think thus?

I have always found that tendency in the American way of thinking. For instance, pragmatism is unidimensional thinking. What is true must be good, must make for good business, for a happy life, and so forth. And I deny this. Reality is multidimensional. But let me add this. The scientist has not only the privilege but the responsibility to deal with his particular aspect of reality as if every reality were unidimensional. He must, however, retain the awareness of what he is doing. Otherwise he becomes a victim of that fallacy that is so noticeable, particularly in your country—reductionism.

But not every American is guilty of this. Our best minds warn against this very thing. This month's magazine features a superb article by Rollo May—a powerful piece that makes just this point.

Yes, Mary. Reductionism also has been criticized more in America than anywhere else in the world. Reductionism means that when you interpret human beings exclusively in biological terms, you have simplified until your statement is no longer biology but biologism. If you only envision psychodynamics, you fall prey to psychologism. The same holds true for sociologism. In other words, science is turned into ideology because you make overgeneralized statements. We are living in an age of specialists, but let me define a specialist as a man, a scientist, who no longer sees the forest of truth for the trees of facts. We cannot do without the specialist in an age whose research style is characterized by teamwork. However, the danger does not rest on the fact that more scientists are specializing, but that too many specialists are generalizing. Nothing-but-ness again. They tell people that man is nothing but a computer.

But such analogies are useful and true in a limited sense.

As a professor of neurology, I agree that it is perfectly legitimate to use the computer as an analogy of the human central nervous system. The mistake doesn't rest on the fact that man in a sense is a computer, but only when you set out to say that man is nothing but a computer. Man is infinitely more than a computer and he is dimensionally more, in the same way that a square is included in a cube, which is constructed and built up on the basis of the square. So, the cube in a certain sense is also a square, but at the same time it is infinitely more than a square. It is not more or less than a whole dimension. The same holds true for man.

Then you don't believe the empirical approach holds the solution. Yet in a very real way your theories were put to the empirical test at Auschwitz and Dachau, in the death camps.

If we define empirical in the widest sense of the word, you are right. If we broaden and widen our visual field for man, finally and hopefully we might recognize that empirical means not only sticking to figures, sticking to statistics, sticking to experiments, but transcending them as well. Man is transcending himself, and we psychiatrists and psychologists must transcend mere experimentation and mere statistics. We can never seize hold of man by statistics and experimentation. Let me start again. Nothing is annulled of the sound findings within the lower dimensions: behaviorism, psychoanalysis, or Adlerian psychology. They are justified and obtain their true validity when they are placed into a wider horizon.

Actually you are overstating to drive home a point, aren't you? American psychology is hardly constricted.

Oh, no. While you Americans are thinking too unidimensionally for my taste, you are soundly developing, advancing, progressing from a subhumanism—as I used to define reductionism, reducing human phenomena to subhuman phenomena—to humanism. When I said that I did not wish to be totally identified with the existential psychological movement in this country, it was also because I wished to be connected with the humanistic psychological movement, as developed by Gordon Allport, Abraham Maslow, and Charlotte Buehler. This is a sound approach, counteracting the unidimensional mechanistic orientation of exclusively behavioristic thinking.

You obviously admire Maslow and the late Gordon Allport.

Yes, but not only as scientists, as human beings as well. I wonder if you know that it is exclusively due to Allport that my book came out in an American translation at all?

I wish I had know him. His death this year was a great loss to psychology in this country. How did he help you?

I didn't know him, either. The report of my experiences in the concentration camp had been translated by a British nurse in Bavaria immediately after the war. She just did it for her own pleasure, and then she translated the book and sent me a copy of the manuscript. I was giving a series of lectures in the United States and was introduced to Allport at Harvard. He read the manuscript and then twisted the arm of his publishers until he got a contract for me. He has, you know, written the preface to the expanded version.

And Maslow. Maslow is not only a humanistic psychologist, he is a human being in the truest sense of the word. He is the greatest among those who are promulgating the self-actualization theory. He is a great man.

Is self-actualization in accord with your tenets of logotherapy?

If self-actualization is made a direct target, if it is strived for directly, then it becomes self-defeat. You can actualize yourself only to the extent to which you fulfill a meaning or encounter another human being. In other words, self-actualization must come about through self-transcendence. I fear I must contradict your Declaration of Independence. Pursuit of happiness seems to me to be self-defeating, because man originally never pursued happiness. A human being doesn't care primarily for happiness or pleasure or power. Happiness and pleasure are side effects, destroyed precisely to the extent that they are aimed at.

I'd like to ask you more about the unhappy days when you were in charge of the Department of Neurology under the Nazis. Were you able to save any patients who might have been sent to the gas chambers?

Yes, indeed, and with the help of a member of the Nazi party! My beloved teacher Poetzl was a Nazi. Once I had a patient suffering from a brain tumor who needed surgery. I lifted the receiver and called the Nazi Poetzl. He rushed to a taxi, left all his responsibilities, and came to the Jewish Hospital, to help me diagnose a Jew's ailment! He, in turn, telephoned the greatest brain surgeon and said, "I have a patient for you. When can he be admitted to the hospital?" After they said the day after tomorrow, he added, "Incidentally, he is Jewish." By then the brain surgeon could not withdraw his consent.

The Nazis were using euthanasia, you know, and each and every patient who was regarded as incurable was sent to the gas chamber. Even the relatives, mothers-in-law, and so forth of high-ranking party functionaries were gassed. And Poetzl could not help them. The only people he rescued were some Jewish psychotics, because they could be sent to a Jewish Home for the Aged. Whenever such a case occurred, I wrote up a false certificate. For example, a schizophrenic was diagnosed by me as a case of aphasia. After all, one might lose his facility to speak after a stroke. And a case of suicidal depression was diagnosed as a delirium from a feverish infection. Poetzl was the man who made it possible. This way Jewish psychotics were saved from euthanasia.

From this you will understand why I say that if one was a Nazi, it does not necessarily mean that one was guilty. There are only two races of people, the decent ones and the indecent ones, and they cross biological races and political parties. What matters is the man.

I have known only a few concentration-camp survivors. Those I do know seem always to be in need of justifying their existence. It is as though they constantly question their right of survival.

That is true. Let us take the case of a transport which prisoners knew was to take them to the gas chamber. There was neither time nor desire on the part of prisoners to consider moral or ethical issues. Every man was controlled by one thought only—to keep himself alive … and to save his friends. With no hesitation, therefore, he would arrange for another prisoner to take his place. On the average, only those survived who, after years of trekking from camp to camp, lost all scruples in their fight for existence. They were prepared to use every means, honest and otherwise, in order to save themselves. The best of us did not return.

My wife and I were married in Vienna in 1941. She died at Bergen-Belsen and I still do not know the date of her death.

How did you survive?

I was lucky. And I survived better as a person because I had a rich intellectual background, an inner life on which to draw. And I had a mission, to counsel other inmates. Do you know what my fantasy and finally compulsion became in those years? I wanted to live to go mountain-climbing again. Can you understand that?

Understand? But how could anyone fail to understand? It was good to meet your present wife. Do you have any children?

Only one, a daughter. Gabriele is my child by my present wife. She is in her third year at the Vienna University, and she is enthusiastically studying psychology. She is statistically minded and experimentally oriented and a strong opponent of her father's logotherapy. She has read only one of my books and that because her fiance was so enthusiastic about it. But I have only one child, and so I appreciate the fact that she is intellectually independent and can be my strong adversary.

The United States, as you know, is in the middle of a great group-therapy binge. What do you think of group encounters and therapy?

Group therapy or family therapy or community therapy is something particularly needed in your country at the present stage. As great as the number of psychologists might be in the United States, they simply cannot cope with the load of cases. Therefore, such devices as group therapy must be developed. But the principle of psychotherapy will remain forever in my eyes as a process that cannot do away with the intimate basis. This factor cannot be relinquished. Whether you reduce this phenomenon to the mere psychodynamic plane or take it at its face value as a truly human personal or—to use deliberately a so-misused term—existential encounter, this intimate relationship is needed. That is one of the great lessons we had to learn from Freud and the psychoanalysts. So I do have a reservation. Group therapy can never become the whole story.

One last question. Are you a formally religious man?

Let me be 100 per cent European by not answering this question. Let me say that the Hippocratic oath I took when I received my medical degree compels me to care for and insist that logotherapy be available for every patient, including the agnostic, and useable in the hands of every doctor, including the atheist.

You come through to me as a deeply religious man. I know I'm right in the true sense of the word.

Heaven only knows.

Time (essay date 2 February 1968)

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SOURCE: "Meaning in Life," in Time, Vol. 91, No. 5, February 2, 1968, pp. 38, 40.

[In the following essay, the critic discusses logotherapy, emphasizing Frankl's existential approach to psychoanalysis.]

Vienna has a habit of giving birth to schools of psychiatry and then putting them up for adoption in other countries. An exception is the latest Viennese system of mind healing called logotherapy, which has won quick acceptance in its native land and is gaining adherents in the U.S. and behind the Iron Curtain.

Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, 62, founder of logotherapy, is a lecturer at the University of Vienna, as was Freud. But Frankl has dismissed Freud's idea that human beings are driven mainly by sexual energy, no matter how broadly defined. Similarly, he rejects Adler's emphasis on power drives and Jung's turning back to vague, ancestral archetypes. He has only contempt for the reductionist, or "nothing-but" schools, which define man as nothing but a biochemical machine or nothing but the product of his conditioning or nothing but an economic animal. What is left? Only, says Frankl, the most fundamental of all human strivings: the search for the meaning of life, or at least for a meaning in life.

Since this search is at the intellectual rather than the instinctual level, Dr. Frankl makes great play with words beginning with noö-, from the Greek noös (mind), as in noödynamics and noögenic neuroses. He coined logotherapy from logos, usually translated as word, speech or reason, which he defines as "meaning." As Dr. Frankl views the human condition today, it is distinguished by "the existential vacuum," or "a total lack, or loss, of an ultimate meaning to one's existence that would make life worthwhile." This loss results, he says, from the fact that man, unlike the animals, has no instincts to tell him what he must do, and in recent years has grown away from traditions that once told him what he should do.

Frankl freely concedes that logotherapy is an existential approach. Existentialism has built up a strong undercurrent in both European and U.S. analysis and psychotherapy in the past dozen years. But Frankl notes that there are almost as many kinds of existentialism as there are existentialists, and insists that his is different. He has spelled it out in books such as Man's Search for Meaning and Psychotherapy and Existentialism. The Existential Vacuum; A Challenge to Psychiatry is on press.

Without a sense of meaning, says Dr. Frankl, even the pursuit of happiness must lead to a dead end. A man who sets out deliberately to seek pleasure through sexual gratification will, he believes, defeat himself. So will the man who lusts for power; even its achievements will avail him nothing unless it involves the satisfaction of some inner goal.

In defining such goals, Frankl runs into difficulty. In English, he says, he is forced back upon the word spiritual, but he insists that this does not require a religious connotation. No psychiatrist, he points out, can prescribe religion for an irreligious patient. At the same time, just as emphatically, he warns psychiatrists against suppressing or ignoring whatever religious feelings, overt and latent, a patient may have.

In answering the question "What is meant by meaning?", Dr. Frankl first makes a distinction between meaning and values. To him, values are meanings shared by many people throughout history or throughout a society. The "meaning" in which Frankl is interested is an individual's own, and is unique to his situation at any given moment. It is, he insists, something that each man must find for himself, through his conscience. When he does so, he is likely to find that it has a Gestalt quality—the whole of an experience is, in some indefinable way, greater than the sum of its parts.

Logotherapy proposes few set rules for the psychiatrist. Dr. Frankl does not even exclude combining it with the most drastic physical treatments, when he thinks that nothing else will help. He takes pride in having introduced guaiphenesin, which he calls the first widely used tranquilizer, in 1952; he also uses electric shock, still a standard treatment in some cases of depression.

In logotherapy the patient sits facing his doctor, who, unlike the classical analyst, may do much of the talking. Dr. Frankl is only half jesting when he says that the patient "must hear things that sometimes are very disagreeable to hear." It is virtually impossible in any language to describe the process of helping a patient to find meaning or new meaning in his life. Not only does it vary from patient to patient, but in many cases Dr. Frankl, guided by his own intuition, improvises changes in method as he goes along.

Vienna-born and educated, Dr. Frankl was spared by the Nazis until late 1942, when he was confined in Theresienstadt, and in 1944 he was sent to Auschwitz. His mother and his wife died in concentration camps. Another casualty was the manuscript of a book on which he had worked for years. Dr. Frankl survived three camps, and has written of his experiences with a keen humanism as well as psychiatric insight. Since World War II, he has won wider recognition, and he now heads the neurological department of Vienna's famed Poliklinik Hospital.

Freud offended the hierarchs of all faiths by his dismissal of religion as a neurosis, and psychoanalysis is still frowned upon by Austria's Roman Catholic Church, even when it is practiced by unswervingly Catholic psychiatrists. But Dr. Frankl's Jewishness is not held against him by Catholics as it was against Freud and Adler. In his system there is such a big place for religion that he is a favorite of Salzburg's Archbishop Franz Jachym, who endorses his writings. To the extent that the church accepts Frankl, the Freudians and Adlerians tend to reject him. And Frankl admits that logotherapy was at first attacked for confusing religion with psychiatry. Now, he contends, its acceptance in officially atheistic Iron Curtain countries shows that it is indeed a truly psychotherapeutic system.

The Times Literary Supplement (review date 3 July 1969)

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SOURCE: "Logotherapeutical Sermon," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3514, July 3, 1969, p. 723.

[In the following unfavorable review of The Doctor and the Soul, the critic faults Frankl's notion of existentialism and charges that he neglects the contributions of Sigmund Freud and other psychoanalysts in the development of his logotherapeutic approach.]

The Doctor and the Soul purports to provide an account of a new kind of psychotherapy which is "to transcend the limits of all previous psychotherapy". It is Dr. Frankl's belief that psychotherapy has, to date, paid too little attention to "the spiritual reality of man". This defect he proposes to remedy by the employment of what he calls "logotherapy". From his account, logotherapy, appears to be the employment of an exhortative technique of treatment, in which the patient is argued with, cajoled, and finally instructed to adopt the quasi-religious beliefs professed by Dr. Frankl. He alleges that Adler's individual psychology goes deeper than Freud's psychoanalysis: a curious idea, since the chief weakness of Adler's approach is his neglect of the unconscious. He also asserts that the goal of psychoanalysis is to bring about a compromise between the demands of the unconscious and the requirements of reality. Without giving any indication that he understands the chief therapeutic tools of psychoanalysis—the interpretation of defences and the understanding and resolution of transference.

The word "existential" is rather freely employed: and Dr. Frankl is much preoccupied with the "meaning of life"; but this is about the sum of evidence indicating that he has any conception of what existentialism is all about. In particular, he shows very little understanding of those particular patients who complain that their life is meaningless, and appears to believe that those who do so complain are raising a valid philosophical problem rather than suffering from any form of neurosis or psychosis. He appears totally unaware of the work of Laing, Fairbairn and Guntrip on schizoid states, and, although he appreciates that schizophrenics feel themselves to be acted upon rather than active agents seems not to possess any concept of identification, ego-boundaries, or the relation of the ego to the body. In short, he claims to have gone beyond both Freud and Adler without giving any evidence that he has truly comprehended either.

As a practical therapist, Dr. Frankl has no doubt had some success. He describes one technique, "paradoxical intention", in which he persuades persons with phobias to entertain the ideas and to embrace the situations of which they are frightened. Thus obsessionals are encouraged to get dirty, people with tremors to show others how much they can tremble, persons with fears of behaving antisocially to "vomit into people's faces and create the greatest possible mess". It is not always clear from the text just how literally Dr. Frankl means his instructions to be taken. Thus, a man with a fear that he might "grab somebody's penis" is "instructed to seek every possible opportunity on the street, in restaurants, in the car, at work, to grab a man's penis". We are told that he soon "started to laugh at his obsessions and they completely disappeared" but we are not told whether he had to act upon his obsession before the symptom left him nor what the attitude of the police or the possible victims of his assaults might be supposed to be. We must assume that he was only grabbing in jest or in fantasy; but there are other sexual compulsions which do not so easily dissolve in gusts of laughter, and which are both more dangerous and more distressing. It is, of course, easy to gain some success in the field of psychotherapy if one is both arrogantly sure of oneself and inclined to didactic preaching. But such attitudes lead nowhere in terms of research or increased comprehension of the manifold complexities of neurosis.

Anatole Broyard (review date 26 November 1975)

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SOURCE: "From Shrink to Stretch," in The New York Times, November 26, 1975, p. 27.

[Broyard was an American critic, essayist, memoirist, stort story writer, and educator whose works include Aroused by Books (1974) and Kafka Was the Rage (1993). In the following mixed review of The Unconscious God, he focuses on Frankl's call for the "rehumanization" of psychotherapy.]

While our behavior goes from bad to worse, our psychological image keeps getting better. At the turn of the century, when Western man was still a relatively orderly creature, Freud saw him as a hotbed of lust and aggression. Now, Viktor Frankl suggests that man's primary motive is the search for meaning in his life. Within man, says the author, "there is a repressed angel."

According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, Viktor Frankl has contributed "perhaps the most significant thinking since Freud and Adler." An earlier book, Man's Search for Meaning, sold 1.5 million copies and is often quoted by contemporary writers. Dr. Frankl has founded what amounts to a school of psychotherapy, which he calls logotherapy, embracing the various meanings of logos, including word, Divine word, reason and rational principle.

The Unconscious God was published in German in 1947: this is its first translation into English. Since then, the author writes, he has accumulated new evidence, additional insights. But since he feels that the original publication was his "most organized and systematized" book, he was reluctant to "destroy the cohesive structure of this piece of work by interspersing too much of the material that might have accrued in the meantime." He solved the problem by making the second half of the present volume a commentary on the first. The chief difference lies in the "experimental" evidence he cites for his position, provided by members of his school or psychologists sympathetic to it.

Based mainly on the author's reasoning, the original version of The Unconscious God is hortatory and only moderately persuasive. It seems to preach or proselytize at least as much as it reasons. The second half of the book, which is richer in tangibles, strengthens his position somewhat.

Logotherapy sees man's "will to meaning" as a sign of his unconscious or spontaneous spirituality. Freud, writes the author, saw the unconscious as "a reservoir of repressed instinctuality." He has "betrayed the self and delivered it to the id." Under Freud, psychoanalysis "succumbed" to objectivity, which led to reification of the self, a reduction of personality to a thing whose mechanisms could be influenced by merely technical means.

For Freud, religion was "the universal compulsive neurosis of mankind." But Dr. Frankl feels that "compulsive neurosis may well be diseased religiousness." Far from being "driven" by instincts, man is starved for motives. He does not ask, "What is the meaning of life?" Life poses the question to him in his spiritual nakedness, in his "unrest of the heart."

The search for meaning, writes the author, is not the same as the search for self. Freudian analysis places too much emphasis on the self, which "does not yield to total self-reflection." "Human existence," Dr. Frankl adds, "exists in action rather than reflection." Like many of the new approaches to therapy, Dr. Frankl's logotherapy claims to be action-oriented, although he never makes it sufficiently clear what these actions may be. His formulations tend to be rather grandiose, such as "the more one forgets one's self—giving one's self to a cause or another person—the more human he is. And the more one is immersed and absorbed in something or someone other than one's self the more he really becomes himself."

According to The Unconscious God, man's actions are a response to "existential" situations rather than to instinctive drives. Life is a process of "deciding what one is going to be." While the search for meaning may imply various kinds of pressure, man's response to these pressures is personal and autonomous. Nor does Dr. Frankl's spirituality resemble Jung's, for Jung's collective unconscious is still too general and impersonal for him.

Happiness, says the author, "cannot be pursued. It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness." Pleasure and happiness are only the byproducts of "self-transcendence." The nobility of Dr. Frankl's vocabulary takes some getting used to, as when he writes that the most important factor contributing to high orgasm and potency rates is "romanticism."

He describes the absence of meaning in one's life as the "abyss experience" and says that 60 percent of his American students, as against 25 percent of his European students, had suffered from this feeling. When he states that "self-interpretation" is the value that ranks highest among American college students, he seems to be suggesting a correlation. Apparently, 60 percent of these self-interpreters failed to find satisfactory answers. Some of them turned to drugs in order to induce delusions of meaningfulness.

Calling for a "rehumanization" of psychotherapy, Dr. Frankl observes that its orthodox image is in such low repute that the American Psychoanalytic Association went so far as to hire a public relations expert to counsel the counselors. Logotherapy, which is presumably humanized, is described by its own public relations counselor, Dr. Frankl himself, as "education to responsibility." While it is difficult to disapprove of this idea, the author does not tell us very much about how we can implement it. When he writes about "ontologized morals" and "repressed transcendence," some readers may hark back nostalgically to the chaste silence of their Freudian "shrinks." If "shrink" is the slang term for the Freudian analyst, then the logotherapist ought to be called "stretch."

David Cohen (essay date July 1977)

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SOURCE: "The Frankl Meaning," in Human Behavior: The News Magazine of the Social Sciences, Vol. 6, No. 7, July, 1977, pp. 56, 58-62.

[Cohen is an American journalist, freelance writer, filmmaker, and founder of Psychology News. In the following essay, he discusses Frankl's attempt to connect his understanding of the spiritual dimension of humanity with psychotherapy and, in particular, the logotherapeutic approach.]

The titles of Viktor Frankl's books—Man's Search for Meaning, The Doctor and the Soul, The Will to Meaning—made me expect a gloomy man who could be the hero of one of Bergman's bleaker films. Frankl lives in the heart of Vienna's medical district. The streets are narrow, quiet and a little dark. I pushed open the big heavy door of the block of flats where Frankl lives and found myself in a long, shabby hallway. My footsteps clanged on the stone floor. Certainly, it was going to be a somber interview.

But Frankl is far from a gloomy man. He bubbles with energy and good humor. He was delighted to see me, he said, and led me into a large light room that is his office. As I switched on my cassette, he smiled and said he would switch his on. He liked to have his own record of an interview and added, without a trace of embarrassment, that two American universities had asked him to record every interview he gives for their archives. He obviously enjoys recording himself for posterity.

Frankl also likes to be busy. He showed me photographs of him and his wife rock climbing. "Not bad still doing that at 70," he remarked and smiled. He enjoyed being photographed and, aware of what it takes to make good shots, slightly exaggerated his gestures while the photographer was there. The phone rang. A Swiss television station wanted to finalize arrangements for him to appear on a program. He was impressed by the way they had coaxed him to go on the air. He likes the idea of doing it. He almost seems to advertise the motto that a full life is a fulfilled life. He appears less contemplative than his books suggest.

Frankl was one of the first psychiatrists to treat patients as responsible human beings rather than superior machines that had a screw loose. In the end, even Freud expected to be able to pin a biochemical cause to every individual act. But from the 1920s, Frankl had patients who wanted something more than to be debugged of their hangups. Getting rid of their complexes did not suddenly make sense of their lives—they wanted to find meaning. Frankl alerted psychiatry and therapy to what could roughly be called the spiritual needs of humanity. The result is logotherapy, an approach that recognizes the fundamental need for meaning in a person's life.

One educated in Britain tends to suspect people who bandy about words like meaning. Only those who don't know what they're talking about dabble in such metaphysics. But it was surprising to find both that Frankl was humorous—even able to tell the odd joke about himself—and, also, that he did not hate science as so many of the existential gurus seem to do. Although logotherapy sounds weighty—translated literally, it means the therapy of meaning—there is often a lot of humor to it.

Given the confusion as to what life is really about now that the comfortable certainties of the past have gone, it isn't surprising that many people have found in Frankl something of a sage. He sees a desperate need for meaning all around and does not dismiss it as childish or as simply a stage that a person out-grows once he or she knows better. And Frankl believes that we need to develop the capacity for finding our personal raisons d'être.

"Meanings are inexhaustible. We need to develop our intuitive sense that allows us to smell out meanings hidden and dormant in life situations. This is very important today. Education should see as one of its main aims training people to be sensitive to the potential for meaning," he explains.

In developing logotherapy since the '20s, Frankl has made a number of enemies who attack both the man and his ideas. They often seize on the fact that Frankl can be a little vain. After speaking with him, I dined with some Freudians who rebuked me for having interviewed "their enemy." I shrugged that off as a passing gibe. But during dinner, I was told a number of malicious anecdotes.

It is not clear why some Freudians are so hostile to Frankl. He was never formally a Freudian analyst, even though he was born in Vienna. When he was three, Frankl decided to be a physician. His father had also wanted to be one, but money problems compelled him to work, first, as a stenographer in the Austrian Parliament and, then, as a civil servant in the Ministry of Social Work. "My father did more than encourage me to become a doctor; he wanted me to fulfill his dream," Frankl says. Frankl's parents were liberal Jews. He states, "No one ordered me to go to the synagogue," but he developed a feeling for the spiritual that he distinguished from the religious.

At 15, Frankl discovered psychoanalysis. As he was fascinated by both psychiatry and philosophy, psychoanalysis offered the perfect mix. Although he was still a schoolboy, Frankl went to university extension courses given by one of Freud's disciples, Hitchmann. "I also went to lectures by Paul Schilder, who spoke every Saturday evening for two hours in the university hospital." Schilder tried to apply psychoanalysis to the psychoses. Frankl added that the man was a genius but Frankl cannot resist also pointing out, and mimicking rather well, his squeaky high-pitched voice.

In 1922, Frankl read Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle. He liked the book enormously, not least because it fitted in with his own ideas. In 1919, when Frankl was 14, he had an intuitive-scientific vision—again spiritual rather than religious. "On the deck of a steamer in the Danube, I looked up at the stars and I arrived at the vision that nirvana is entropy seen from within. In entropy, all energy dissipates. There are no differences between things and so there is absolute equality and unity. I saw nirvana as being this lack of tension seen from within." Freud developed a thesis that was not dissimilar. All living things seek both pleasure and the release from tension that can only come with death. When we are a feast for the worms, we have no problems, no tension. Is it surprising that we should all tend toward the "tranquility of the inorganic state"?

Frankl began to send Freud articles from the literature that he thought might interest him. The two began to correspond. Freud was meticulous. "He answered each single letter, if only in the form of postcard, within 48 hours," Frankl says. Freud's courtesy to him—he knew, after all, that Frankl was only a schoolboy—touched Frankl. Once, Frankl enclosed a short essay with some ideas about the origins of such gestures as nodding and shaking the head. Freud suggested it be published and, at the tender age of 18, Frankl made his entrance into the literature in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis.

Toward the end of the correspondence, Freud suggested that Frankl visit Paul Federn, then the secretary of the Psychoanalytic Society, to discuss when Frankl should start his training analysis. Federn said he should first get his medical degree; the training analysis might interfere with his studies. Frankl accepted this advice, and ironically, it ultimately meant he would never have training analysis and would never formally become a Freudian—which may be why he found it so easy to be "disloyal" to Freud. By the time he was a physician, Frankl had become disenchanted with Freud.

Frankl felt that Freud, in his desire to be scientific, denied the rich spiritual side of humanity. Sex could not cause everything. Freud strained the importance of sex and denied the individual all final responsibility for his or her actions by explaining them away in subhuman terms.

Curiously, though, Frankl only met Freud once—later and by accident. "I saw an old man with a black stick with a silver handle beating the pavement and murmuring to himself, it seemed. I don't believe he was talking to himself but the pains in the jaw might give that impression." For the last 15 years of his life, Freud suffered an agonizing cancer of the jaw. Frankl followed the old man and saw him turn in Berg-gasse, the street on which Freud lived.

"I decided to introduce myself," Frankl recalls. "There was very little traffic, and he was in the middle of the street when I asked him if I had the honor to address Professor Freud. He said, 'Yes, I'm Freud.' I said, 'My name is Viktor Frankl.'" To which Freud responded by immediately quoting back Frankl's address. Frankl told him of a new book on the death instinct, which Freud asked him to review for Imago; but Frankl was already a member of Adler's individual psychology "school." He had to decline.

But Frankl also found Adler's "individual" school too narrow, just as Freud's had been. It seemed too dogmatic to explain everything in terms of power, of coping with a sense of inferiority. In the spring of 1927, two critics of Adler—Rudolph Allers and Oswald Schwarz—pointed out at a meeting that the whole of human behavior could not be explained in such narrow ways.

"Adler was there and challenged me to take a stand," Frankl remembers, "I had to agree with the critics but said I saw no need for them to resign from the Adlerian Society, since individual psychology ought to widen its horizons beyond the one power motive." Adler did not like that. Again the good mimic, Frankl acts out the ponderous way in which Adler tried to dismiss such criticisms. "From that moment on, Adler never spoke to me. When I approached the tables where the Adlerians sat at the Cafe Siller—the Freudians had a different cafe—Adler left. He never greeted me. I felt very hurt. I loved him and I admired him. I knew his weaknesses but I liked him."

In the next month, Frankl was repeatedly invited to resign from the Adlerian Society. He replied constantly that he saw no reason to. "Finally, Adler decreed I was no longer a member. He excommunicated me. It was embarrassing for me. But, in another way, it was beneficial perhaps because I no longer had to consider problems of loyalty."

At the age of 22, then, Frankl felt no need to cling to any particular psychological school—and in Vienna in the 1920s, each "master" demanded almost total loyalty.

While studying medicine, Frankl helped set up a number of youth counseling centers in different parts of Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Their main aim was to help young people who felt suicidal and to, literally, talk them into living. Talking at all hours to fellow students, he learned it is not enough for psychiatrists to cope with people's complexes, deliver them from their hangups and, then, declare them whole.

Often a patient suffers not from a complex but from feeling there is no point to life. The only help is for the person to find a meaning in his or her life. Sometimes, the meanings that Frankl found for suicidal patients seem trite, especially in a setting of apparent hopelessness. For instance, Frankl was imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II, and while there he was visited by two other prisoners, a man and a woman who were close to suicide. Neither expected anything more from life. "I asked both my fellow prisoners whether the question was really what we expected from life. Was it not rather what life was expecting from us?" He suggested that the woman had a child abroad who was waiting for her and the man had a series of books that he had begun to publish but had not yet finished. Such meanings seem almost too simple—but Frankl records many cases in which pointing out even the simplest meanings or making it possible for a patient to find them did change lives.

Because of his experience with Freud, Adler and the youth centers, Frankl was permitted to act as a psychotherapist at the university hospital before he had qualified as a physician. "I learned to forget what I had learned from my great teachers, Freud and Adler. I tried to learn from my patients by learning to listen to my patients."

It is not just Frankl who makes meaning important. Frankl mentions several statistical studies showing that maybe one neurosis in five has, at its root, a feeling that life is meaningless. Neither psychoanalysis nor a technique like behavior therapy offers much help there. Recently, Frankl had a patient who had been to a behavior therapist. The therapist had tried to condition him to stop thinking the thought "Life is meaningless." Although Frankl approves of much in behavior therapy, he felt it was absurd here and insensitive to use such a mechanistic approach.

In the '20s, Frankl also became aware that many patients had learned to live very well with phobias and compulsions. "Again and again, I became aware of what in modern behavioristic language one would call the coping mechanisms that allowed patients to deal with anxieties and obsessions." During this period, Frankl hit on and developed his first original therapeutic technique—paradoxical intention.

"The essence of paradoxical intention is to get the patient to do or to wish to happen exactly what it is that he fears to do." He had a patient once who was scared that if he went out onto the street, he would have a heart attack and die. Eventually, Frankl told the patient that what he was to do was to go out, stand on the street corner and will himself to have the biggest heart attack ever. The patient did so and discovered that the more he tried to will on a heart attack, the more impossible it seemed. And his fear of having a heart attack disappeared. A second case: a young surgeon would always tremble when a superior entered the operating theater. Frankl told him that the next time a superior came in, the young surgeon had to try to tremble as hard as he could "to show what a good trembler" he was. "This quite took the wind out of the phobia," Frankl recalls, smiling.

Frankl admits that he stumbled onto the technique almost four decades ago out of intuition and impatience, rather than by research. "In a way, I felt it better to have an end to the horror than to have a horror without end with the patient subjected to constant, repetitive anxieties; so I said to the patient, tongue in cheek, 'For a change, let's try to have a heart attack,'" he explains.

Also, Frankl was reacting against psychoanalysis. "I sometimes had to deal with patients who had been through psychoanalysis and who had been induced to focus attention on their inner life, on their past, on their pathology, on their introspections. I felt the impulse to help man to break out of all this inner turmoil, the introspections and retrospections that were increasing their problems. And this paradoxical intention seemed to be a way."

Paradoxical intention uses what Frankl sees as a specifically human dimension, the ability to be self-detached. The patient can see how absurd the phobia is. Usually, a phobic patient avoids the situation that would bring on his or her phobia. The agoraphobic stays inside and, by staying inside, copes successfully with his or her fear of open spaces. But this very success strengthens the phobia. It's positive feedback. Next time round, the possibility of going out arouses even greater anxiety. Frankl explains, "As in behavior therapy, the principle is that what is at the root of phobias is the avoidance of fear-arousing situations. So you have to approach them directly." He sometimes points out that behavior therapy realized the value of this some 35 years later than he did.

But paradoxical intention not only confronts the patient with the feared situation, it mobilizes the specifically human ability to experience humor. Only human beings can be self-detached. Frankl claims—against a number of ethologists—that Homo sapiens is the only species that can laugh. But the point is not really whether some apes can, perhaps, laugh but that no one Frankl recognizes as an authority has yet suggested that an ape can see a joke, let alone a joke against himself. But, to be self-detached, one has to be able to see the funny side of oneself.

In a recent paper in Psychotherapy (Fall 1975), Frankl records many cases in which paradoxical intention was used by himself and often by other therapists. It is the technique, not the particular therapist, that succeeds. These case histories often highlight the use of humor. Linda T was an attractive 19-year-old student who had problems with her parents. She was very tense. She stuttered. Her therapist, Larry Ramirez, reports—and Frankl quotes him:

My natural reaction would have been to say, "Relax, it's all right." But from past experience I knew that asking her to relax would only increase her tension. Instead, I responded with just the opposite. "Linda, I want you to act as nervously as you can." "Okay," she said, "being nervous is easy for me." She started by clenching her fists together and shaking her hands as though they were trembling. "That's good," I said, "but try to be more nervous." The humor of the situation became obvious to her and she said, "I really was nervous but I can't be any longer. It's odd but the more I try to be tense, the less I'm able to be."

Paradoxical intention is not just dramatic but also effective. Linda T continued to feel less nervous and her stuttering decreased.

There are some remarkable cases. A doctor on Frankl's staff treated one 65-year-old woman who had suffered from a hand-washing compulsion for 60 years. Paradoxical intention cured her. A fellow logotherapist, Hans Gerz, is quoted by Frankl as having cured a woman who had a 24-year history of phobias. And Frankl tells many impressive cases of his own. But the only experimental study of logotherapy was one carried out in 1972 by W. Solyom and colleagues at the University of Montreal. They used paradoxical intention on patients who had had obsessive-compulsive disorders for between 4 1/2 and 25 years. For each patient they chose two compulsive thoughts. The therapist treated one of these symptoms by paradoxical intention and left the other untreated. In six weeks, patients reported a 50 percent drop in those compulsive thoughts that had had paradoxical intention applied. Since obsessions are notoriously hard to treat, these are impressive figures. No new obsessive symptoms welled up to take the place of those that had gone. But still that is only one experimental study that compared logotherapy and other therapies only indirectly. Tough-nosed researchers want more proof.

For Frankl, what is crucial is that patients, being human beings, live through their fear and see through their anxiety. They can laugh at themselves or, at least, take a detached view. The ironic insight, the paradox, is central. But for most behavior therapists, the humor that is so dear to Frankl is, at the very most, an embellishment.

Behavior therapists are less generous than Frankl would like to think. Isaac Marks of the Maudsley in a comprehensive review of therapies devotes one line to paradoxical intention. "Paradoxical intention is very similar to straight exposure in vivo." And, for behavior therapists, the reason paradoxical intention works has nothing to do with insight, ironic or otherwise. The patients are just given prolonged exposure to what they are phobic about and that deconditions their anxiety, since they are not gobbled by the cats or struck down by being in an open space.

For Frankl, people's ability to see themselves in this detached, ironic way goes with humanity's other unique gift—the capacity for self-transcendence. People can find a meaning, because they are capable of self-transcendence. "Self-transcendence means that human existence is directed to something or someone other than itself. Being human is to reach out for a meaning to fulfill. For example, in loving a person or serving a cause, we become ourselves in the best sense of the word. I maintain there is a motivation to find meaning." Humanity has a will-to-meaning.

Although Frankl was working toward this position already in the late 1920s, many people seem to think that he discovered meaning in the concentration camp. "People think I came out of Auschwitz with a brand-new psychotherapy. This is not the case."

After the Germans took over Vienna, Frankl explains, "I was called to the Gestapo offices and this officer examined me. But soon it seemed all camouflage. What he really wanted to squeeze out of me was whether and where there were still psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in Vienna." The Gestapo man asked how such people would treat agoraphobia; he said he had a friend who suffered from agoraphobia. "I realized, of course, that he was the person who suffered from agoraphobia and that he wanted to be treated. It was an instance of pure technique in therapy, because there could be no encounter between me and him. So, finally, I told him that if there were psychotherapists working in Vienna and if his friend went to see them, this would probably be what they would do." And Frankl told the Gestapo man how paradoxical intention would treat "his friend." The purely technical treatment may have succeeded, and it may explain why Frankl and his family were not deported to their first concentration camp until 1942—a full year after the encounter.

Frankl, his first wife and his parents were deported to the concentration camp at Terezin in Czechoslovakia. His father died there. In 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz and, from Auschwitz, to Dachau. "When I entered Auschwitz, I had hidden in the lining of my coat the full-length manuscript of what later became my first book, The Doctor and the Soul." This manuscript was a systematic presentation of logotherapy. He reiterates that Auschwitz did not inspire a new therapy.

Frankl believes that meanings can be found in unique life situations. "I am not talking about ultimate meaning. I grasped when I was 16 that I may one day find meaning either in a creative way—in work or doing a deed—or in an experiential way, in the way one experiences something or someone as good or true or beautiful. There is also a third way. If your situation is unchangeable, if you are suffering from an incurable disease, then you can find meaning by the way you live through it."

The camps taught Frankl much about all these ways to meaning. In extreme circumstances, those people who felt they had a reason, a goal, to survive were most likely to survive. They did not give up and die as did one inmate Frankl knew. This man dreamed that the war would end for him on March 30, 1945. At first, he was optimistic; then, as March dragged on, he began to despair. There seemed no end of the war in sight. On March 29th, he became delirious; on March 30th, he lost consciousness; on March 31st, he died. As in North Korean and Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, Frankl says, "those who were most oriented toward a meaning to fulfill in the future tended to survive."

In the concentration camps, however, it was not a question of surviving best, of not being broken by the experience; it was a question of not being sent to the gas chambers. Frankl has argued with Hannah Arendt and others who found fault with the Jews for not attacking the SS. Many people who had strong reasons to live "did not believe they were being marched to the gas chambers. Some laughed. And, second, they were powerless. To take action was unrealistic, and it would have been impossibly irresponsible."

The revenge taken would have been atrocious. Those who understood the situation and who were almost resigned to it, Frankl says sadly, managed by their attitude to find or to express a meaning. "Even if you are caught as a helpless victim in a hopeless situation, you may transcend that situation and turn a tragedy into a triumph on a human level by the attitude that you adopt and bear it with." At worst, the way you face your death can give meaning to your life.

Frankl cites the accounts about those who were exterminated in the concentration camps. "Once those people—including my own mother, by the way—had been crammed into the gas chambers and they saw the canisters of Cyclone B gas thrown into a crowd of naked people, they saw there was no help. Then they began to pray, saying the Shema Isreal, and surrendered themselves to what God had bestowed on them—the Communists singing the Marseillaise, the Christians saying the Our Father, the Jews saying Kaddish upon each other." Frankl confesses he was awed by the way in which many very simple, ordinary people met their death. "They were able to manifest their deepest humanity."

Frankl stresses the value of suffering. Most therapists, after all, try to make people as happy and well as they can be. For Frankl, suffering can be creative. Once, an old physician came to him, extremely depressed after the death of his wife. Theirs had been a very happy marriage. Frankl records; "'Tell me, what would have happened if you had died first and your wife had survived you?'

"'That would have been terrible,' he said. 'How my wife would have suffered.'

"'Well, you see,' I answered, 'your wife has been spared that, and it was you who spared her, though of course you must now pay by surviving and mourning her.'"

The change in perspective did not make the physician glow with happiness, but it did give him a feeling that there was some point, some meaning, to his suffering. And, as a result, he could handle it much better. Frankl believes that we need, at this time, to develop our capacity for finding meanings.

Frankl is a religious man. Some critics have suggested that he has done nothing more than import some religious ideas into psychiatry. He is accused of encouraging psychiatrists to comfort their patients with talk of ultimate meanings. Frankl denies this. He does not deny that religion concerns him—he feels therapists should not ignore or put down religion.

"Logotherapists," Frankl explains, "see in religion a human phenomenon we have to take into account. We have to consider the fact that so many people have become or remained religious. But that does not mean that you have to be religious to benefit from logotherapy or, indeed, to use it if you are a therapist." Frankl insists that when he speaks about logotherapy, he speaks as an authority, the founder of the technique. "Logotherapy is a technique, the application of a secular scientific approach. Religious psychiatrists should be content if it no longer indoctrinates people with the notion that religion is nothing but the compulsive neurosis of mankind and that God is nothing but our Father Image in the Sky. The result of all that is to block the spontaneous religious self-actualization of a patient who might be so inclined. Not even the Freudians deal with religion that way now."

And many people who are religious, Frankl finds, seek not just a meaning in the here and now of life but also "some overall meaning about life in general. This ultimate meaning may also be the target of motivation. I could speak, therefore, of a Will to Ultimate Meaning, and having recognized such a meaning means being religious in the widest sense of the word. As Einstein said, there are people content with nothing but such meanings." Whatever Frankl's personal beliefs, one of the reasons for his popularity is precisely that he pays attention to the fact that we hanker after meaning to make sense of our lives. He doesn't see it as a weakness or an immaturity, as Freud and the behaviorists did.

It is typical of the paradoxes of Frankl's position that this hankering after the religious does not make him antiscientific. "Frankly, I must admit that logotherapy has been developed on purely intuitive grounds by me, which is a personal strength, perhaps, but a scientific weakness," he admits. But he has been glad to see empirical psychologists and psychiatrists bother to look experimentally at his ideas. For example, James C. Crumbaugh and Leonard T. Maholick devised a Purpose in Life test (known as PIL) and tried it out on 1,151 subjects. They concluded that there was evidence of a noogenic neurosis, a neurosis caused by a lack of meaning in one's life. There have been other, similar tests. Equally, Frankl is glad to see some convergence between logotherapy and behavior therapy—an unlikely alliance of the spiritual and scientific. Certainly, Frankl displays none of the contempt and hostility toward behavior therapy that most Freudians do. And that is surely welcome change, especially if the behavior therapists will really reciprocate.

Through his career, Frankl has continued to develop insights that he had as a very young man. He was 22 when he broke both with Freud and with Adler because he distrusted the attempt to reduce humanity, to explain individuals away in mechanical terms and rob them totally of their freedom. Frankl sees his work as building upon a wide range of previous work, not overturning it. "Logotherapy," he contends, "has made a contribution by opening up the human dimension which shows that resources can be drawn on once people are aware that man is not just a mechanism, a being that seeks satisfaction of drives, instincts and needs. Beyond what can be explained in subhuman terms, there is specifically human motivation. Man can suffer deliberately for a cause. This is what eludes you if you restrict on a priori bias your research to, say, animals.

"This does not mean that man ceases to be a biochemical entity, but he is more than that. The noetic (the specifically human) dimension encompasses the psychic and somatic one. Freud, Adler, Pavlov, and Watson are not invalidated or to be dismissed, but logotherapy is the more inclusive dimension. Within their dimension, they may all have been right, but one cannot ignore the noetic dimension, because the collective neurosis today seems to be that people feel they are suffering empty and meaningless lives."

"And, in that sense, not in the sense of possessing some universal truth, logotherapy does appeal to the predicament of today's man." As he says that, Frankl positively radiates confidence. Despite his concern to have a much more humane psychiatry, he has kept what he feels is a hard-headed approach. He is critical of much humanistic psychiatry. He enjoys satirizing the pretensions of encounter groups, marathon encounter groups and nude marathon encounter groups as usually being sessions of "mutual monolog."

Frankl now spends his life commuting between Vienna and the United States, where he is a distinguished professor at the United States International University in San Diego, California. He is convinced that his work is influential in the United States, because it answers a desperate need for meaning. He recently received the UNIQUEST Albert Schweitzer Award for 1977, presented to him at the inauguration of the Viktor E. Frankl Library at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

As we finished our talk, Frankl showed me around the room in the flat that he has made his own personal archive. He takes an almost naive pleasure in the room. It has copies of almost everything he has written, of lectures he has given; of tapes he has made. Frankl has certainly carved out for himself a distinct place as one of the first psychiatrists to see the value of exploring both the spiritual and the humorous side of humanity. The contradiction fits him. He cares both about spirit and science, meaning and measurement. Perhaps his real contribution will turn out to be that he did not flinch from these contradictions but kept on trying to achieve an understanding of humanity and our needs that is not oversimplified.

Robert L. Moore (review date March 1979)

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SOURCE: A review of The Unconscious God, in Zygon, Vol. 14, No. 1, March, 1979, pp. 94-5.

[Moore is an American television producer, author of The Green Berets (1965), and several screenplays, including The French Connection (1971). In the following review of The Unconscious God, he praises the book's systematic organization but questions Frankl's presentation of the notions of religiosity and spirituality in an existential context.]

This little monograph [The Unconscious God: Psychotherapy and Theology] is a reissue in English of a book first published by Viktor E. Frankl in 1947. Frankl is of course the Viennese psychiatrist who received a good deal of interest from the American theological community during the sixties. Characterizing Freudian analysis as interested in the "will to pleasure" and Adlerian analysis as concerned with the "will to power," Frankl views his logotherapy, the third Viennese school of analysis, as focused instead on the "will to meaning." Critical analysts of Frankl and logotherapy for the most part do not share Frankl's appraisal of himself as a depth psychologist ranking with Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Carl G. Jung in stature. Indeed a close examination of his criticisms of the work of these men does not lead one to the conclusion that Frankl has been able to arrive at a very sophisticated grasp of the schools which he so much wants to overshadow.

A careful reading of his best known writings, including Man's Search for Meaning (1959) and The Doctor and the Soul (1965), provides a basis for understanding why Frankl and logotherapy appear to be waning in influence. His categories blur distinctions and elude definition. The entire system is intriguing at first glance, but sustained analysis reveals it to be speculative, difficult to test or validate, and shot through with overgeneralization and exaggeration. Why then did the system receive such a positive response from American religionists? One obvious answer is that religionists were hungry for validation in the eyes of "legitimate, secular, humanistic, scientific" culture and that Frankl's sanction of a vague religiousness was reassuring. A number of major Protestant seminaries brought Frankl to America to hear him extol the reality of meaning, the value of religion, and the necessity of a transpersonal commitment as essential to self-actualization. Without doubt Frankl has a compelling personal story to tell and is an entertaining lecturer and raconteur. Still, the early popularity of Frankl and his system witnesses more to the religious crisis of middle-class America than to the profundity and promise of logotherapy.

The book under review is a good representative of the Frankl corpus. Indeed Frankl calls it the most organized and systematized of all his books. The book is divided into two parts: the first half being the early lectures on the "unconscious God" and the last half a review of and commentary on recent research and publications on logotherapy. The basic thesis of the former is that there is "a religious sense deeply rooted in each and every man's unconscious depths." Often repressed in modern culture, this unconscious religiousness may break through into consciousness in unexpected ways. Frankl reports that his awareness of this phenomenon was deepened through the existential analysis of dreams. In a chapter on this topic he relates a number of dreams which he deems expressive of the "spiritual unconscious."

It is, however, the existential analysis of conscience which he offers as a key to unconscious spirituality. Conscience for Frankl is prelogical, irrational, and grounded in intuition. It reaches down into the unconscious depths of the person and is a referent to transcendence. Not just referring to transcendence, it originates in transcendence and is thereby irreducible. We should be clear, however, that Frankl does not intend any religious connotation to the word "spiritual." The spiritual is "what is human in man." Frankl then is merely asserting here that the human individual transcends the "facticity" of biological and psychological givens—that human responsibility "reaches down into an unconscious ground."

In his chapter "Unconscious Religiousness" Frankl adds his assertion of the reality of a "transcendent unconsciousness." By this he means that phenomenological investigation reveals that the human unconscious always stands in "an intentional relation to transcendence" and that the intentional referent of such an unconscious relation may be called "God." Thus his concept of an unconscious God "refers to man's hidden relation to a God who himself is hidden."

Obviously aware that his chosen topic will remind us of the work of Jung, Frankl differentiates his position from that of Jung in two basic ways. First, unconscious religiousness is personal, not impersonal and/or archetypical; and second, it is existential, not instinctual—the result of decisions and not drives. Unconscious religiousness "stems from the personal center of the individual man rather than an impersonal pool of images shared by mankind."

If this book encourages scholarly reflection on the repression of the religious which is symptomatic of the modern ethos, then its publication will be justified. Considered in itself, the book promises far more than it delivers—and we have not learned much about homo religiosus. Frankl and other theorists of similar stance have drunk so deeply from the now-depleted wells of the Enlightenment that they are unable to relate to the strange world of the religious—conscious or unconscious. When we have progressed further in our understanding of the religiousness of the human psyche, we will find that we have returned again and again to the visions of the archaic psyche as portrayed by Freud and Jung—that Frankl's existential analysis was a cul-de-sac.

George Kovacs (essay date Fall 1982)

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SOURCE: "The Philosophy of Death in Viktor E. Frankl," in Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, Vol. 13, No. 2, Fall, 1982, pp. 197-209.

[In the following essay, Kovacs examines Frankl's notion that death is a natural and integral part of living and that it contributes an understanding of the existential meaning of life.]

Human attitudes towards the insurmountable factuality of personal death are not simply a syndrome of behavioral mechanisms for coping with a situation of stress, but, more significantly, they express philosophical and ideological understandings of the nature of death from the perspective of human living. Existential phenomenology examines the phenomenon of death precisely in accordance with the methodological significance of the relationship between attitudes and ideas or insights. The philosophies of death of Nietzsche, Jaspers, Scheler, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Marcel, and Buber (as well as those of other thinkers) show the existential confrontation with the phenomenon of death according to its attitudinal as well as conceptual dimensions. The concern with the meaning of death is an essential element of the existential-phenomenological approach to the question of death. The philosophy of death in the logotherapy of Viktor E. Frankl shows not only the attitudinal dimensions of existential ideas about death, but also examines the philosophical foundations of the logotherapeutic thesis on the meaning of death. Frankl's analysis of the meaning of death leads to the integration of the phenomenon of death into the inner dynamics of human living.

Frankl's analysis of the meaning of death represents a philosophical and a psychological alternative to the temptation of projecting the phenomenon of death onto a horizon of absurdity and meaninglessness. The interpretation of death in logotherapy is not based on any pre-established ideological presupposition; it is the result of a discovery that happens in the process of dialogue with the propositions of absurdity and meaninglessness. The basic questions of the philosophy of death in logotherapy are as follows: Is there a meaning to death? What is the final, the ultimate meaning of death? Does the reality of death, the fact of the finiteness of the human being in time, make life meaningless? What is the foundational significance of death for concrete human existence on this side of death? What is the nature and what ought to be the task of the therapy of the anxiety of death? What are the ontological (philosophical) foundations of the logotherapeutic claim that the existential fact of death is the source of meaning in human living? These issues represent basic elements of human concerns with the phenomenon of death. The most unique dimension of the philosophy of death in the thought of Frankl consists in the systematic examination of the meaning-question about death. This approach is not aiming at finding the final answers to the ultimate metaphysical questions about death (Why is there death? Is there a reward or a punishment after death? Is there a life after death?). The main task of the logotherapeutic analysis of the phenomenon of death is directed towards showing that the main characteristic of human existence is always the search for and the realization (actualization) of meaning in all human situations, especially in the human encounter with death, illness and suffering. Frankl's reflections on death deal more intensively with life than with death; they show the human capacity to find a meaningfulness in living even in the face of the reality of human death. Death is the source of human fulfillment in living and of the call for the realization of values in the process of living; it is not the cause of any existential vacuum.

By focusing on the question of meaning, logotherapy is helping the patient (all human persons are patients of logotherapy) to meet the existential facts of death, guilt, and suffering. A direct confrontation with these existential situations prevents the neurotic denial of them by the human person. The denial and the repression of these existential situations lead to a detour of the human self from its human and ontological potentialities. Thus logotherapy acknowledges the inescapable existential reality of the unchangeable existential facts (death, suffering, illness, guilt) and at the same time leads to a positive attitude towards them by showing that they are potentially meaningful.

The human person is able to create meaning even in the midst of the desert, even in the seemingly most inhuman situation. The source of many forms of contemporary neuroses lies in the denial of existential facts and not in the denial (repression) of the instinctual (e.g., sexual) components of human existence. Contemporary society may be characterized by the tendency to deny demanding existential facts and by the willingness to accept the instinctual and passionate elements in human living. A merely psychodynamic interpretation of existential facts (e.g., the fear of death interpreted as a castration anxiety) is ultimately based on a deterministic view of human life as a whole. The logotherapeutic perspective rejects the ideology of pandeterminism and affirms the contextual freedom of the human will precisely by showing the function of human attitudes in the acknowledgement of unchangeable existential facts. There is much in human life that is dependent on and decided by the attitude of the human person towards life as such. According to the main principle of logotherapy, human existence is "always directed toward a meaning to fulfill (rather than a self to actualize or one's potentialities to develop)" [Psychotherapy and Existentialism, 1967]. The essential transitoriness of human existence does not take away the meaningfulness of life but rather adds to it. Thus logotherapy is able to deal with the often repressed or unconscious existential despair of the patient. Existential despair can be made conscious and thus it may become the object of human reflection and analysis. Existential despair can be reduced and even replaced by the attitude of existential hope, by the existential potentiality of finding and thus realizing a meaning in all human situations. Logotherapy helps the human person to confront (encounter) the repressed fears and anxieties in a positive manner; it leads not to a denial, not to a repression of them but to a human way of dealing with them, to a lucid recognition of them for what they are. This approach goes beyond the reductionist tendency of a merely psychodynamic explanation of the existential situations of the human person.

The next phase of these reflections examines the main themes as well as the attitudinal significance of the philosophy of death in logotherapy. The concern with the phenomenon of meaning and with the human will to meaning enables logotherapy to make valuable and unique contributions to the theoretical understanding as well as to the concrete forms of dealing with the phenomenon of death in the process of human living.

The philosophy of death in the works of Frankl includes an analysis of the following three foundational issues: the relationship between death and the meaning of life; the ontological understanding of temporality; the nature of human death. These three issues are interrelated and they deal with the main questions arising in the process of dialogue between the human being and the reality of death.

a) According to the main thesis of Frankl's existential analysis, the finiteness of the life of the human person in time, the fact of death, does not make life meaningless, but rather gives meaning to life. Many people think that the fact of death destroys the meaning of life as well as the works of human life. Frankl rejects this assumption by indicating the fallacy included in it and by developing a positive understanding of human finiteness. The assumption that finiteness makes human life meaningless implies the claim that the infinite gives meaning to life and to the works, accomplishments of life. But the infiniteness, the immortality of human life would allow the attitude of procrastination (there would always be more time for doing things); it would make whatever the human being does or fails to do into something insignificant since there would be more and additional opportunities all the time. Therefore, the meaning of this life and its works is not dependent on eternity; life is meaningful or meaningless irrespective of its limitations or infinite prolongation in time. Thus the logic that derives meaninglessness from finiteness is not logical at all. There is a non sequitur in this assumption. According to the "positive" view of human finiteness in Frankl, "the meaning of human existence is based upon its irreversible quality" [The Doctor and the Soul]. Death and singularity make human existence irreversible and thus constitute a source of responsibility for the human person in time. Death is not a thief robbing off the meaning of human life, but the "absolute finis to our future and boundary to our possibilities" [The Doctor and the Soul]. The time-boundary of life constitutes a command to use well the time given and to seize the opportunities presented by life. The human person should not let time pass by without using it well because a human life is constituted by accepting the opportunities, by continually summing them up into the whole of life. Human life and human responsibility are situated in time, in the process of history.

How can the logotherapist lead the person who suffers from the sense of meaninglessness in the face of death to a sense of personal responsibility, to the discovery of meaning in finite life? The task of the logotherapist may be defined as the reawakening of the patient to the historical dimension of human existence that is the source of personal responsibility. The human being is responsible for writing the story (history) of his life. Often times time runs out sooner than the work is finished or completed. Nevertheless this running out of time does not make the work and the task done meaningless. A human biography is not to be evaluated by its length but by the richness of its contents. The question about the meaning of life is not a question about quantity but a question about quality!

The finiteness of a life, Frankl insists, does not distract from the quality of life but rather adds to it. By accepting and assuming finiteness, the human being unfolds his life in the process of time and history. The meaning of life does not come from the mere prolongation of living (as the false assumption indicated earlier would imply) but from the accomplishing, the finishing of tasks in finite time. Death belongs to life; there is no need to exclude death from life in order to find meaning in life. The meaning of life is situated not in the future (e.g., in future generations, in eternity) but in the now (presence) of finite time, in human history. Life grows, transcends itself "not in 'length'—in the sense of reproduction of itself—but in 'height'—by fulfilling values" [The Doctor and the Soul]; it receives meaning not from the prolongation of itself but from the fulfilling of values and tasks. The growing and the transcending nature of life is not a quantitative but a qualitative characteristic. Life is meaningful or meaningless irrespective of its span in time. The recognition and the awareness of finiteness, according to the logotherapeutic interpretation of the phenomenon of human death, do not dictate, do not lead to a philosophical ideology of absurdity and nothingness. The human acknowledgment of death becomes a source of the joy of living and peace with oneself in the struggle with the unchangeable realities of life.

The positive view of human finiteness in the thought of Frankl sheds a new light on the uniqueness and individuality of the human person. The inner limits of life add to the meaning of the life of the human being. The limitations make each individual human being unique and indispensable. Uniqueness, however, is not a springboard for isolation from, but the source of the right relationship of the individual to the community. Genuine community creates a place for the fulfillment of human individuality; authentic community is born out of the respect for the personal mode of existence. The human individual is not some sample of a general type, but a personal being as "being different, absolute otherness" [The Doctor and the Soul]. The genuine community contributes to the emergence of the individual as a category of being and enhances the sense of personal responsibility; the mass society submerges individuality and thus dilutes personal responsibility. According to Frankl, the uniqueness of the human being is formed and developed by the personal limitations, the personal choices and acts of the individual. Thus finiteness, limitations, and death itself become a source for meaning in the life of the individual human being. Death does not annul but rather creates responsibility; it calls for the individual's response to the opportunities and questions presented by life in all situations. Human uniqueness and responsibility make up the personal mode of being.

For Frankl, death itself makes life meaningful because human existence is essentially characterized by responsibility that is grounded on human finiteness. Death is not the enemy of life but a part of life. The limit in time and the limited range of his potentialities make the human person accountable for the use of time and of all that is given to him; they determine, shape the quality and the meaning of human existence. Every human being is called to face the limitations of life, but each human being is responding to this call in a personal and a unique way. Thus death makes all human beings equal and, at the same time, uniquely personal; it is a great equalizer and a powerful personalizer of human existence.

Death as a human destiny is not an absurd phenomenon, but a source of meaning in human living. However, according to the thought of Frankl, death is not the only unchangeable destiny of the human being. There are many other unchangeable realities in the life of the human person. Frankl examines the biological, the psychological, and the social determinants of human life with the same attention as he examined the phenomenon of death. The human being is a "deciding being" (Jaspers) because the human being is able to take a free stand towards destiny, towards unchangeable situations in living. According to the existential-phenomenological understanding, the structure of the human being as existence includes both facticity (that which is given) and potentiality (that which is chosen). The human being is not predetermined, but rather determines itself within a range of potentialities. The human being is determined not only by what he already is but also by what he can be; man is not only what he is (already) but also what he is not (yet). The human being can decide to be or not to be. "Destiny must always be a stimulus to conscious, responsible action" [The Doctor and the Soul]. Destiny (biological, psychological, social) is meaningfully incorporated by the human person into the structure of his life [The Doctor and the Soul]. Frankl's analysis of the various unchangeable elements of human existence (death, biological constitution, psychological dispositions, social environment) leads to the claim (and conviction) that it is possible for the human person to adopt freely chosen attitudes towards (realize values in) the unchangeable situations and realities of human life. The human being can transform a given reality into a possibility, into a potentiality for accomplishing something. An apparent obstacle or a limitation in life may become a source for new personal meaning and self-realization. Thus, for Frankl, death is not the end but rather the beginning or the birth of meaning in human living. The phenomenon of death does not constitute the source of absurdity, but rather contributes to the emergence of meaning.

b) The logotherapeutic view of the phenomenon of death as the source of meaning in human living is built on the philosophical interpretation of the nature of time, on the ontological understanding of temporality and mortality. Frankl's analysis of the ontological nature (the Being or reality) of time is an integral part of his entire philosophy of death.

The transitoriness of human life does not distract from its meaningfulness because of the ontological status of the past. According to logotherapy, the past is nothing but a mode of being, a reality and not merely a possibility. The actualized possibilities exist as part of the past of the person. Everything is being conserved in the past. The accomplishments of the person, the reality of love lived and of the suffering endured with courage remain stored in the past; they are conserved, treasure as the strong background and foundation of what the acting and living person is all about. In Frankl's expression, "being past" is a form of being, "having been" is a mode of being [The Unheard Cry for Meaning]. The affirmation of the reality of the past of the human person is a key thesis of logotherapy. The past of the person using time wisely is a source of strength because it is not the product of the chronological passage of time, but the result of passing (transforming) possibilities into realities (accomplishments, actualities). The passing or passage of possibilities into realities is a creative passage (passing) and not a destructive passage. The love lived with a person remains even after the death of the person. The past retains, keeps alive all the possibilities that were transformed into realities through the decisions and acts of the human person. The goodness, the achievements, the trials endured with courage, the meaning of human experience cannot be removed from the world. All these are stored, all these endure in the safety of the past; they constitute a source of comfort and consolation. Thus the life of the human person is transitory, but it is not a life lived in vain; the human person does not live for nothing, but for "some thing."

The interpreation of the ontological status of the past as the "safest mode of being" represents a way of transcending the transitory nature of human life. The past is the record of our choices, of our responsibilities. Human actions and human creations do not vanish into nothingness, but remain an eternal record. For Frankl, the world is not a manuscript written in a secret code we have to decipher (Jaspers), but it is "rather a record we must dictate" [The Unheard Cry for Meaning]. This record is written daily by the responses we give to the questions (tasks, assignments) that are presented to us by life. The record, the life lived and created by our responses cannot be lost, but it cannot be corrected either. Thus this record is a source of hope and comfort, but it is also a warning at the same time. Nothing can be removed from the past, but we may rescue our chosen possibilities into the past. We decide in the present what we wish to eternalize by making it part of the past. The art of human creativity consists in nothing else but in the turning of the "possibilities of the future into realities of the past," in the act of moving something "from the nothingness of the future into the 'being past'" [The Unheard Cry for Meaning]. Thus everything is transitory because everything is "fleeing from the emptiness of the future into the safety of the past!" [The Unheard Cry for Meaning]. All beings fear emptiness; every being is dominated by the horror vacui according to the ancient thinkers. All beings are rushing from the emptiness of the future into the safety of the past, into past existence. The present is the narrow passage, the opening into the safety of the past, the admission into eternity. "The present is the borderline between the unreality of the future and the eternal reality of the past" [The Unheard Cry for Meaning]. The present is called by Frankl the "borderline" of eternity because the present moment (the decision in the now) decides what should be eternalized, what should be the eternal record of the past. The only way to gain time is by depositing it in the past, by using time well for something now. According to Frankl, the good use of time that takes place in the present, the passage from the future into the past through personal decisions made in this manner by every individual person is nothing else ultimately but the exercise of the existential potentiality for transforming possibilities into realities.

c) What is death? What happens in death? The ontological and the axiological interpretations of time lead to some insights about the issues that are involved in dealing with these questions. According to the logotherapeutic perspective, death gives a definite form and structure to all that happens in the life of the human person. Only the spiritual self remains in and survives death. In death the individual human being not only sees his life in review, but becomes his life; the individual becomes his history. Life in death, then, becomes what the human person made of it. Thus Frankl is able to say that "man's own past is his future. The living man has both a future and a past; the dying man has no future in the usual sense, but only a past; the dead, however, 'is' his past" [The Unheard Cry for Meaning]. In living we have both a future and a past; in dying we have no future but only past. In death, in being dead, we are, we have become our own past. In death we have no life; in death we are our lives. The past as the safest mode of being cannot be taken away; in the past as the safest mode of being life is completed and perfected. In life we complete individual facts and tasks; in death life in its totality is completed. Therefore man creates himself, and becomes a reality not at his birth but at his death, at the completion of life by death. The human self is not something that is ready-made but it is rather "some thing" that becomes fully itself in time. Temporality is not simply an aspect of the external process of becoming, but much rather it is an essential element in the inner growth of the human self.

According to Frankl, in daily living the human person tends to misunderstand the reality and the meaning of death. Thus death is regarded very often as an intrusion upon, as an interference with the process of living, and as something finishing off the whole of life. Human beings in daily living worry about death and think about death as something dreadful and entirely hostile to all that life is all about. Human beings forget that death is an alarm that wakes us up to our real existence in the real world. Death opens us up to the true reality of our inner being and self-hood; the personal awareness of our own death leads to the discovery of our own personal being and living.

The above analysis of the philosophy of death in the thought of Frankl leads to some valuable insights about the meaning of human death. The logotherapeutic interpretation of the phenomenon of death integrates the reality of death into the dynamics of human living. Thus the existential analysis of the meaning of death in Frankl represents a positive attitude towards the existential fact of death; it rejects the nihilistic attitude towards death regarded as the enemy of human projects and possibilities. The difficulty of integrating the phenomenon of death into human living is clearly expressed by Simone de Beauvoir in connection with the description of her attitude towards the death of her mother: "It is useless to try to integrate life and death and to behave rationally in the presence of something that is not rational: each must manage as well as he can in the tumult of his feelings" [Simone de Beauvoir, A Very Easy Death, 1973]. For Simone de Beauvoir "there is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation" [A Very Easy Death]. The philosophy of death in Simone de Beauvoir as well as in Sartre is bound to remain incomplete because it does not include a comprehensive philosophy of human suffering and because it does not develop a more critical analysis of the spectrum of human and intellectual attitudes towards the presence of death in human living. The philosophy of death in Frankl includes a comprehensive analysis of human suffering as well as an analysis of the gamut of human attitudes towards the existential facts of life. Frankl's philosophy and existential psychotherapy is based on the existential principle of the will to meaning. This principle makes possible the integration of the phenomenon of death into the dynamics of human living. The following reflections show the existential significance and the philosophical dimensions as well as the boundaries of Frankl's analysis of the meaning of death.

a) The key thesis of the logotherapeutic interpretation of the phenomenon of death is the affirmation of the meaning-generating function of death, of the potentialities of the will to meaning in the process of dealing with the finiteness of human existence. Death does not take away the meaning that is found in human living but rather propels the human person to find and create meaning in finite living. The human person is able to find and create meaning even in the face of the insurmountable reality of death. According to the logotherapeutic perspective, death can be integrated into the dynamics of human living; death is not the enemy but the essential part of life. Death may come by an accident, but it is not something accidental at all. Logotherapy regards death as an existential fact, as a natural part of human existence. It leads to the attitude of acknowledgment towards death and to the discovery of possibilities for personal fulfillment.

b) Frankl's philosophy of death does not analyze, at least directly, the many metaphysical questions which may be raised in connection with the ultimate meaning of death. Why is there death? Why is the human being condemned to die? Is there a life after death? What is the relationship between the reality of death and the human nostalgia for and speculation about immortality? Is death a punishment or is it the final test of the human capacity to struggle against all the odds in the experience of living? The philosophy of death in Frankl does not constitute a metaphysical response to these fundamentally metaphysical questions. The fact that his analysis of the existential meaning of death may well be compatible with a metaphysical view of death as the passage to another mode of being or as a punishment does not necessarily mean that his analysis eo ipso ought to lead to the adoption of a particular system of metaphysics. Frankl's thought is aware of both the orientation and the limitations (boundaries) of existential analysis.

c) Frankl's analysis of the meaning of death, nevertheless, represents not only a psychology and an existential axiology of death, but also an ontology of death. Many aspects of Frankl's philosophy of death, as well as the thought of Frankl as a whole, may be regarded as being quite close to the philosophy of Scheler and to that of Heidegger. The consistent concern with meaning and values in dealing with the basic questions of life and death in Frankl includes some important relationships to the philosophy of values and of the human person in Scheler. Frankl's analysis and interpretation of the finiteness of human existence, in the final analysis, may be viewed as being quite close to several elements of the existential hermeneutics of death in Heidegger. Frankl, like Heidegger, speaks of the ontology of human finiteness, examines the ontological status (the Being-dimension) of death, of temporality, and of human accomplishments. The future, according to Frankl, is a possibility that is transformed by the decisions and attitudes of the present into realities (actualities) secured in the past as the safest mode of being. The ontological structure of temporality makes possible the logotherapeutic interpretation of death which regards death not as the enemy but as the source of meaning in living for the human person. Human possibilities are situated (given) between the boundaries of temporality and death; these boundaries define and shape the possibilities that are transformed into realities. Thus the tasks become (are transformed into) accomplishments. The present, as Frankl says, is nothing else but the passage of possibilities (future) into realities (past); the present is the passage made possible through the decisions of the human person. The human person is a deciding being, a being that can be described as presence. The issue at stake in these reflections is not the significance of the works (accomplishments, decisions) of life for a possible life after (beyond) death but the possibility of meaning at all under the horizon of death as the expression of temporality. Death does not annul but creates meaningfulness in the works, experiences, and sufferings of this life. The basic insights of logotherapy are not concerned with the possibility of life outside (independently of) the horizon of temporality. Logotherapy is not a substitute for theology and metaphysics.

d) Death as an ontological dimension and horizon of human living challenges the human person to search for meaning in living without deriving this meaning from a system of ideology. The philosophy of death in Frankl transcends ideological and metaphysical boundaries and disputes because it is not based on a commitment to any particular system of ideology or metaphysics. The logotherapeutic view of death, nevertheless, guards an attitude of openness towards the theological perspective on death because logotherapy is aware of the religious dimensions of human existence. These special characteristics of Frankl's philosophy of death lead to the following question: What can we learn from the analysis of the meaning of death for the conduct of a meaningful life? The main teaching of the logotherapeutic interpretation of the phenomenon of death is the description and the justification of the natural attitude of acknowledging the reality of death. The natural and existential awareness of death does not distract from the joy and the value of living. There is a healing power in thinking about death. Meanings and values are realized on this side of death. The boundary of human living and of human actions does not constitute a wall of enclosure, but it functions as a container and a shield of accomplishments and values. The authentic and thus healthy attitude towards death contributes significantly to the discovery of the true self and enhances the development of the human person. The attitudes of skepticism and absurdity towards life and death may not be eliminated for once and for all by the logotherapeutic understanding of death. Skepticism and absurdity take many forms. However, the logotherapeutic discernment of the meaning of temporality and mortality makes more difficult the use of death for establishing and fostering the attitude of skepticism and absurdity towards the meaning of human living.

Logotherapy can neither give nor prescribe meaning; it can only describe meaning. The understanding of the function of meaning in human living also includes the recognition of the limits of the understanding of meaning. Thus logotherapy shows the importance of keeping an open mind in dealing with the ultimate meaning of life and death precisely because "the more comprehensive the meaning, the less comprehensible it is" [The Unconscious God]. The discernment and the choice of a meaning, especially the choice of an ultimate meaning, does have a therapeutic effect on the human person. The process of discerning and choosing ultimate meaning not only enlarges but also transcends the task of logotherapy and thus calls for a philosophical as well as for a theological, indeed for a multidisciplinary, analysis and understanding. Logotherapy is able to deal with the specifically human (noogenic) and spiritual dimensions of death without becoming an ideology at the same time. The practitioner of logotherapy helps in the search for meaning but he does not impose a particular meaning. The logotherapist is aware of the philosophical and the theological dimensions of the questions regarding the ultimate meaning of life and death; he knows the difference between science and wisdom. The attitude of openness and professional objectivity in Frankl's philosophy of death is founded on his consistent emphasis on the distinction between the domain of medicine (the science of the art of healing, human comfort) and the realm of theology and wisdom (religious faith, commitment to an ultimate meaning). Medical, clinical problems are not only somatic and psychological, but also philosophical and religious in many instances due to the oneness and wholeness of the human person. The logotherapist ought to be aware of the person's spiritual needs and resources; he also ought to try to understand them and draw on them. The search for meaning and the attitude of openness towards the expressions and formulations of meaning on many levels contribute to the process of healing the human person from the neurotic denials of the existential facts of suffering, illness, and death.

Dan P. McAdams (review date February 1994)

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SOURCE: "The Best of Us Did Not Return," in Contemporary Psychology, Vol. 39, No. 2, February, 1994, pp. 130-31.

[McAdams is an American psychologist, educator, and author of The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self (1993). In the following review of Man's Search for Meaning, originally titled From Death-Camp to Existentialism, he focuses on the meaning Frankl's concentration camp experiences may have for a new generation of readers.]

In 1945, shortly after his release from a Nazi concentration camp, Viktor E. Frankl spent nine intensive days writing Ein Psycholog Erlebt das Konzentrationslager, a psychological account of his three years in Auschwitz, Dachau, and other Nazi prison camps. The original German version bears no name on the cover because Frankl was initially committed to publishing an anonymous account that would never earn its author literary fame. Expanded to include a short overview of "logotherapy," the English version of Frankl's book first appeared as From Death-Camp to Existentialism and finally under its well-known title, Man's Search for Meaning. Shortly after its first English printing in 1959, Carl Rogers called the book one of the outstanding contributions to psychological thought in the last 50 years. The Los Angeles Times said, "If you read but one book this year, Dr. Frankl's book should be the one." The public agreed with the critics. Now that the book has been translated into 21 languages and has sold more than three million copies in English alone, Beacon Press has reissued Frankl's classic account in a handsome, cloth-covered edition, complete with a new Preface from the author and the original English Foreword written by Gordon W. Allport.

There are at least three reasons why Frankl's book has enjoyed such wide appeal over the past 35 years. First, Frankl tells an unforgettable story about his experiences in the camps. In a beautifully laconic style that is never maudlin or sensational, Frankl describes events that are so chilling, so brutal, and in some cases so heroic that the reader is not sure whether to be more amazed by the events themselves or by Frankl's unfailing ability to find the right words to describe them. Almost 50 years after the Holocaust, these words have lost none of their power to capture the reader's consciousness and refuse to let go. Second, Frankl's psychological commentary on captivity and survivorship is full of deep insights and thought-provoking speculations. Frankl delineates three stages of psychological reaction to the concentration camps. He provides brilliant asides on the powerful roles of religion, friendship, and the longing for a lost lover in helping the prisoner wrench meaning out of his misery. He provides riveting examples of how meaning and hope sustain life, even in Auschwitz, and how many people are just unable to find meaning, unable to summon up any hope, and as a result, in Auschwitz they die.

The third reason for the book's enduring popularity is that it serves as a primer for Frankl's own brand of existential psychotherapy, what he calls "logotherapy" ("therapy of meaning"). It is this third reason that drew me initially to the book, as an undergraduate in the mid-1970s. As was probably true for many in my generation, Man's Search for Meaning and Frankl's (1955) The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy were my introduction to existential psychology and psychotherapy. Like Allport in the book's Foreword, I was thrilled by Frankl's insistence that psychologists go beyond drives, instincts, and habits to explore the realm of meaning and purpose in human lives. I was taken by the idea that life's meaning may be found in suffering and that each person—and each person alone—is responsible for the meanings that he or she can wrestle out of life. For me, Frankl's vision was appealing for its exquisitely tragic quality, like Freud's, and for its very non-Freudian call to personal heroism.

Reading the book again, almost 20 years later, I find less exciting today the last section (about 60 pages) in which Frankl outlines logotherapy. It seems that today many brands of psychotherapy concern themselves in one way or another with meaning in life, personal responsibility, and other central themes in existential thought. With the demise of drive-reduction theories and with the proliferation of approaches emphasizing object relations, the self, human cognition, affective scripts and stories, and a wide variety of concepts compatible with a meaning-centered approach to persons and personal psychotherapy, Frankl seems to be fighting old battles today, battles that he, in a sense, has already won. Furthermore, certain pieces in Frankl's arsenal seem outmoded in the 1990s. For example, to buttress his claim that contemporary men and women thirst for meaning in life, he relies on an attitudinal survey from the early 1970s showing that American college students are much more concerned with "finding meaning in life" than they are with "making money." Results from surveys like these have changed dramatically, however, in the last 20 years. Finally, some material on logotherapy simply does not fit well into the context of the overall book. Frankl's emphasis on "paradoxical intention" as a therapeutic technique—a technique that behavior therapy has also employed—seems far removed from existentialism and life meanings. Relatedly, the necessary connection between concentration camps and existential psychotherapy seems harder to discern today than before. It no longer seems necessary to justify an approach to therapy emphasizing life meanings by appealing to experiences as extreme as the Holocaust. Had the camps never existed, one would still be able to make a very strong case for logotherapy.

Today's reader will still be moved, nonetheless, by the stories of the camps and inspired by Frankl's interpretations of his experience. For me, this time the most compelling passages in the book tell how whether one lived or died under the Nazis was often a matter of blind, stupid luck. Frankl writes, "We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles—whatever one may choose to call them—we know: the best of us did not return [italics added]." I have been haunted by this last statement. Who were the best who did not return? Were they the prisoners who put the welfare of others above their own? At one point, Frankl seems to suggest that they were:

On the average, only those prisoners could keep alive who, after years of trekking from camp to camp, had lost all scruples in their fight for existence; they were prepared to use every means, honest and otherwise, even brutal force, theft, and betrayal of their friends, in order to save themselves.

Yet the whole thrust of the book is to underscore how "man's search for meaning" can sustain human life even under the most harrowing and depraved conditions. Beyond luck, meaning played a part in survival too, Frankl maintains. Most of those who survived the camps had something to live for—some goal, some religious conviction, some person, some task, some hope about the future that they refused to give up. For Frankl himself, his undying love for his wife was a source of meaning, as was his vision of himself as a doctor and scholar. During some of the worst times, devastated by hunger and the cold, Frankl fantasized that he was delivering erudite lectures to his colleagues about the psychology of the concentration camp.

Those who lost the will to meaning usually lost their lives. Frankl reports that this sometimes happened quite suddenly and in a form that was familiar to many in the camps. A prisoner might wake up one day and refuse to get dressed, to wash, or to go out on the parade grounds. No threats or cajoling could change his mind. He simply gave up. "There he remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing bothered him anymore." In one instance, a prisoner had a dream convincing him that the war would be over on March 30, and all inmates would be liberated. Although the dream provided him hope in the short run, he began to fade dramatically as the promised day drew near. On March 29th, he became ill and ran a high temperature. He was dead the next day. Many others in the camp lost hope more gradually. Frankl paints a stark contrast between those relatively few who managed to find meaning throughout it all and those many prisoners who did not. Those more likely to find meaning were often "sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life," and although they may have suffered great pain, "the damage to their inner selves was less" because "they were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom." Many others, though, lacked the inner resources to carry on. Frankl writes: "One could make a victory of those [concentration camp] experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners."

It seems ironic and initially puzzling, indeed, that Frankl is able to make such a compelling case for a psychology of meaning in the wake of the Holocaust experience when, according to his account, a great many of the prisoners could ultimately do no better than "vegetate." Like Frankl, though, the reader ends up more impressed by the fact that anybody at all could find meaning in the maelstrom, and thus the exceptions powerfully override the rule. A second puzzle concerns the "best of us" who did not return. Who survived? Who did not return? Beyond luck, those who lived through the Nazi hell were doubtlessly younger and stronger than many who died. On the one hand, they may have also been more ruthless in their singleminded desire to survive, perhaps even at the expense of their fellow prisoners. On the other hand, they may have been blessed with those inner resources that empowered them to find meaning and persevere. In a passage so understated that the reader can easily miss its significance, Frankl describes how he would occasionally find a moment of solitude and peace by squatting in an abandoned water shaft surrounded by piles of corpses. "This shaft, incidentally, once saved the lives of three fellow prisoners." Frankl goes on to tell how, shortly before the liberation, three men escaped death by hiding in the shaft. As the guards walked by,

I calmly sat on the lid, looking innocent and playing a childish game of throwing pebbles at the barbed wire. On spotting me, the guard hesitated for a moment, but then passed on. Soon I could tell the three men below that the worst danger was over.

Frankl tells us that these men's lives were saved by the water shaft. But we see that, in fact, Frankl saved them. And it seems he saved many others too. Shortly before liberation and against the urgent advice of his friends, he volunteered for medical duty in another camp housing typhus patients. He was convinced that by doing this he would die in a short time.

But if I had to die there might at least be some sense in my death. I thought that it would doubtless be more to the purpose to try to help my comrades as a doctor than to vegetate or finally lose my life as the unproductive laborer I was then.

Frankl refuses to acknowledge his own altruism in this affair. "For me it was simple mathematics, not sacrifice."

But to me it suggests that Frankl was wrong all along. Clearly, at least one of the best of us did return.


Principal Works


Further Reading