“The will to “MEANING” …

The meaning of life relates to the issue of “relativism” versus “subjectivism” [4]

“meaning is an instinct [Jordan Peterson]

Dr. Viktor E Frankl

VIKTOR E. FRANKL (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997) was professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School. For twenty-five years he was head of the ViennaNeurological Policlinic. His “Logotherapy/Existential Analysis” came to be known as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy.” He held professorships at Harvard, Stanford, Dallas, and Pittsburgh, and was Distinguished Professor of Logotherapy at the U.S. International University in San Diego, California.

The contents of this page are based entirely on 4 books by Dr ViKtor E Frankl and his insistance that neither happiness (pleasure) nor power (strength or authority) come from a “will to power” but from a “Will to Meaning” The four books are:-

[1] – Man’s Search for Meaning

[2] – Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning

[3] – The Doctor and the Soul

[4] – The Will to Meaning

“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.” I go to authority because reason sends me to it – Who is authoritative? One of the things my reason tells me is that I ought to check the results of my own thinking by the opinions of the wise.

“… being human means “being” in the face of meaning to fulfil and values to realize. It means living in the polar field of tension established between reality and ideals to materialize.. Man lives by ideals and values (4 p34)

“In an age of existential vacuum, the foremost task of education, instead of being satisfied with transmitting traditions and knowledge, is to refine that capacity which allows man to find unique meanings” (4 p44) … remembering always that “MEANINGS” must be found responsibly from “VALUES” that create “MEANING” itself.

We must have “FREE WILL” to make a “conscience guided selection” of VALUES from LIVING.

There are 3 chief groups of VALUES:-

“CREATIVE VALUES” = what one gives to the world in terms of your creativeness.

“EXPERIENTIAL VALUES” = what you take from the world in terms of experiences and encounters.

“ATTITUDINAL VALUES” = the stand you take to your predicament, one that you cannot change.

“Man cannot break through the dimensional difference between the human world and the divine world but he can reach out for the ultimate meaning through faith which is mediated by trust in the ultimate being.” (4 p112)

“But if there is meaning, it is unconditional meaning, and neither suffering nor dying can detract from it. And what our patients need is unconditional faith in unconditional meaning. Remember what I have said of life’s transitoriness. In the past nothing is irrecoverably lost but everything is irrevocably stored. People only see the stubble field of transitoriness but overlook the full granaries of the past in which they have delivered and deposited, in which they have saved, their harvest. But what about those miserable creatures whose granaries are empty, as it were, what about the senile men, the sterile women, and those artists and scientists whose desks and drawers are empty rather than full of manuscripts? What about them? The unconditional faith in an unconditional meaning may turn the complete failure into a heroic triumph.” (4 p120)

“Man’s search for meaning is a primary force in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of intellectual drives as proposed by Freud…. This meaning of life is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning.” [1]

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining.” [1]

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. … The ultimate meaning of life necessarily exceeds and surpasses the finite intellectual capacities of man.” [1]

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” [Viktor Frankl]

Beyond reason, beyond liberty, there is desire. Take, eat his body, drink his blood, and become less like the gods we fashion ourselves to be. Become less violent. Eat his body, drink his blood. We no longer need to consume ourselves or each other.” [David Gornoski]

The pathology of our age is an engineering approach to a human patient as a machine to repair or a mechanism to fix that is itself detrimental. It debilitates the patients awareness of himself (or herself) as a free and responsible agent. …The de-humanization of humanity requires a re-humanization of psychotherapy.” [1]

“To identify psychoanalysis with psychology or psychiatry would be as great a mistake as to identify dialectic materialism with sociology. Both Freudanism and Marxism are single approaches to sciences, rather than the sciences themselves.”[4]

“Man is reaching out for, and actually reaching, finally attaining, the world—a world, that is, which is replete with other beings to encounter, and meanings to fulfill. … Such a view is profoundly opposed to those motivational theories which are based on the homeostasis principle. These theories depict man as if he were a closed system. According to them, man is basically concerned with maintainingor restoring an inner equilibrium, and to this end with the reduction of tensions. In the final analysis, this is also assumed to be the goal of the gratification of drives and the satisfaction of needs. …

The pleasure principle serves the purpose of the homeostasis principle; but also, in turn, the purpose of the pleasure principle is served by the reality principle. According to Freud’s statement, the goal of the reality principle is to secure pleasure, albeit delayed. …

As for the pleasure principle, I would go even further in my criticism. It is my contention that, in the final analysis, the pleasure principle is self-defeating.The more one aims at pleasure, the more his aim is missed. In other words, the very “pursuit of happiness” is what thwarts it. This self-defeating quality of pleasure-seeking accounts for many sexual neuroses. Time and again thepsychiatrist is in a position to witness how both orgasm and potency areimpaired by being made the target of intention. This occurs all the more if, as is frequently the case, excessive intention is associated with excessive attention.Hyperintention and hyper-reflection, as I am used to calling them, are likely to create neurotic patterns of behavior. …

Normally pleasure is never the goal of human strivings but rather is, and must remain, an effect, more specifically, the side effect of attaining a goal. Attaining the goal constitutes a reason for being happy. In other words, if there is a reason for happiness, happiness ensues, automatically and spontaneously, as it were. And that is why one need not pursue happiness, one need not care for it once there is a reason for it.

But, even more, one cannot pursue it. To the extent to which one makes happiness the objective of his motivation, he necessarily makes it the object of his attention. But precisely by so doing he loses sight of the reason for happiness, and happiness itself must fade away. The accent which Freudian psychology places upon the pleasure principle is paralleled by the emphasis which Adlerian psychology places upon the status drive. However, this striving also proves to be self-defeating, insofar as a person who displays and exhibits his status drive will sooner or later be dismissed as a status seeker.

In the final analysis, the status drive or the will to power, on one hand, and the pleasure principle or, as one might term it as well, the will to pleasure, on the other hand, are mere derivatives of man’s primary concern, that is, his will to meaning—the second within the triad of concepts on which logotherapy is based. What I call the will to meaning could be defined as the basic striving of man to find and fulfill meaning and purpose.But what is the justification of calling the will to power and the will to pleasure mere derivatives of the will to meaning? Simply that pleasure, rather than being an end of man’s striving, is actually the effect of meaning fulfillment. And power, rather than being an end in itself, is actually the means to an end; if man is to live out his will to meaning, a certain amount of power—say, financial power—by and large will be an indispensable prerequisite. Only if one’s original concern with meaning fulfillment is frustrated is one either content with poweror intent on pleasure.” [4]

Psychotherapy is more than mere technique in that it is art, and it goes beyond pure science in that it is wisdom. But even wisdom is not the last word. In a concentration camp I once saw the body of a woman who had committed suicide. Among her effectst here was a scrap of paper on which she had written the words: “More powerful than fate is the courage that bears it.” Despite this motto she had taken her life. Wisdom is lacking without the human touch.” [4]

“The three stumbling blocks, authoritarianism, rationalism, and anthropomorphism, account for much of the repression in the field of religion. I am in a position to quote a case in which repressed religious feelings were revealed by X rays. I owe the report to H. E. Blumenthal of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “[It] concerns a woman of middle age who was admitted to hospital because of severe colitis. She emphasized to the doctor in the X-ray department that she was not a religious person, but that she got the attack especially after having eaten pork. The first screening after a barium meal showed the colon quite normal. On the second occasion she was given the barium meal and was told that it contained pork; the result was severe attacks of colitis after the X ray. For the third picture pork was in fact mixed with the barium meal, but without the patient being told about it. This time the X ray again showed a perfectly normal colon, and the woman had no attack afterwards.” [4 p115 H. E. Blumenthal, “Jewish Challenge to Freud,” Here and Now, 1: 24, 1955, p. 12.]