Viktor Frankl Understanding of Life

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About this sample


Words: 805 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

Words: 805|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2019

Unlike most psychotherapists of his day, Viktor Frankl was a believer in the importance of finding a meaning for one’s life. He saw people as individuals, as total packages—products of mind, soul, and surroundings—rather than simply as products of genetics. He emphasized heavily the importance of the individual’s unique purpose: “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it” (p. 109). “This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual … gives a meaning to his existence” (p. 79).

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This resonates quite profoundly with people of faith, particularly with Latter-Day Saints. Members of the Church believe that God has set forth a plan for each of them. The generalized Plan of Happiness states that each person’s ultimate purpose is to gain a body on the Earth, become a member of a family, and live worthily to return to God’s presence at the end of his earthly life. Members also believe that God has given each of us an individual plan—a person to love, a talent to develop, people to serve—that will make their lives meaningful. They believe that their individualized plans must be fulfilled, and though trials may make their lives harder, they can endure any hardship through their faith. As spirit children of a loving Heavenly Father, they feel distinguished and irreplaceable on an eternal scale.

A fundamental belief of the Church is the idea of becoming stronger in one’s faith in Christ through the bearing of trials. This is in line with Frankl’s position that a “man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being … or to an unfinished work … knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’” (p. 80). Frankl never said that the meaning of life was to rid oneself of suffering, but instead to find meaning in one’s suffering. The Church agrees with that and seeks drawing nearer to God and growing in faith as the ultimate meaning of suffering.

This perspective set forth by Frankl could prove to be of great benefit to those struggling with depression or suicidal tendencies. Finding a person, work, or thing to which one has a duty should be an objective of therapeutic treatments for such patients, for as Nietzsche—quoted by Frankl—said, “’He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how’” (p. 76). In conjunction with regular therapy sessions, a regular reminder of one’s individual purpose could be beneficial to emotional and mental well-being; it could renew the patient’s will to live. Frankl described a situation in which he did exactly that for two men in a work camp:

Both men had talked of their intentions to commit suicide. Both used the typical argument—they had nothing more to expect from life. In both cases it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them. We found, in fact, that for the one it was his child whom he adored and who was waiting for him in a foreign country. For the other it was a thing, not a person. This man was a scientist and had written a series of books which still needed to be finished. His work could not be done by anyone else, any more than another person could ever take the place of the father in his child’s affections. (p. 79)

Frankl’s implementation of his view on individuals’ purposes for living, termed the “will to meaning” (p. 99), prolonged the lives of those two men in the camp by reminding them that they could not be replaced. Further application does the same for patients today. Feeling like one is important to something or someone else gives a sense of self-worth that can help to ease the pain of depression. This differs from conventional psychotherapeutic goals—looking into one’s past to make peace with traumatic experiences and find causes for present problems. Frankl’s logotherapy focuses on finding individual meaning and bettering the present and the future, rather than seeking explanations from childhood trauma. While both methods seek to alleviate psychological distress, Frankl’s methods are more palatable and relieving to patients; reliving bad memories innately helps less than making the best of the present and making goals for the future.

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Frankl’s will to meaning is a concept that reflects what people of faith already know—each of us has a specific purpose that we alone can fulfill. Striving to find meaning in one’s life makes suffering bearable. The implementation of this idea in therapy could tremendously help the suffering and possibly even save lives. And that is exactly the point of Frankl’s logotherapy.

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Viktor Frankl Understanding of Life. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
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