by Alexander Batthyany
The development of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis dates back to the 1930s. On the basis of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology the psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Emil Frankl (1905-1997) laid down the foundations of a new and original approach which he first published in 1938. Logotherapy/Existential Analysis, sometimes called the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”, is an internationally acknowledged and empirically based meaning-centered approach to psychotherapy.
In Logotherapy/Existential Analysis (LTEA) the search for a meaning in life is identified as the primary motivational force in human beings.
Frankl’s approach is based on three philosophical and psychological concepts:
Freedom of Will
Will to Meaning, and
Meaning in Life
¦ Freedom of Will
According to LTEA humans are not fully subject to conditions but are basically free to decide and capable of taking their stance towards internal (psychological) and external (biological and social) conditions. Freedom is here defined as the space of shaping one’s own life within the limits of the given possibilities. This freedom derives from the spiritual dimension of the person, which is understood as the essentially human realm, over and above the dimensions of body and of psyche. As spiritual persons, humans are not just reacting organisms but autonomous beings capable of actively shaping their lives.
The freedom of the human person plays an important role in psychotherapy, in that it provides clients with room for autonomous action even in the face of somatic or psychological illness. And it just that resource which enables clients, in the context of the techniques of Paradoxical Intention and Dereflection, to cope with their symptoms and to regain control and self-determination.
¦ Will to Meaning
Human beings are not only free, but most importantly they are free to something – namely, to achieve goals and purposes. The search for meaning is seen as the primary motivation of humans. When a person cannot realize his or her “Will to Meaning” in their lives they will experience an abysmal sensation of meaninglessness and emptiness. The frustration of the existential need for meaningful goals will give rise to aggression, addiction, depression and suicidality, and it may engender or increase psychosomatic maladies and neurotic disorders.
Logotherapy/Existential Analysis assists clients in perceiving and removing those factors that hinder them in pursuing meaningful goals in their lives. Clients are sensitized for the perception of meaning potentialities; however, they are not offered specific meanings. Rather, they are guided and assisted in the realization of those meaning possibilities they have detected themselves.
¦ Meaning in Life
LTEA is based on the idea that meaning is an objective reality, as opposed to a mere illusion arising within the perceptional apparatus of the observer. This is in contrast to the so-called “Occupational and Recreational Therapies” which are primarily concerned with diverting the clients’ attention from disturbed or disturbing modes of experience.