Logotherapy seems immediately relevant to another area of interest that I am pursuing right. Next week is the last of five modules that I have taken in order to become a Spiritual Care volunteer in the Fraser Health region. Within the next few weeks I hope to be working on the medical ward at the local hospital. As I read Man’s Search for Meaning I couldn’t help but find a wealth of thoughts that I think will become incredibly beneficial to working with patients who are probably at two of the most difficult stages of life: illness and death. Frankl’s personal experience of suffering in four different concentration camps during World War II and his subsequent reflection on the role of suffering in human life is fascinating.
For example, Frankl writes:
“Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances [as a concentration camp], decide what shall become of him–mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski [sic] said once, ‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” (75)
“Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.” (76)
“When we are no longer able to change a situation–just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer–we are challenged to change ourselves.” (116)
“It is one of the basic tenets of logotherapy that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has a meaning.” (117)
“There are situations in which one is cut off from the opportunity to do one’s work or to enjoy one’s life; but what never can be ruled out is the unavoidability of suffering. In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end.” (118)
I finished reading Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning on the bus yesterday. The second section of the book is an essay entitled “Logotherapy in a Nutshell” wherein Frankl expands on his therapeutic technique. “Logotherapy,” writes Frankl, “is a meaning-centered psychotherapy.” (104) Logos can be translated from the Greek as meaning and as such can be explained as a therapeutic technique in which the patient illuminates and confronts their existence and its meaning. It is also a future focused therapy; logotherapy seeks out and cultivates “the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future.” (104) The patient is brought face to face with their ‘existential vacuum’ after which they must grapple with and reconfigure the meaning of their life. Recognizing the meaning of their life, or particular situations, can essentially break up their depression, anxiety, or other neuroses that are often simply reinforced by other therapeutic techniques through “vicious circle formations and feedback mechanisms.” (104)
One of the most disturbing facts that acme out in the [Adolf] Eichmann trail was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. I do not doubt it at all, and that is precisely why I find it disturbing….The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.
Who are the sane ones in our society?
It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared.