This essay sets out to explore Viktor E Frankl and his key concepts of freedom, responsibility and meaning in his existential theory and the relevance of these concepts within the counselling setting.
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) was born into a Jewish family, his experience in the concentration camps during the 2nd world war clearly helped shaped his beliefs and his subsequent approach to methods of counselling and therapy. However, prior to the war Frankl was himself an eminent physician and neurologist, he took keen interest in both Freud and Alder and corresponded with both on theories though, Frankl tended to relate more so to Adlerian therapy. Frankl was appointed to the position of Head of Rothschild Hospital and focused on areas of depression and suicide. However, even early on in his career he was reluctant to pursue many conventional medical models of treatment – even to the extent of misdiagnosis in patients to avoid euthanasia of the mentally ill. Frankl believed “[l]ife has meaning under all circumstances even the most miserable ones”. (http://www.logotherapyinstitute.org/life-and-works.html#Assumptions) Frankl and family were arrested and imprisoned in camps, and although not knowing what each day would bring, Frankl strongly held on to the belief that he would see his family and wife again once liberated. This belief on reuniting with his wife gave Frankl the strength from within, even when his writings for The Doctor and The Soul were found and destroyed. He took upon himself to try and prevent fellow inmates from suicide and other mental illness thus encouraging each individual to find their own meaning enabling themselves to continue on. This in itself maintained Frankl’s self worth even in dismal conditions thus allowing him to understand Nietzsche “…he who has a why to live for can bear with almost anyhow”. (Frankl, 2004:84) After Frankl was liberated he soon discovered that only his sister would survive the holocaust and through this suffering Frankl kept believing that all life has meaning as does suffering and love. This belief allowing Frankl to complete his bestsellers Man’s Search for Meaning and The Doctor and The Soul.
Frankl coined the term Logotherapy and it is here we can see the development for his theories along existential lines. Frankl would later defined Logotherapy as healing through meaning – meaning being through the structure of the Psyche, body, mind and spirit otherwise know as noös, each is unique but must be treated as an entity. (Frankl, 2009) It is here where Frankl would emphasis the spirituality in humans and the importance it plays. Here spirituality means the unique values that each individual believes in and feels are important to their personal being, this will differ with each individual depending on their ethical values and culture background. For instance, the honour and respect that the individual feels that comes with fulfilling a family tradition such as the male earning the money and the wife being the homemaker. According to Frankl, we are in a constant state of transition, discovering and making sense of our existence, the will to meaning. Frankl termed that Freudian is the will to pleasure or as Freud himself titled the pleasure principal and in Adlerian the will to power or as Alder believed striving for superiority. Freudians believe that humans are driven by unconscious forces, Adlerian on the otherhand say we create our own destiny, existentialist would believe that we choose our actions in our uncontrollable fate and partially create our own destiny. (Frankl 2004) Frankl surfaced the thought “…not really matter what we expect from life but rather what life expects from us”. (Frankl, 2004:85) According to existential therapy mans primary motivational force is to search for meaning. This meaning divides into, firstly “meaning of the moment” and, secondly “ultimate meaning”. (Frankl, 2004) “Meaning of the moment” is the importance you...
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