Finding your meaning in life, no matter the circumstances, is what logotherapy is all about. It can help with many mental disorders. It was developed by Victor Frankl when he was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. He believed there is a desire for humans to find meaning in life, no matter the outward appearances of the situation you find yourself in.
There are many therapies, and deciding which one is right for you should start your therapeutic journey. Logotherapy is similar to psychotherapy and is based on this; it focuses on the future and our innate search for a purpose in our lives.
The term logo comes from the Greek word logos which translates to ‘meaning.’ Victor Frankl trained as a psychiatrist. After spending three years in the concentration camps, he reflected and realised that those who could survive it had developed meaning to their existence, even attending to tasks. He detailed this in his book Man’s search for Meaning.
Is Logotherapy Used Today?
Yes, it is used, and there has been research regarding its effectiveness for those with depression. They found that the levels of depression were lower in the experimental group after logotherapy than those who had no therapy at all.
You can find practitioners of logotherapy in your local area by searching for them, and you may find they use the terms psychotherapy and logotherapy as they are similar forms of therapy. However, the latter focuses more on the future and the former on the past.
The Core of Logotherapy
There are three critical components to logotherapy, and they are the core principles and go straight to the heart of the matter.
- Every person possesses a healthy core.
- You have your own inner resources, and the therapy enlightens an individual to the tools required to access this.
- Life offers you purpose and meaning, but it cannot guarantee happiness or fulfilment.
Frankl knew life held suffering, and although you may have a purpose, you cannot be assured that you will live a life free from worry or strain.
Logotherapy is about creating a new outlook; for example, you may have lost your job and find it difficult to find another one. This then could lead to depression. It would be suggested to focus on the task at hand, possibly retraining to look for other work outside your normal search scope. Thereby finding the solution within yourself and being driven by a purpose, and perhaps alleviating some of the symptoms of depression.
You can look at the core as a guide to improving the meaning of life. By creating the goals and aspirations, you will fully experience the effects of life as you set about achieving these tasks. Third, it is your attitude that will help you, knowing full well that suffering can occur, even through our faults or those of another.
Logotherapy Exercises and Techniques
Victor Frankl believed in three main techniques to help the client become more interactive within their own life. And that suffering and achievement were within the grasp of each one of us no matter what our current circumstances are. He proposed the following:
Instead of focusing on yourself, ‘dereflect’ onto others. If you have problems such as money worries, then choose to focus on doing the best job you can for your boss. If it is relationship troubles, focus on your partner and their needs.
It is about moving away from yourself and bringing to the forefront that of the needs of others, sometimes viewed as a spiritual approach. By thinking about other people, you become whole and less preoccupied with your problem or your worries or concerns.
In simplistic terms, you wish for the thing you fear the most, albeit with good humour. This works well with those who suffer from phobias and anxiety. By seeking out what you fear, you desensitise yourself to the impact of the thing or situation. You treat it with humour; for example, you may be scared of looking like a fool in certain conditions, so you go out of your way to become a fool in those situations. Or you might have a fear of flying, so you seek out various ways in which you can fly, from hot air balloons to paragliding.
Extreme it may be, but facing your fear and creating it on purpose lessens its impact on your daily life.
The answer to your problems lies within yourself, and during a therapy session, the therapist would reflect your words so you can hear what you sound like or the type of words you are using. The patterns the therapist picks up will help you to discover the meaning within them. During cognitive behavioural therapy, this is often used and is called reflection.
Discovering that you have had the answers all along is both comforting and a positive step forward in trusting your instincts.
Some Logotherapy Questions to Practice
The questions below will help you gauge if logotherapy is for you; try them out and see if this is the sort of therapy you would find helpful.
- What can you do to create something in your life? Are you artistic, do you have gardening skills, can you write?
- While logotherapy does not reflect any religious views, Frankl believed that the spirit is our identity and essence. What do you think about this?
- You can gain a lot from social support; who or what is your support? Do you have people in your life who can be there for you? Or do you belong to online groups for this?
- There is meaning in even the most awful things. How would you view this when comparing this statement to your own life? What was learned from it? What can you teach others from this?
- What is your purpose for living? Where do you discover your meaning in life?
- Nobody can take away your meaning, your logo. In your current situation, what is the sense of it and what is your purpose within it?
- No matter what you are doing, find the purpose and the meaning within; it could be washing the dishes to vacuuming the car; what can you sense is the motive behind this?
- How can you help others? What skills and attributes do you have which will be of benefit to other people?
- Are you hopeful or expecting the worst? If you prepare your mind for the worst, then it has little hold over you. This doesn’t mean to say you have to be pessimistic, just realistic.
As with all therapy, there are pros and cons, and one of the criticisms of logotherapy is that it can be seen as religious. However, it is not, but it has many similar connotations compared to religious viewpoints, such as thinking of others first and the spirit.
It was also thought that it could be pretty authoritarian and that if you can’t find the meaning in life, you were at fault. However, Frankl said that this was not the case. It gave the individual power over their own lives.
Critics in the past also stated that Frankl used his history in the concentration camps to further his version of psychotherapy; this experience did help develop logotherapy. Still, it in no way lessens the fact that Frankl experienced untold horror.
Logotherapy can help a myriad of conditions from depression to phobias, and the search for ones own meaning of life is essential in creating balanced mental health. We all have the answers within ourselves, and a therapist helps draw these out, allowing us to make sense of our current situations and future endeavours.