Viktor Frankl

Anyone who spends time on Facebook knows all about those tests: “What European country are you?” “What decade are you,” “Which deceased female poet are you?” etc. Most of them are pretty unenlightening, not to say badly spelled (though I did admire the wisdom that correctly identified me as “Garden Party Barbie”) but today’s test, “Which psychotherapist are you?” reminded me of a name I hadn’t thought of in years. Evidently, I am Viktor Frankl, and I am a logotherapist.

Logotherapy, the therapeutic method developed by Frankl, teaches that human beings are primarily motivated by, not power or pleasure, but the desire to find meaning in their lives, and that we achieve peace when we find this meaning. We find meaning by doing a deed (work?), experiencing a value (truth, beauty, love; of nature, art, or a person), or, when all that is positive fails, through suffering.

If you have read my “About me” page, you will recognize that these are the views I share. Anyone who writes history is searching for meaning and is actively constructing it out of the chaos of data left by passing humans. Writing stories is a construction of meaning within the fiction/not fiction of the beginning, middle, and end of a tale. I don’t know if I believe that it is our primary impulse, but I believe it should be, that it is the only way to deal with the turmoil caused by all our other primary impulses.

I read Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning in high school, I believe in religion class at he Convent of the Sacred Heart. I was interested in anything to do with the Holocaust at the time, and I remember appreciating it, though not drawing any especially lasting lessons from it. At the time I did not know that my grandfather’s sister died at Theriesienstadt, where Frankl spent so much time or that, like him, my great-grandparents and my grandfather’s sister were transported to Auchwitz, though with worse fate. What I wonder now is how much Frankl’s book might have stuck inside me without me knowing it all these years. It seems that reading an account of the Holocaust is a rite of passage for high schoolers these days (rightly so). I also believe we are made up of all the books we have read, as well as the experiences we have had and the people we know. I wonder if I would have been different if we had read Primo Levi or Elie Wiesel or Anne Frank instead of Viktor Frankl at the Sacred Heart all those years ago?

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