Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy: 3 Basic Principles

Viktor Frankl's logotherapy: 3 basic principles

Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy is also known as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”. The first school that taught psychology was founded by Sigmund Freud. The second was founded by Alfred Adler and the third was finally brought into being by Frankl. We will present Frankl’s ideas in this article.

“I found the meaning of my life by helping others find meaning in theirs.”

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Emil Frankl was born on March 26, 1905 in Vienna. He survived four concentration camps, including that of Auschwitz. Early on he showed an interest in studying medicine and the natural sciences.

Photo by Viktor Frankl

At the age of 19 he had already developed his two basic ideas.

  • First, we need to find an answer to the question of what the meaning of our life is, since we are responsible for our existence.
  • Second, the ultimate meaning of our life is beyond our comprehension and it is impossible for us to see it. Instead, we need to believe in the meaning we give it as we pursue our goals.

In his book Frankl wrote about his experiences in the concentration camps in Türkheim, Kaufering, Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It describes the abuse the prisoners were subjected to, but it also shows the beauty of the human soul. In short, the book is about being able to overcome the horror of imprisonment and find meaning in life even under the worst of circumstances.

“Man can maintain his spiritual freedom, his spiritual independence, even in terrible psychological and physical situations.”

Victor Frankl

“The last of human liberties is the choice of one’s attitude towards what is happening.”

Victor Frankl

The logotherapy

As already mentioned, logotherapy is known as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”. She made her debut in the 1940s.

Logotherapy is a method of overcoming human conflicts that cause suffering. 

The three basic principles or pillars of logotherapy are:

  • Free will
  • Will to meaning
  • meaning of life

Free will

Free will unfolds through a specifically human ability known as “self-distancing”. It’s the ability to see, accept, and regulate yourself. According to Frankl, our freedom is fed by three sources:

  • Instincts
  • heritage
  • environment

Man has all three of these things, but they do not determine us. Our life is neither predetermined nor can we develop further. We can act freely from these three aspects. When people break free, it happens for a reason. This is the so-called concept of responsibility. Man is free to be responsible and is responsible because he is free.

From the point of view of this existential analysis , man is responsible for realizing the meaning of his life and its value. Man is called to recognize the meaning of his life and the values ​​that give him meaning. He’s also the only one who can.

A man is sitting by the sea with his head on his knees.

The will to meaning

. People who pursue only pleasure or power experience nothing but frustration. You feel drawn into a great existential vacuum. The will to meaning, on the other hand, seeks neither power nor pleasure. He’s not even looking for happiness. His focus is on finding meaning – a reason to be happy.

The sense of life

The two principles we mentioned earlier describe a person’s willingness to take responsibility for the circumstances of life. This responsibility is freely accepted based on the meaning of life. This is the profile of a person in search of meaning.

Life has a purpose. This sense is unique to each of us. Hence, it is our duty as conscious and responsible people to discover our own version of this meaning.

Viktor Frankl

We can achieve this through three basic channels related to the categories above.

  • Sometimes our search leads us to realize our creativity. 
  • Another time it will affect our experience. For example, when we see a sunset or when someone holds our hand.
  • At other moments we will be faced with the limits of life itself, suffering or death.

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