Man’s Search For Meaning

hmmm

is ongoing and is getting to be a very crowed space. However, this post is mostly concerned with Viktor Frankl’s best selling book about the World War Two Holocaust. In addition Frankl’s Logotherapy.

I bought and read the book in November of 2021, as the search continues
Searching for meaning

My provider, a clinical Psychologist, suggested I read this book. Because well lately, things have been grim. What follows are my thoughts, so far.

Still crazy after all these years

might best sum up my reaction. The story Frankl (a doctor of psychiatry) tells is riveting from the start. Imagine:

He had assumed an attitude of careless ease, supporting his right elbow with his left hand. His right hand was lifted, and with the forefinger of that hand he pointed leisurely to the left or right.

What that describes is that which happened to all those rounded up by the NAZI in their quest to dominate the continent and rule the world. To the right meant you were deemed fit for work, to the left, death. But no one knew that at the time. Nine out of ten were sent left – to the “bath” house.

That finger gesture we still do. But now it’s on a smartphone in the palm of our hand, or with a remote control device aimed at our smart TV. Certainly now the gesture, the behavior, is not a matter of life or death. Or is it?

I am guilty

if I understand Dr. Frankl’s meaning. Furthermore, I am sentenced to death. Moreover, I will suffer pain, both physical and mental. However, I am free to choose instead – to have hope, love, and faith. If I makeĀ thatĀ choice, I will experience peace and contentment.

My crime

is desire and the pursuit of happiness/pleasure. Or, being born into a hostile, chaotic, and random world – how dare I seek pleasure. Relief from pain, suffering, and death.

Frankl’s remedy is

to laugh at my predicament. Because when I’m smiling, the whole world smiles with me. Or something of that nature. Actually he prescribes service to others’ well being. Life is at once a joke and full of horror. He says:

The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.

Okay, as a doctor sure. That’s what they do. Or rather what they tell themselves they do. Reportedly, Frankl knew and wanted to be a physician from the age of three. Because he contemplated the meaning of life! And then at sixteen (1921) Dr. Freud took a fancy to him and had a paper he (Frankl) wrote published. And we’re off. Rewarded behavior will be repeated. That’s Nature’s way. Of which we have no say.

Logotherapy

is Dr. Frankl’s technique for healing that which ails us. He is classified as an existential, or humanist psychologist. In a nutshell the Humanist Psychologist is anti-deterministic. In other words, they believe in Free Will. Said another way, in any given moment, an individual can make a choice to ‘swipe left or right’. However, according to Frankl, only one choice is right – that of self-sacrifice for the well-being of the other.

Hmmm …

I have to question that. In school (I have a degree in Psychology) I studied all theories of Psychology. Under the rubric of Existential, or Humanistic, Frankl never came up. Rogers, May, Maslow for sure. I even wrote a paper comparing Maslow’s theory with the newly emergent Evolutionary Psychologists’. Specifically E.O. Wilson and David Barash.

Frankl is not cited nor referenced in any of textbooks assigned, nor as outside reading. I don’t know why.

Nevertheless

there is so much I agree with Dr. Frankl about. He is an adamant proponent of personal responsibility, individuality, and the power of positive thinking. In other words, “It’s up to you.” [Which is my provider’s mantra.]

Viktor Frankl believed/thought that most people will succumb to despair. Alternatively there is the “delusion of reprieve” (page 10). In other words – pretending. [I am guilty of that.] In addition, that evil people exist. Sadists. And sometimes it’s best to appease them so as to live another day. In other words, depending on the context, it’s fine to lie and pretend.

Final thoughts

I have are that Frankl was a victim of circumstance, or context. No doubt he was a gifted and brilliant man, but one who became subject to Freud’s ego defense mechanisms. [Like we all do.]

Maybe it was his guilt, a survivor’s guilt, that he used to validate his theory. The denial of Freud’s pleasure principle and the pursuit of happiness as true human motivations. And only love of another and service are worthy aspirations.

It’s all pretty crazy making. I think he no doubt developed PTSD as a result of his captivity, and all the suffering and death he was witness to. His wife, brother, and father all died in the camps. Death, delusion, and despair were everywhere.

Sex, drugs, rock n roll

might be prime motivators, too. Look at Mick Jagger. He’s 78 and still going strong. The father of eight, as recent as four years ago, married many times – always to beautiful, young women. And he inspires and brings joy to millions of people.

Is Mick a saint? Obviously not. But hey?

Maybe Frankl had it wrong?
The pleasure principle

 

 

 

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