In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl recounts his experiences in 4 concentration camps, including Auschwitz, from 1942 to 1945. Frankl experienced every form of suffering and loss one can endure and witnessed this suffering everyday amongst his peers. He noted distinctions in those who survived with integrity and those whose lost hope and ‘ran to the fences.’ He hypothesized and later conceptualized, the main distinction between these two groups lies in the belief that there is greater purpose and meaningfulness to be found in life beyond that of personal fulfillment and happiness.
Logotherapy is predicated on the belief that healthy humans maintain a will to find and cultivate meaningfulness in their lives. Logotherapy differs from previous theories of human development from Freud and Adler, that individuals are motivated by a pursuit of pleasure and a pursuit of power, respectively.
In sessions of Logotherapy, we process that meaningfulness can be found through the creation of a work or doing a deed and experiencing phenomena and interpersonal relationship. Most importantly, we must address our attitude toward unavoidable suffering.
I have found success in motivating clients to pursue and cultivate meaningfulness over happiness and convenience or comfort. I have found this especially resonates with individuals who have tried and failed to find purpose and direction in seeking congruence with our post-modernistic culture including professional failures and relationship dysfunction. Rarely have I found the promotion of unconditional, positive, self-regard to lead to lasting, meaningful change in a client or even the diminished of any particular pathology whatsoever. The inevitable end of a postmodern worldview is Nihilism, which resonates with the apathy of depression, but is a logical and existential fallacy.
If you are interested in learning more about Logotherapy and understanding the hierarchical truths regarding the pursuit of meaningfulness in spite of the inevitability of suffering, I would recommend two very important pieces of literature.
1) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
2) The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn