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Facing crises in our lives a logotherapy perspective

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We all face obstacles, challenges and crises in life. Facing a crisis does not mean the we have done something wrong, deserve to undergo the crisis at hand or are forever doomed. Our lives are not determined by whether or not we will face a crisis, or even the crisis itself,; rather, our lives are determined by how we handle each given crisis.

At some point each of us will face a crisis of some kind. The crisis may be as small as spilling coffee on your shirt before heading into an interview to as big as the death of a loved one to the end of the dream. The very definition of crisis is “a turning point that cannot be avoided.” When it comes to living a healthy life amidst a world of potential crises, how we choose to handle and grow from those crises are key.

Viktor Frankl is the father of Logotherapy. Logo comes from the Greek language and essentially means reason, purpose or meaning. The premise of Logotherapy is that every experience we undergo holds some level of meaning, from which we can glean. Garnering whatever meanings may exist in our experiences gives the experiences more value than they would hold should we perceive our experiences, good and bad, to be without purpose.

Frankl was a Jew who survived the Nazi concentration camps of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Dachau. He lost his family, his friends and his livelihood, but he did not lose his dignity despite the horrors he faced. He believed in holding the perspective that even in the worst situation there was meaning. Frankl encouraged hundreds of others to survive the concentration camps, to not give up and not give in to death. He convinced fellow captives to fight for their lives because despite the hellish crisis, their lives still meant something. He would tell those wanting to give in that dying would ultimately be a victory for the Nazi party. As a result, individuals began to see their lives as meaning more than just being laborers in a work-camp. They saw themselves as more than victims; they saw themselves as survivors with the purpose of living life in defiance of the goals of the Nazi regime.

After the war was over, Frankl worked at a mental health institution, working with the severely suicidal. During his professional life, he worked with over 30,000 suicidal individuals—none of whom committed suicide. He instilled in them the same concepts of Logotherapy that he instilled in his fellow prisoners of war, the reality that even in the lowest points of our lives, even in the most critical of experiences, there is still purpose and meaning to be found.

Frankl firmly understood that meaning matters and in order to live our healthiest lives, it is our duty to find meaning, even in the worst situations. He understood that our responsibility, despite the lack of control we may have over a crisis, is to acknowledge the crises and find meaning in it. Finding meaning does not negate the depth of our struggles or the reality of the crisis, rather it allows a redemptive perspective to stand alongside the pain. Facing a Nazi concentration camp, experiencing the death of a loved one, losing a job or even something as small as spilling coffee on your shirt before going into a major interview are not good things but finding the gift alongside the crisis is what leads to a healthy life.

The Chinese characters for crisis are actually “danger” and “opportunity.” These characters mirror Frankl’s Logotherapy concept. With every crisis there is the danger of not coming out of it, of remaining in that pain and of being defined by that worst moment. Frankel would say such a response is due to our inability to find meaning in that experience. But with every crisis we face, there is also opportunity. Crises present opportunities for growth; for learning more about ourselves, others and the world around us; and for choosing to live a healthy life with a redemptive perspective.

By Megan Clunan, LMHC

 

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