Man’s Search for Meaning

Is Meaninglessness a Malaise of our Times?

A lack of meaning might be called a malaise of our times. When we encounter challenges in life, often we discover that we can’t find a center, a way to cope. What is it all about?

Studies measuring meaning and purpose in life have found that meaning in life mediates uncontrollable stress and substance abuse, depression, anxiety and self-derogation, among others. This meaning or deepest human value, this WHY, points us to reach beyond ourselves, to enrich our lives, and to unfold a deep fulfillment in our work and personal lives.

About The Program – Calming the Storm

This program offers daily ways for you to overcome difficult situations, to help you to find the WHY that will energize and animate your life. In finding your own WHY, in discovering your meaning and your purpose, your pain will be lessened. You will discover ways to unfold meaning, as well as a personal calling through tasks that you can fulfill, relationships that you can strengthen and enrich, and attitudes that you can develop and cultivate.

This practical, inspiring, and potentially life-changing program will take you step by step through a process towards a more fulfilled and enriched working and personal life.

Suffering Ceases to be Suffering – Viktor Frankl

Renewed Purpose (2)“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
Viktor Frankl

See the online course: Calming the Storm to discover your own personal meaning.

Why is Discovering Meaning Important for Your Personal and Working Life?

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In living a more meaning-full life, one can get a deep sense of purpose both in one’s personal and working life. Research by Steger, Oishi and Kasdan, in a paper entitled: Meaning in life across the life span: Levels and correlates of meaning in life from adolescence to older adulthood, showed that the:
“more meaning in life people reported, the greater well-being they experienced, at all life stages.”

In the words of Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning:

What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment”.

One of the ways described by Frankl for discovering this meaning is through helping others.

Research by Fave, Brdar, Wissing and Vell-Brodrick in the paper: Sources and motives for personal meaning in adulthood, bears out that across cultures and age groups, one of the most important ways of discovering meaning is through relationships, including relationships with family. Other ways are through work, religion, experiences and pursuits.

Frankl said that in experiencing something or encountering someone we discover meaning. By intentionally turning our focus to how we create value for others, whom we impact or encounter in our work and personal lives, in these moments, we are discovering our own meaning. In this way we are able to live a more meaning-full life and enjoy a greater sense of well-being over all our life stages.

For a 30-day online, 3 min per day program on Discovering Meaning, go to: Avanoo: Calming the Storm

 

There’s More to Life than Happiness

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“…The wisdom that Frankl derived from his experiences there, [added…in the concentration camps] in the middle of unimaginable human suffering, is just as relevant now as it was then: ‘Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.’ …”

Read more: The Atlantic

Image from free downloads at Creative Market

Freedom and Suffering

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I would like to share with you today, a video by Christoph Eberhard sharing the ideas of Viktor Frankl on freedom and suffering. He reads from: Man’s Search for Meaning. I strongly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in meaning or for those who have existential questions. I really like the simple way that Christoph presents and shares these ideas. Here are some wonderful quotes from his video page on Vimeo:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor E. Frankl

“Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.” Viktor E. Frankl

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all he suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.” Viktor E. Frankl

“Life is not a void to be filled. It is a plenitude to be discovered.” Christoph Eberhard

Balanced stones image purchased.

What you Think becomes What and Who you Are

My Grandparents

My Grandparents

My grandparents, standing first and second on the right.

What you Think becomes What and Who you Are

ETutor: Early reflections on who I am 05/03/2014

These reflections form part of my eTutor training with the University of South Africa, (UNISA). I would like to record my journey here. The emphasis of the training is on forming communities of practice, where we can reflect in a safe environment, support and learn from one another. For many the online tutor environment is new.

Regarding my early reflections. I was mostly raised in my early years by my grandparents. My mother was a single mother with two children to support, so it was easier that I lived with my Grandparents. These two wonderful people influenced me in profound ways. They were deeply religious and belonged to the Nederlandse Gereformede Kerk – NG Kerk. They were warm people who accepted all. At the skirts of my grandmother I learnt respect for all. Sometimes we would travel by train to visit far flung family. Some of the family were farmers in the Karoo. The history of my grandparents is: they were sheep farmers, my grandmother was a farm school teacher. The depression came as well as a drought and they lost everything, They made their way to Durban with five small children to support. Times were very hard and they were very poor. My grandfather got a job in Customs at the Railways.

So each December we got a free rail pass, and used it to visit family. This was the first time I was exposed to not only racism but also cruelty. My grandfather’s brother treated his workers badly, swore at them and such. He was cruel to the animals, sheep and pigs, with some horses and cows, also a large black dog. From what I remember I was around 12. It left deep wounds in my being, since I had never before encountered such things. I learnt that racism is taught, it does not come naturally, as is cruelty taught. I became a vegetarian after witnessing the slaughter of a sheep. It was gruesome and horrific and has continued to give me nightmares.

These experiences deeply shaped who I have become. My children were raised without prejudice towards others and they were never aware of differences based on population group, gender, background. They never even described their friends in these terms. Again it affirms for me the importance and power of teaching and providing a living example – on how one develops.

With these formative influences I have come to see how easily people are defined by population group and other group formations. In the workplace I have even been told that I mustn’t think I am privileged because of the colour of my skin. Prejudice is easy. Standing against it is not so easy. At university my youngest daughter sees people sitting together in population groups and it pains her. However, she is lucky enough to be deeply involved in debating, where the mix and balance is more comfortable for her. They accept one another for the commonalities that they share.

Therefore, I am deeply sensitive to the issue of respect for one another. When I did corporate training I was fortunate to train members of the Department of Labour. We were doing Conflict Management and we were talking about difference and how this can lead to misunderstanding. I shared that I was a lacto-vegetarian and how this sets me apart maybe more than anything else. I related my story of what happened when I was a child. Most delegates could not understand my choice, they worried about what was left to eat. It was amazing when one delegate stood up and said: “I can understand this. I have chickens at home. I do not want to kill my own chickens, I am fond of them. I would rather go to the store to buy one there.”  Then everyone had an example that they could relate to.

For me, I work from the premise that we all have more in common than we are different. I view difference as interesting and something to learn more about. I think we all have to watch what we think, because that becomes what you speak and that becomes what and who you are.

Image courtesy of Carol  Knox.

Futures Past | Oh What I Wanted to Be | Is Our Society Insane?

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Futures Past | Oh What I Wanted to Be | Is Our Society Insane? 

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?

I am reading R. D. Laing: The Divided Self as a teen and I am entranced by the possibility of an Anti-Psychiatry movement. I see how an insane society bends and constrains us, the population, within Western Culture, to fit a consumerist and psychological norm, which is so far from what could really be called “sane” that we are profoundly maladjusted and in fact insane.

Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

In The Sane Society the Pathology of Normalcy is mentioned by Erick Fromm, he writes:

“It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing whatsoever on reason or mental health. Just as there is a folie à deux (a madness shared by two) there is a folie à millions. The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same mental pathology does not make these people sane.” (p14)

Did I become a Psychologist? I wanted so to help those experiencing profound life crises. No, for various reasons, more’s the pity. However, I have found Logotherapy and see myself as a Logotherapist in the future, amongst other things.

My new vision is of myself giving therapy from my home, surrounded by roses and herb gardens, having become a writer and continuing my online and mindfulness training and teaching. The focus of Logotherapy is on meaning, rather than adjustment. This is my path to my own meaning, into the future.

According to Viktor Frankl, meaning can be found through, (presuppose the spark for life meaning, to make man capable of what they can become, elicit/make a person become what he in principle is capable of becoming), found in Psychology Today:

  • Creativity or giving something to the world through self- expression,
  • Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
  • Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.
     

 

Header Image purchased at Creative Market – Huge Nature Photo Set. One license only. View cool stuff to purchase.

Frankl and the Sustenance of Love | More Luminous than the Sun

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What sustained Frankl, gave him courage, or even inspired him during the time of his suffering?

An example from Frankl will illuminate this question. It occurred on an early morning march to the work site. Amidst shouting, and stumbling over rocks in the cold of the morning, the man marching next to him whispered: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”(Frankl, 2008:48) Frankl began to think of his wife, through icy stumblings his mind clung to her, he heard her voice, and saw her encouraging look. He describes that her look was “…then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise” (Frankl, 2008:48) He was transfixed by the words of poets and thinkers who had pointed to the truth. “…That love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire…the salvation of man is through love and in love. (Frankl, 2008:49). In this way Frankl was transported to another world as he communed with his beloved. He realised that love goes beyond the physical person and that it is a deep spiritual experience of the inner self. This communing with and visualisation of his beloved wife, sustained Frankl.

 

Reference:

Frankl, V. (2008). Man’s Search for Meaning. Great Britain: Rider.

Image purchased at Creative Market – Huge Nature Photo Set

Happiness Ensues

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Profound words by Viktor Frankl:

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” ~ Viktor Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning. 

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Between Stimulus and Response

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“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ attributed to Viktor E. Frankl

It is in this mindful space, that one can choose how to respond and become more skillful and resiliant when faced with challenges.


Read more at Brainy Quote

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Provocation to Meaning | We are Called

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Provocation to Meaning, (inspired by Langle and Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning)

This formed part of a portfolio for a course on Logotherapy. For Frankl, meaning has an element of a unique demand that is made on us by the situations we find ourselves in over the course of a lifetime. So this kind of turns the idea of “meaning” into something a little different to our usual ideas. It is something with which we enter into a dialogue, in the words of Langle (2003): “the capacity for dialogue is a characteristic of being a person (i.e., a being with mind and spirit and a potential for decision making.” Since we are beings who are dialogical we look for something or someone who “speaks” to us, calls us, needs us, talks to us, looks for us, challenges us. This element of provocation then emerges from everything that confronts, challenges or engages us. This being provoked means we are called.

So then this unique demand or call from a place of value creates a moral imperative to act in a personally responsible and accountable way. Each situation requires that we do or be something. This speaks to our conscience and provokes us to “do the one thing that is required.” Meaning for Frankl is not found like a gold coin under a rock, it is something given to us.

We can think of meaning as unfolded as we live our lives and are provoked to meaning and towards self-transcendence in this meaning. This meaning then is beyond and ahead of us pointing to a future. Frankl once defined meaning as: “a possibility against a background of reality”. [1]

For Frankl conscience is something spiritual and transcendent which has universal and timeless significance. Therefore, it seems to suggest that life’s meaning exists a priori, waiting to be discovered. Perhaps it is enfolded waiting to be opened, (this could also be too much poetic licence here). This makes me think of e. e cummings:

“Somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond

any experience, your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which I cannot touch because they are too near.

Your slightest look easily will enclose me

though I have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as spring opens

(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose.”[2]

Langle, (2003) talks about a meaningful existence that is characterised by “inner consent” which relates to what we do, commit ourselves to, or leave out. This continuous consensual activity has a two-sided dialogue – one external characterised by questions like: “What appeals to me? What attracts or challenges me? Where am I needed or what do I want to do in this situation?” The other side of this dialogue goes around whether I agree with my decision. If inwardly, I have said yes then there will be harmony between inner experience and outer action.

Let’s look forward with hope then that we are all provoked to meaning to the “most worthwhile (the one of greatest value) and realistic possibility present in a given situation and one for which we feel we should decide. “ (Langle, 2003:19).

A meaningless life by contrast could be filled with trivial pursuits, such as seeking wealth, power, popularity, without an awareness of the richness of meaning. This could be characterised by depression, cruelty, sadism, anger and aggression amongst other things.

How do we experience meaning in life?

In three ways in Frankl’s view:

  1. Goals or projects – creative values
  2. Through love and loved ones – experiential
  3. Through a right attitude to life and the tragic triade: pain, guilt and death – having the right attitude – attitudinal.

[1] In Langle 2003: 34. The Art of Involving the Person.

[2] Reference for Cummings: www.k-b-c.com/poetry_eec.htm (Accessed 05/05/2012).

References:

Frankl, V. (1963). Man’s Search for Meaning.

Langle, A. (2003). The Art of Involving the Person – Fundamental Existential Motivations as the Structure of the Motivational Process. European Psychotherapy, Vol. 4, No. 1.

Image from Creative Market purchased Epilogue Presentation.