II. The Emergence of Psychotherapy:
The birth of psychoanalysis certainly originated in the contributions made by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Alfred Adler (1870-1937). Freud’s attention to the basic drives and instincts in the human psyche demonstrated the importance of the unconscious thinking to all human thought and activity.[i] This was further developed by Adler, who gave particular attention to the ‘motivation of human activity as stemming from feelings of inferiority toward perfection’.[ii] The answer, according to Viktor Frankl, is not in the will to pleasure or the will to power, but the will to meaning. Logotherapy recognizes responsibleness as the very essence of human existence.[iii] Stressing that man must be responsible and actualize his potential emphasizes that the real meaning of life “is discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche.”[iv]
Dr. Viktor Frankl’s monumental work developed in response to not only the psychoanalytic processes of the time (namely Freud and Adler), but also the historical factors that influenced him personally. Growing up in the social environment of the Austrian government, World War I and the Great Depression certainly served to cause the young Frankl to question the meaning of existence. Since he became acquainted with suffering at such a young age, this factor played a significant role in his philosophical view of life. Dr. Ann Graber notes: “In later years, he would recall the privations they suffered.”[v] In the milieu of such events Frankl differed from the two Viennese Schools of Psychoanalysis in that he began to realize the necessity for discovering meaning in life, and this even in the midst of unavoidable suffering.
Frankl, at an early age, was well aware of the contributions of Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalytic approach based in the will to pleasure.[vi] When Alfred Adler appeared on the scene, Frankl became enticed by his approach of individual psychology and the will to power.[vii] Although these two schools of thought contributed to Frankl’s view of life, he began to increasingly deviate from them as he became more familiar with philosopher Max Sheler’s phenomenology.[viii] By 1930 Frankl began to center his attention on the ‘meaning of life,’ going so far as to teach that we have the capability to turn suffering into human triumph.[ix]
III. Logotherapy’s place among the other schools of psychology:
Viktor Frankl believed that psychoanalysis, as it had developed under Freud and Adler, ignored the essential characteristic of being human, namely the human spirit. It fell short of addressing the questions pertaining to meaning and existence. Frankl’s approach to being human did not ignore the existential questions of life but faced them. Existential analysis and logotherapy developed based on the theory “that all reality has meaning (logos) and that life never ceases to have meaning for anyone.”[x] Frankl's position has developed into the Third Viennese School of Psychoanalysis and its core ingredient can be cited as “healing through meaning.[xi]
[iii]Frankl, Viktor E., Man’s Search for Meaning. New York, New York: Washington, Square Press. (1984) 131.
[v]Graber, Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy, 7.
[xi]Frankl, Viktor E., The Will to Meaning. New York, New York: Meridian. (1988) 9.