Man’s Search for Meaning – Logotherapy

It could sound as a sentence to ridicule – who cares to search for meaning nowadays! The answer is no, the whole world in its shallowness, fuss, and mess is still looking for meaning. The fuss, shallowness, and mess are in fact signs of desperate attempts to find meaning. The end up is shallowness, because finding meaning in life has its rubrics. The celebrity aspiring people we see chasing talent shows, jumping and dancing with full make-up and gaudy clothes just to get accepted is an example of a desperate attempt to find meaning. It’s the absence of a true definition of true meaning is what the world is lacking – and the absence of mental and spiritual capabilities to chase after it. These two missing attributes is what is lacking and not to say that the world is not searching for meaning. In other words, everyone is seeking to find meaning to his life, however, to how far his mind can reach or perceive. The effort is thus not to try to bring the world to look for meaning, but to help it establish true definition of meaning and nurture mental and spiritual skills to search for it and pursue it.

Man’s Search for Meaning is a valuable book written by Victor Frankl, carrying his invention of what is called as Logotherapy – a method of psychological treatment achieving just that, treating the psychologically problematic person by making him find meaning. Regardless of reaching a medical state, we are all in need of finding meaning, a true one, which becomes more difficult especially in meaningless situations. For example, sickness. State of illness in itself represents something in nature void of meaning to us, thus, suffering is intense. As Frankl states, we suffer more when there is no meaning attached to our suffering. Conceiving this technique himself when he was imprisoned in Hitler’s Nazi camps for years, Frankle could survive the years of torture because he could attach meaning to his suffering. What’s the meaning in suffering Cancer? What’s the meaning in losing a beloved? These are examples of intense meaningless suffers to us, in which suffering is the utmost because there is no perceived meaning we can attach to such situations. Logotherapy is just a school in psychology that discusses these. A typical case Frankl was surveying involves treating a man who was devastated by the death of his wife. He lost appetite in everything and was drawn in a closed circle of depression. He visited Frankl and told him the case. Frankl responded to him “What would be her state if you would be the one who died first?” The man responded that she was to be extremely devastated. Frankl then responded that by her death before you, leaving you to live without her a spare to the extreme pain she could have felt if you were the one who died. The man shook his hands calmly and left. What Frankl did to treat that man was simply that he just attached a meaning to his suffering. Now, the man would live gracefully for the fact that he is suffering on his wife’s stead; he is suffering instead of her. Suffering now became meaningful… and accordingly, more tolerable.

Same thing with all situations and all conducts of our lives. Search for meaning in every conduct through a true definition of it and authentic means of reaching it is a life sweetening approach. Failed attempts to find meaning, in the contrary, result in more frustration and the sense of lost-self – those jumping in from of jury to be accepted in a talent show may not necessarily be happy. That’s because illusive meanings are no meanings; in fact, they add more to suffering.

Manifestations

Whether we are conscious about it or not, our daily life is mostly manifestations of other things, directly tied to these appearances getting to surface or indirectly controlling behind the scene. It doesn’t matter the true nature behind these manifestations; the important thing is how these manifestations impact the course of our lives and how they impact those around us.

At a given day, one may become irritated from work or angry from a colleague or a boss only to return home and these irritations get manifested into aggressiveness to family and beloved. In doing this, one misses the essence of his life, the true value of it… in front of something that is marginal. One misses that he had just replaced what’s priceless with something dumb and worthless. He misses that he had just sold his life to the moment of anger. He oppressed those close to him. Why? The moment of emotional hijacking is so absorbing. Because irritations were not mental, but plunked on the string of emotion, it prevailed. But speaking of emotions, don’t we hold emotions to those close to us as well? Bigger than the emotion we had to the moment of anger from work or something less important that our beloved? Yes. Because we learned that there are emotions… We learned to feel each one on its own… But we did not learn to manage a set of emotions at a time. We learned to hold affections to those we love, alone. And we learned to hold the feeling of anger or frustration from work, alone. Whenever one comes, we feel it on its own. Until it fades or something emotionally hot inside the family so that it takes over our emotional lead again… over and over, until the feeling it toppled by another one and so on. It’s Emotions Management that we did not learn. To live your day with a bunch of emotions, that are often mixed and conflicting, not just one. The day has a label: It’s a good day, It’s a bad day, It’s a frustrating day. What about a day that is a bad day and also a good day at the same time? That’s emotions management, to live by multiple emotions in a day and to manage their manipulations.

The best I have seen from others regarding emotions management is to topple a negative emotion by a positive emotion. The saying of “Be Positive.” This is absolute elusiveness! The smart and realist should come to realize that life is both negatives and positives. And to live only one at a time is futile, because it eludes the other: You live positive, you miss the negative; you live negative, you miss the positive. Emotional management I am speaking about is to live both the negative and the positive together… in a given one day: to label the day as a Bad Day and a Good day at the same time; not by factually listing the positives and negatives of the day, but to FEEL them both, manipulatively. When the negative happens, feel it; when the positive happens feel it. When one is irritated from something at work, feel the negative about it, but once you move to another moment that has its other emotions, carry on to that emotion, without cloning the other matter’s emotion to this matter’s emotion. Emotional management is to manipulate the emotion at hand based on the emotion of the situation, to be responsive to life. To live life with its mix of feelings and unpredictability of its situations. That is, to experience all life’s emotions without having one emotion persisting on the account of other emotion, rendering you missing some moments and hurting yourself and others in that persistence. Don’t let an emotion in one matter manifests itself in other situations of your life, stealing many things from your life.

A human lives with a bundle of emotions; that one should learn to live by many simultaneously, manipulatively, rather than sequentially.

Running After Death

‘Running after death’ would sound applying to someone who is fed up from life and seeking death or considering suicide. However, this would be ‘wishing death’ or ‘seeking death’ or ‘wanting death’. But ‘Running After Death’ applies to all of us, when we think about death. How?

Death is one of the ultimate ‘standstill’ facts in our lives. By standstill it means that Death just stands uniquely to us at the end of journey, it doesn’t chase us and it doesn’t do anything about us… Just standing right at the corner; like you are walking in a corridor at the end of which there is someone standing – just standing. We approach it bit by bit as time passes by; that is, we approach it on the time dimension till the event happens. However, when it occupies our minds, we become running after it, because simply Death doesn’t come to us. Someone would tell me why thinking that way is worthwhile at all? The answer is that because we gets afraid of Death, we tend to think of it as if it’s chasing us. But realizing the fact that by doing this, WE become the ones who are chasing it, we should learn to let go chasing it; that is, to let go thinking of it in ‘itself’. In Itself here means that you think of ‘Death’ as an event, which is the wrong consideration, because with this you become the one who is chasing it and after all Death will inevitably happen. However, the other correct model is to stop chasing it, but to proceed to it. Big difference.

To Proceed to something means that you have done something that enables you to qualify to something next. Like when you pay your university tuition, you can ‘Proceed’ to class. When you pay for your hotel stay, you ‘Proceed’ to your room. But you cannot go to your room without paying for your stay first. ¬†You know that there is a class you would be attending, so you make sure you pay your tuition so that you proceed to it. You know that Death would be occurring, but you make sure you do something so that you proceed to it, in that qualifying sense. While Death as an event does not require from us a ‘qualifying’ action to Proceed to it, we are the one who needs a qualifying action to Proceed to it. We can just let it happen, or we can proceed to it. When we let it happen, we are passive and when it happens, it happens while we are at any condition. But when we Proceed to it, it still happens, but not just happens because we reach it with a specific condition, a condition that we choose and keep on building throughout the journey of life. These concepts of ‘Proceed’ Vs. ‘Chase’ are why it’s worthwhile to think of the matter that way. When we keep thinking of the ‘event’ of Death, we are not doing anything rather than ‘Running after it’, which is destructive and futile. But when we just acknowledge the fact as standstill at the end of the road and that we are walking to it rather than it chasing us, we think of the matter as Proceeding to it and how we should Proceed to it. In this line of thought, the event ceases to be the centre of focus in itself. By this, it becomes more matters how we approach it rather than the happening of the event. In this, it becomes important what we are accomplishing towards it or how we are Proceeding to it… and the event in itself becomes less important.

Don’t chase death by thinking of it. Enough knowing that it’s there… And Proceed to It. That is, care about the walk of your life. That’s the role of death after all: to make you think about the walk of your life, not just to stay thinking of it itself.