Great existential thinkers had proposed an interesting framework that could bring us the necessary release of our own limitations. Viktor Frankl (2008) writes about how a person can actualize their potential, not by getting rich or by focusing on materialistic success, but by being responsible. An individual can be responsible to humanity, to society, to himself or to God. The true meaning in life is thus to be found in the world rather than within man or his own psyche. Frankl names this as “the self-transcendence of human existence.”
Wong (2017) writes about Frankl’s self-transcendence stance and how it is composed of several factors: the defiant power of the human spirit, the capacity for freedom and responsibility, the primary motivation for self-transcendence and the power of the meaning-mindset.
- The defiant power of the human spirit is essentially an existential courage that enables us to take a defiant stand against a harsh fate and do what is morally right despite personal dangers. I have noticed that it is easy for me to fantasise about how courageous I would be in life-threatening situations but I have also come to realise that being courageous in those kinds of situations is more of an exception than a rule.
- Every person has the freedom and responsibility to choose their own pathway and life goals. Wong (2017) points out that man is not fully conditioned, man is self-determining. In spite of the predominant narrative of the western medical system which gives us the message of being a passive receiver of an illness, we can make an active stance and look through an alternative perspective: we are an active agent that has an influence on our own life.
- The primary motivation for self-transcendence emphasises the responsible choice of doing the right thing in each situation (Wong, 2017). I know I struggle with this one, because my brain already has the neuron shortcuts that make my responses to triggering situations more automatic, it is that much harder to build new neuron pathways that can offer me an alternative response, one that is more applicable to my virtues. It is a hard change but it is far from impossible. Consistency is key.
- The last factor that Wong (2017) emphasises is the power of the meaning-mindset which puts forward the proper use of intellect in order to do the right thing and live a virtuous life. Broadening our knowledge in the fields that study our human experience is important in the aspect of exposing our own blind spots, which can lead to some serious moral dilemmas.
Gaining a small insight into the thoughts of great existential thinkers has given me a sense of optimism and hope, which is in contrast to the despair I felt, living through the lens of the modern, productive, success-driven world. I have been reminded again and again through life, through life’s challenges, that the most important, hearth-filling things are those that have nothing to do with gain, but have everything to do with other human beings or with our work that is contributing to the better future. As Marilyin Yalom wrote in the book that I have mentioned in the first part of this article, A matter of life and death: “I have come to the understanding that one stays alive not only for oneself, but also for others.”
Ana Zore, BA. pth.
Here you can read part one as well.
Frankl, V.E. (2000). Man’s search for ultimate meaning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Publishing.
Frankl, V.E. (2008). Man’s search for meaning. UK: Rider.
Frankl, V.E. (2014). Volja do smisla. Celje: Celjska Mohorjeva družba.
Frankl, V.E. (2015). Zdravnik in duša: Osnove logoterapije in bivanjske analize. Celje: Celjska Mohorjeva družba.
Stein, J. (2013). Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation. Time article, Vol. 181, Issue 19. p26. 8p. Gained through: https://www.manasquanschools.org/cms/lib6/NJ01000635/Centricity/Domain/174/millennials_themememegeneration.pdf
Wong, P. (2017). Frankl’s Self-Transcendence Model and Virtue Ethics. Gained through: http://www.drpaulwong.com/frankls-self-transcendence-model-and-virtue-ethics/
Wong, P. (2014). Meaning-seeking, Self-Transcendence, and Well-Being. Gained through: http://www.drpaulwong.com/meaning-seeking-self-transcendence-and-well-being/
I work as a trainee psychotherapist under supervision, in Ljubljana-Slovenia.
I primarily work through the frame of psychodynamic psychotherapy that was developed in Germany. The mentioned modality is based on psychoanalysis but additionally encompasses the humanistic approaches and includes body work or body techniques. I am also interested in the topics of existentialism, which has brought me to continue my education in logotherapy.
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