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Besides the Japanese philosophy of "Ikigai" the Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl tries to find a different way to achieve the state of finding meaning in life. He creates what is called logotherapy (or existential analysis). The first impulse that Viktor Frankl had was that he realized that most people, especially in the western countries, are living lives of material comfort. He called this state, in which most of the people live “the Existential Vacuum”. Part of this vacuum is due to the fact that people have been losing more and more of their basic animal instincts. Parallel to that the traditions are rapidly diminishing. The result of this combination, is that no instinct tells a human being what to do or how to act, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do. Sometimes he doesn´t even know what he would want to do. Instead he observes the behaviour of other people, and uses that as an example and his new goal (which could also be understood as conformism) or he does what other people want him to do (which could also be understood as totalitarism).

Frankl called this situation, in which a lot of people live without meaning, the “Mass Neurotic Triad”. Each of the three corners of the triangle can be assigned to a term, which can be seen as a consequence symptom. These terms are: "depression", "aggression" and " addiction". His answer to this problem was the mentioned logotherapy, which sees the human being as a being whose main concern should consist of fulfilling their meaning and in actualizing their values.

According to Frankl the “Pursuit of Meaning” is the primary motivational factor in humans. It’s important to note at this point is that the ultimate meaning of life is unknowable, but each person has the opportunity to realize their meaning in their life at a persona and unique level and doing so would greatly improve the quality of their life. An interesting thought he had is the idea that in every moment the perception of meaning is possible or as he put it : “I am convinced that in the final analysis, there is no situation that does not contain within it the seed of a meaning” (Viktor Frankl).

For most people he suggested that a change of attitude is required in order to discover and realize these personals seeds of meaning. So you should stop to ask about the meaning in life and instead think of yourself as someone who is constantly being questioned by life. Thus, your answer must not consist of talking and meditation, it rather lies in the right actions and the right conduct. This life equals the responsibility of finding the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

One can say that the personal meaning differs a lot from the search for abstract answers to life´s meaning. Frankl compares this situation to an answer one could ask a chess-master: “Tell me, master, what is the best move in the world?” Obviously every specific answer could be incorrect, if the situation doesn´t fit to the move.

In addition, Frankl assumes that a person for whom the "why" has been clarified does not need to ask about the "how". So finding the “why” is according to him the best way to live a meaningful and therefore fulfilling life. One catch, however, is that it could happen to someone that he or she has almost no control over a situation (like in the case of Viktor Frankl, being a prisoner of a concentration-camp). But even in such situations one has the opportunity to find meaning, if you “transform a personal tragedy into a triumph […] [and if] we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” (Viktor Frankl)!

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Bobby Jenny
Bobby Jenny
May 16, 2022

Love it!

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