Finding Frankl

Viktor Frankl, from Wikipedia.

I have run several miles almost every day for 36 years. I find that it rebalances my brain chemistry and keeps me from sliding into depression when things aren’t going well. Meditation and random acts of kindness also help, which brings me to Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning (1946).

Frankl’s self-transcendence concept (1965) emphasizes the value of helping others and taking responsibility for your own attitudes. It builds on the work of Abraham Maslow (1954). Maslow’s model is always a reminder to take care of people’s basic needs and intermediate needs if you want them to appreciate esthetic values or achieve self-actualization.

Viktor Frankl was a psychologist working with those suffering from depression and attempted suicides before World War II. As a Jewish psychologist in Austria, he was forced into a ghetto and lived through the horrors of the Holocaust by providing psychological counseling to others within the ghetto. Frankl’s school of existential psychology led to the observation by Irvin Yalom that Frankl, “who has devoted his career to a study of an existential approach to therapy, has apparently concluded that the lack of meaning is the paramount existential stress. To him, existential neurosis is synonymous with a crisis of meaninglessness.”  It makes me think about how much of being a teacher, an interpreter, and a coach is really an exchange – a true win-win situation. If we can help others get better at whatever they’re doing, we grow stronger and healthier as well. Our lives have greater meaning for our investment in others.

Frankl wrote, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

I like Frankl’s idea that there should be another statue on the west coast, like the Statue of Liberty. He believed that liberty is a freedom that mandates responsibility, so a Statue of Responsibility would be a dramatic reminder of the need to take responsibility for those freedoms we enjoy. In this society that so often focuses on “less taxes, me first, I got mine, you get yours,” we could definitely use more societal responsibility.

On a personal level we can surely take responsibility for our own attitudes and make the choice to do things that help someone else. The fact that it may also help us feel better about ourself and life in general is a bonus.

– Tim Merriman

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor Frankl

One Response to “Finding Frankl”

  1. somethingsmatternow Says:

    “Like”. In face of all too apparent global ALEC corporatization, and those molded by Ayn Rand philosophy, distance running down in your earlier habitat (Giant City Park) certainly helps chill the mind (when done for the purpose of running away from competition for a moment in the day and refocusing vs. joining it in a race), although some in other relaxation/dissociation modalities say I should reorient to other methods. But running works for less cost and its scheduling flexibility (until the State starts entry fees beyond our basic taxes). But getting around to purpose, and changing a situation. In such an ALEC environment, one is left being a senseless cog in the system, swapping out some eating of the scenery which they want to keep everyone sidelined. A seeker and practitioner/teacher of one of those other modalities recently stated to me, in his evolving process of defining purpose, that he wanted someone to show him to better live outside the system. Off the cuff, I remarked that there was the homesteader model or the gypsy model, the latter acknowledged as more the fit paralleling my conversation partner’s experience, a realization or validation of what he already was quite familiar. I thought a moment over examples of earlier forms of community oriented living, of the likes noted by anthropological teaching, or of modern reverting to “living off the grid”, whether it be ’70s communes or a slash-and-burn village in Madagascar, or homesteading both in the pioneer sense and recent ditching of GMOs for one’s own organic CSA. Discussion of carnies and the history of itinerant tinkerers in the various practical trades was on the list, people who walk between many rooms in life, not ever staying a part of any one, though possibly re-entering some in cyclical fashion, bring old things back to the picture, supplementing and synergistically building upon new things that have evolved. The grounded and the traveler. Place and journey. Weaving what can be learned from “presence” in a complex natural system (albeit a place with fuzzy boundaries) versus “presence” riding the fluid wave of ever changing existence. Or the pendulum between building up community, the local, and then the struggle as co-opting rips and rakes this into the corporate. Truth(s) versus obfuscating, glitzy Beltway buzzwords to dissociate from again.


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