Managing Monday with Viktor E. Frankl – take 3

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

Today we finish our exploration of some insights from Austrian Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997), who is probably best know for his book Man’s Search for Meaning. He was also the founder of logotherapy – a form of existential analysis that suggests that the greatest existential stress is meaninglessness. Frankl’s own conclusion from the extreme suffering in the concentration camps was that even in the most dehumanizing situations life continues to have potential meaning – and that suffering can actually contribute to this. His PhD dissertation, The Unconscious God, examines the relationship between psychology and religion.

  • Ever more people have the means to live, but no meaning to live for – Viktor E. Frankl
  • When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves – Viktor E. Frankl
  • When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure – Viktor E. Frankl
  • Our greatest freedom is our freedom to choose our attitude – Viktor E. Frankl

As always, nice chatting…

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Brian. I was recently intrigued by a TED Talk about addiction, which proposed (based on evidence) addiction stems from a lack of something worth living for. One of the tests used rats in a cage, with two sources of water. One source was plain water, and the other laced with a drug. If the cage was plain and unadorned, the rats favoured the drugged water. If the cage was filled with engaging apparatus, the rats all went for the plain water. This was interpreted as showing lack of stimulation in life leads to a need to medicate our way through. This, among other examples (including human ones), contributed to the idea we are facing an increasingly ‘medicated’ society because it has lost connection to deep meaning. We look around and see the bars of a cage, and no meaningful stimulation (a challenge worthy of our efforts), and go shopping, or trawl the cafes, or get gaming, or searching the internet, or literally drug-taking. I wonder if Frankl might even go so far as to say that our easy access to the means to live is making life less worth living. What is ‘the good life’ without struggle? It is no wonder we can list adrenaline sports among the addictions of our age.
    This is true in the church as much as outside it, and as a pastor, I feel deeply challenged by it. I would like your reflection if possible: what is the meaningful challenge we can set before Christians today, that can truly engage their life’s energies with God, without resorting to manufacturing projects for them. It is my concern that without a good answer to this, we are instead building an ethos of excellence coupled with new church programmes to distract people. I fear this approach is a substitute for showing how a ‘normal’ life with God can itself be deeply meaningful, challenging, and worth living, largely because such a vision is harder to demonstrate than ‘join this programme, and serve it well!’.

    • Thanks Philip. The study you mention is most interesting. What does it mean for pastors and the challenge to put before people? I agree, we mustn’t just artificially create programs for adrenalin rushes. However, I wonder if we genuinely rediscovered the concept of vocation and calling if that would not provide purpose and challenge that is greater than most can manage. It is to rediscover how genuinely stretching the life to which we have been called, is. To often we are content to see our people strive for sanitized versions of what everone else is striving for, instead of helping them to gulp at the radically counter cultural call of the gospel… to put others first… to seek the Kingdom of God first… to say a radical “yes” to whatever Christ calls us to.

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