“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
Viktor Frankl, a Holocost survivor, became significantly influential in encouraging and healing the Western world from the emotional, psychological, and spiritual trauma of successive events such as The Great Depression, the Spanish flu, WWI and WWII.
He called his hopeful and pragmatic framework Logotherapy.
Frankl drew from a core idea in ancient Greek philosophy called Logos. Literally the word means “word,” “reason,” or “plan,” but conceptually it refers to the divine purpose implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning. This Greek concept is also found in Indian, Egyptian, and Persian philosophical and theological systems and is the fundamental organizing idea in the first 1500 years of Christianity.
Frankl’s message is that life CAN be meaningful (even in a situation as evil and hellish as the concentration camps), HOWEVER…and it’s a BIG however…it’s up to each person to discover and cultivate that meaning for themselves.
Where do we find meaning?
Frankl points out that we find meaning in three broad areas:
The more we intentionally anchor our life in and cultivate these three areas, the more meaningful, fulfilling, and verdant it will be. It’s in the realm of this trinity that life’s potency is derived.
Nothing meaningful exists outside of these, but not everything we do, think and believe is anchored in these either. Sometimes we find ourselves just going through the motions and drifting through life.
The more we attempt to avoid (deny and depress), control (worry, conquer, and will), or anesthetize (numb out or check out) from the heartache, futility, and tragedy of life, the more meaningless, despairing, and impotent our personal existence becomes. Our relationships remain transactional, and our energy is spent on pursuing happiness or avoiding struggle (which are not mutually exclusive).
Each day, each moment, we face life or death choices. The actions we take lead to relationships and work that are rich, consequential, and meaningful OR lead us to lives that are tolerable, barren and/or destructive. The paradox is that we can have all the riches that material success affords and be emotionally, relationally, and spiritually bankrupt.
Life is asking us all to let go of something that makes us happy and powerful so that we can become more of who we are meant to become. We all need a great work or cause bigger than ourselves to embrace. We must let go of what we think makes us powerful in order to participate in a more powerful story.
What do you need to let go of that will allow you to be more of your true self?
What new thing, attitude, and/or perspective, do you need to embrace?
If you are struggling to make meaning in your life, contact Sage Hill Counseling to set up an appointment with one of our counselors. We’re here to help.