1. What Causes People to Develop Anxiety – According to Frankl

    May 22, 2014

    What Causes People to Develop Anxiety – According to Frankl

    Frankl’s concepts are based on finding a meaning or purpose in life.  He has stated that all life circumstances have meaning, even the ones that are hard or make us miserable.  He goes on to state that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”.  What does this all mean?  In basic terms, it means we may not have the power to control the circumstances into which we are thrust, but we do have the power to control the way in which we think about those circumstances.

    Frankl used his views to look at and discuss treatment options for several mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and neurosis.  He also used his views to help terminally ill patients.  His thoughts regarding mental illness were if we could simply recognize the purpose of our circumstances, we could (possibly) master our mental health issues.  Let’s explore this further.

     

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  2. The Power of Positive Emotions

    March 23, 2014

    The Power of Positive Emotions

    by Daniela Aneis

    We all know the experience of positive emotions make us feel good with ourselves and others. But could they have another function other than just that? Evolutionary speaking, what are positive emotions for?

    Up until recently, research has been extensive on the so-called negative emotions and their role in evolution. It is posited that negative emotions were key in survival, where the “fight or flight” mechanism was crucial to our species endurance. The stress induced when facing a large animal where a decision had to be made if it dangerous or “potential food”, made our ancestors react, propelling them to action.

     

     But what about positive emotions? What good are they for?

     

    In 1998, researcher Barbara Fredrickson proposed the Broaden-and-built model of positive emotions. Feeling that research wasn’t paying enough attention to the role of positive emotions in human life, she set out to find out why we need positive emotions as much as the negative ones. She suggested that positive emotions broaden our scope of action-thinking and have a major role in physical, cognitive and social resources.

    Mainly, positive emotions are essential resources in resilience, serving as reserves to help us cope with adversity and promote health and well-being. Her research suggests that the more positive emotions people experience throughout their day and their lives, the faster they can react when faced with negative emotions.

    One of her most fascinating discoveries has to do with the fact that positive emotions can counteract the effects of negative ones. Meaning that the prolonged effects of negative emotions on cardiovascular diseases and cancer, for instance, can be counteracted with the experience of positive emotions. So if you lead an extremely stressful life, you might want to consider balancing the odds in your everyday life by introducing space for positive emotions.

     

    Are people who experience positive emotions at a greater level different from the rest of us?

     

    Not quite. People who experience positive emotions at a great level tend to pay a great deal of attention to positive emotions, and their reserves of positive emotions function as an upward spiral of positivity (Fredrickson, 2001). Consciously or unconsciously, positive emotions seekers tend to find positive emotions even in neutral situations and view the negative ones as part of a necessary personal growth (Diener & Biwas-Diener, 2008).

     

    Are people who experience more positive emotions happier?

     

    In his 2002 book Authentic Happiness, the “father” of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman states that happiness (or well-being is now the correct term to use) can be achieved through:

    • The seeking of pleasure;
    • The seeking of engagement activities;
    • The search for meaning in life.

    In a research done in 2005, researchers Peterson, Park and Seligman set out to answer what makes a full life so different from the empty life? Mainly they were interested in knowing whether the experience of positive emotions through pleasure, engagement or meaning contributed to a sense of greater well-being and life satisfaction and if those 3 experiences were any different between themselves. They found evidence that all 3 types of positive experiences where key in building up a sense of general well-being and higher levels of life satisfaction. However the 3 types of experiences seemed to have no difference between themselves.

    Nonetheless, the authors still state that a life of eudemonia – the search for personal improvement and fulfillment – versus a life of hedonism – a constant seek for pleasure may result in a more enduring happiness. The idea that a life based on the search for meaning entails a happier life finds resonance in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy theory, where the key to leading a full life is a meaningful one.

     

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/70194213@N00/7161763179


  3. Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    March 20, 2014

    Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    by Daniela Aneis

     

    Dinosaurs have lived millions of years ago often leaving nothing but their fossilized footprints behind. What if you could also leave a psychological footprint behind? The term psychological footprint used by Whitbourne and Whitbourne (2014) refers to the positive or negative influence you have on others and how that affects their lives and the environment around you. We’ve all had the nature vs. nurture discussion in our lives at some point: is it nurture that defines me or is it nature? But what about your influence in nature and nurture? Your influence in what’s around you? How to measure that?

    Leaving something of yourself behind.

    You may not see it or even realize it, but you have an impact on your environment. Just by existing at this time and place, you’re changing what’s around you. Let’s try a difficult exercise. Can you imagine what it would be like for everyone you’ve ever met if you had never existed? What would they be missing out? Though one to think through? Don’t worry, that’s just our egocentrism at work. We just can’t imagine a world where we wouldn’t exist! Let’s try an easier one: have you ever asked a close friend what have they learned from you? What has meeting you made them different? Ask and be surprised with the answers. Usually in life it’s the little things that leave great impressions.

    What psychological footprints do you have on yourself?

    Think about all the people that have inspired and touched your life. Parents, grandparents, your first teacher, your neighbors, your minister, your childhood friends… Ever tried writing them a thank you letter for all the precious moments you’ve had with them? This a powerful exercise that Martin Seligman (the father of Positive Psychology) often does in his classes. At the end of each semester he promotes a little get together between students and the receivers of the letters, where the letters are read out loud and it’s not unusual for tears of joy to run. It’s a very powerful tool in therapy as well specially in grief counselling.

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  4. Jung and Frankl on the Meaning of Life

    March 17, 2014

    Carl Jung and Viktor Frankl on the Meaning of Life

    by Karen Fernandes

    It is widely agreed among psychologists that a sense of meaning and ‘purpose’ is critical to a healthy psyche. Without a framework to give our lives purpose, we can find ourselves falling into an existential depression (often itself the catalyst for a mid-life crisis) or drifting aimlessly with no sense of direction and no interest anything life has to offer.

    Unfortunately, applying meaning to a seemingly random and chaotic universe is not easy for us, and many of the big concepts are really beyond any chance of human comprehension. We don’t know where we came from (even though we might have beliefs on the matter), we don’t know why we were put here – we don’t even know if there will be any lasting consequences of our actions on Earth. As far as we’re aware we came from nothing and will return there when it’s over.

    So where then does this crucial sense of purpose come from? How does it form in a healthy mind? How does someone decide what they believe and how they should spend their time in light of so little information and so much mystery? These are questions that many thinkers have attempted to answer with mixed results. Here we are going to examine the views of two key contributors: Carl Jung and Viktor Frankl, which demonstrate how this process of finding meaning fits into the complex puzzle of the human mind.

    Jung’s Theories of Individuation

    Individuation is a widely used term that essentially describes the psychological process of becoming ‘an individual’. Often this transformation is said to occur during the adolescent years and early-adulthood; when a young person will ‘try out’ different personalities and ways of life to see which fit them best. Most of us can remember a ‘gothic’ or ‘preppy’ phase in adolescence (probably while cringing) and will likely have moved between friendship groups and ideals as we gradually started to learn about ourselves and develop a concrete identity (parents of teenagers will likely be all-too familiar with this period of development). If all goes well though, the individual should come out of the process with a stable personality (even if their beliefs and interests change) and a sense of ‘who they are’ and what their role is in society.

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  5. On Meaning In Life and Logotherapy – based on “Man’s Search for Meaning”

    May 18, 2013

    meaning in life and logotherapy

    “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for”. —Viktor Frankl

    by Amanda Greene

     

    An analysis of Viktor Frankl’s book on meaning of life and Logotherapy style of psychoanalysis.

     

    Psychiatrist, neurologist and social visionary Viktor Frankl developed Logotherapy/Existential Analysis (LTEA). In this school of thought in psychology, the search for a meaning in life is identified as the primary motivational force in human beings.

    Frankl’s approach is based on three philosophical and psychological concepts:

    • Freedom of Will
    • Will to Meaning
    • Meaning in Life

    The motivation for Frankl’s path in life as a psychiatrist was born of his own struggle and grief. He was imprisoned in four different Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, between 1942 and 1945. He beat some amazing odds and survived the ordeal although his parents, brother, and pregnant wife all fell victim to the horrors. Over three years’ time, with all that he witnessed in the death camps, he was able to turn his awful experience and the observations he made during it into a positive lesson for spiritual survival; he dedicated his life to helping and others through their psychological troubles and inspiring millions through his books.

    His most popular book, a recounting of his experiences during World War II is “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  It is also considered an influential self-help book that illustrates his school of thought, which is prevalent in psychotherapy practices still today.  The book has been translated into twenty four different languages and, at the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, his book had sold over 10 million copies. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is listed among the ten most influential books in America according to a reader survey that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life”.

    A recent Psychology Today  article explains Frankl’s message is “ultimately one of hope: even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanizing situation, life can be given a meaning, and so too can suffering.” His experiences in the horrendous conditions of a concentration camp were the catalyst of forming his school of thought in psychology that still applies today. What was no doubt some of the worst conditions imposed upon humans brought him to the deduction that human motivation in life is meaning. This was very different than the previous schools of thought from Freud and Adler who were also Viennese psychotherapists. Freud maintained that human motivation was based on pleasure.  Adler’s way of thinking was that power was the basis of human motivation. After his release Frankl founded the school of Logotherapy, which is often referred to as the ‘Third Viennese School of psychotherapy’ because it came after those of Freud and Adler. Logotherapy’s name comes from the Ancient Greek word logos meaning ‘reason’ or ‘principle’. The goal of Logotherapy is to carry out an existential analysis of the person and, in so doing, to help him discover meaning for his life. Frankl, believed that meaning can be found in the following three ways:

    • Creativity or giving something to the world through self- expression,
    • Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
    • Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

    Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues, “we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.” LTEA circles around the idea of the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. He did not question why all of those innocent people died in the concentration camps, but pondered why any lived. It was not a question of wanting to live for many; it was finding meaning and purpose. According to Frankl, “The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in life.” He listed the three ways he believed individuals could achieve this: work (doing something significant), in love (caring for someone), and finding courage in difficult times. He maintained the idea that suffering in itself is meaningless; it is the way in which we respond to suffering that gives it meaning.

    Perhaps the most powerful message from Frankl that we can all learn from and can be applied to all events past, present and future is that forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except for one thing and that is the freedom to choose how you respond to a situation.

    His theories apply today, especially with the many unfortunate incidents that occur in our daily lives, personal tragedies and national incidents that make most question how and why. Senseless shootings, environmental accidents, threats of war, and depletion of Earth’s resources all contribute to negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Yet people still find meaning in the world and meaning in everyday life. When someone sets up a charity to honor loved ones lost so that others can be helped and when the father of a fallen US Soldier hands out American flags to promote pride of our country, they are doing something significant and not letting the circumstances out of their control interfere with responding in a way that has meaning.

    Born in Vienna in 1905 Viktor E. Frankl earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. He published more than thirty books on theoretical and clinical psychology and served as a visiting professor and lecturer at Harvard, Stanford, and elsewhere. In 1977 a fellow survivor, Joseph Fabry, founded the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Frankl died in 1997.

    His therapeutic techniques are still used by many psychologists and psychiatrists today in an effort to help people help themselves. This is achieved through self-analysis with the help of a psychotherapist and guided self-observation. The therapist revisits the improper behaviors in an exaggerated fashion so that it can be evident to the patient. The goal is to get to the point where patients can distance themselves from situations enough it can help them see the wrong thought patterns and inappropriate behaviors. Patients are then guided to making conscious decisions to find meaning in all situations and restore productive living.

     

    Author Bio: Amanda Greene is author and Brand Manager for RHL, online dorm essentials supplier. She enjoys writing about college life, psychology and education topics.

    Image Credit: Sheldon Wood


  6. The #1 Necessity For A Satisfied Life

    April 19, 2013

    Field of Life

    Image Credit: Paul Esson

    by Don Sturgill

     

    Sigmund Freud’s pioneering work in psychoanalysis was based on the idea that human beings are primarily motivated by the desire for pleasure.

    Freud’s contemporary, Alfred Adler, argued that pleasure isn’t the root of motivation at all—power is what we really seek.

    Then came the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and a perspective born from the depths of adversity: Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, said Viktor Frankl, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.

    The one thing necessary

     

    Our most important need, argued Frankl, is not to please ourselves or to rule over others, but to uncover the true meaning of life—to know why we live and what we should do. And the path to discovering that meaning is to listen to what life is asking of us.

    Both pleasure and power lose their grip when one discovers a “reason why.”

    To his Nazi captors, Viktor Frankl was known only as Prisoner #119104. To those who suffered with him in the concentration camps, though, he was a steady source of encouragement and a reassuring voice of wisdom.

    Many of Frankl’s fellow prisoners harbored bitterness and hatred against those who had imprisoned them for the “crime” of being Jews. But Viktor Frankl decided early on to keep his mind off the daily struggles of his untenable situation. Rather, Frankl endeavored to treat his plight as an “interesting psycho-scientific experiment.”

    He determined to view himself, not as an unfortunate victim of circumstance, but as a doctor with a front-row seat to events most people would only hear about after the fact. He was a participant in something incredible and significant.

    How to tell when someone will soon be dead

     

    “Why is it,” Frankl asked himself, “that one person perseveres and makes it through—despite the indignation and brutality—when a stronger and younger person may not?”

    By observing his fellow prisoners closely, he discovered how to predict who would be the next to die. None of the men were the picture of physical wellness; they all lived hungry and tired—yet there was one thing that distinguished those who would die from those who would live. Frankl saw a common factor emerge in the mindset of the doomed: They abandoned hope and gave in to despair.

    The will to meaning

     

    In Man’s Search for Meaning, the book he later wrote to chronicle his experiences in the concentration camps, Frankl made a poignant pronouncement:

    In the final analysis, everything can be taken from us—everything—but for one thing … we always retain the right to choose what we think about what is happening. We can never be forced to relinquish the most precious possession of all—our own mental attitude.

    The person who is able to find meaning in life—the person who sees obstacles as an inevitable part of life rather than as an end to life—is able to transcend even the most difficult circumstance to find a reason to go on living.

    Agreeing with an earlier maxim of Fredrich Nietzsche, Frankl wrote, “Those who have a why to live, can bear with almost any how.”

    An attitude of survival

     

    The original (German) title of Man’s Search For Meaning was Trotzdem ja zum Leben sagen, or “Still say Yes to Life.” When we say “Yes” to life, in spite of what life brings, we affirm that life is worth living, and we affirm that—in the end—the meaning of life trumps the tragedy of life.

    To lose hope is to deny meaning. It is to say the opposite—that life is not worth living—and, according to Frankl’s observations, those who maintain that line of thought are treading a sure path to an early death.

    What about you and me? Are we strong enough to reach down and hold on to the best of life, even during those black times when the worst of life is our portion?

    Trouble comes to all. Struggles come to all. It is our response, rather than the situation, that determines both our present and our future.

    By holding on to meaning, Frankl found a way to benefit from the unthinkable, to make sweet wine from sour grapes and to grow stronger through adversity.

    What is your “Reason why”? What is your “Yes” to life?

    If we don’t know and remember our answers to those questions, we may be hard-pressed to keep going when life seems cruel and unfair.

    And it will. For all of us.

     

    Author Bio: Don Sturgill lives and works in the Great Northwest, where life is good and hope endures.