The Second World War, it may be argued, belongs to one of the most tragic but life-defining moments of human history. It significantly informed human sciences of the exponential capacity of human persons to effect sweeping changes on to the society. Along the same vein, the relative impact of the Second World War to Psychology is also a good case to look at; for from the ashes of human tragedy evolved rigorous sciences that seek to shed light on the dynamics of the human psyche.
In particular, Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy would be one of many psychological schools of thoughts which would emerge after the Second World War. What this paper attempts to do is to show that the emergence of Psychotherapy – Logotherapy in particular – may have impacted the way we presently understand human behavior not only as a biological or physiological condition, but also from as a profoundly spiritual reality as well. Human Behavior in the Light of Logotherapy First, it has to be noted that the psychological trend following the Second World War was defined by the rapid rise of various modes of Psychotherapy.
This science is essentially anchored on a philosophy which “conceives of psychological problems as resulting from intra-psychic conflicts, unconscious motivations and interplay of external demands with components of personality structure” (Hunt, 1993, p. 564). In many ways, the principles and tenets of Psychotherapy are largely accepted as promising methods that effectively address behavioral disorders and deviations. To this end, Frankl’s Logotherapy takes its basic form. It too is a science used at the height of the Second World War, inasmuch as it too sought to understand human behavior in its problematic moments.
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This is not surprising since Frankl himself developed this approach “in the harshest of circumstances as an inmate for three years in four different Nazi concentration camps” (Southwick et. al. , 2006, p. 162). But unlike most Psychotherapy theories, whose main goal is to rectify behavioral deviancies, the overarching concern of Logotherapy is to discover the forces which enable persons to survive traumatic experiences. And much too often, these forces, far from being biological or physiological in nature, are indeterminably spiritual in essence (Hoffman, 1995, p.
3). This is because Logotherapy believes that behavioral problems, specifically ensuing from certain life crises and tragedies, are accentuated by one’s inability to perceive a profound sense of purpose. Unlike the dominant Psychotherapies available during the post-war era, Logotherapy takes human behavior not merely as a result of an aggregate of complex mental and psycho-emotional process, but as a condition which is critically motivated by the profound need to discover life-defining meaning.
In other words, instead of reducing human behavior into the “questions about…alleged unresolved conflicts about sexuality or power needs”, Logotherapy opts to see the behavioral dynamics of persons, especially for those who are in crises, in its spiritual dimension (Hoffman, 1995, p. 3). It further means that human behavior is understood in the light of its higher capacities – choice, inspiration, hope, purpose, vision, among others.
Since human behavior is not reducible to the question basic neurological, physiological and even biological dynamics, Logotherapy caters to behavioral problems not simply by addressing “psychopathology and psychological symptoms”, but also by empowering “a patient’s strength and (the) personal search for meaning and purpose in life” (Southwick et. al. , 2006, p. 163). On account of such a perspective, Logotherapy places higher premium than most on emphasizing the need to embrace an inspiring sense of optimism and appreciating the powerful capacity of human freedom to transcend every possible condition, even the most tragic ones.
Logotherapy teaches that “an emphasis on the human spirit and the notion that self-transcendence represents the height of human potential’ (Southwick et. al. , 2006, p. 162). Two chief spiritual aspects are important here: the element of hope and the power of transcendence. On the one hand, Logotherapy sees the inherent value of maintaining an enduring sense of hopefulness to achieve considerable sanity in one’s behavior. Frankl is a personal witness to this.
His experiences in the concentration camps enabled him to see that those who were able to survive (and in turn maintain a reasonable sanity of human behaviour) are those who were able to push their vision beyond their otherwise undesirable present situations. Frankl himself says: “those inmates who were oriented toward the future, whether it was a task to complete in the future, or a beloved person to be reunited with, were most likely to survive the horrors of the camps” (cited in Adamczyk, 2005, p. 68). On the other hand, Logotherapy maintains the critical importance of personal transcendence through human freedom.
According to Frankl, “the meaning of fate lies in our response to it…chance decides what happens but we decide how to take it” (cited in Southwick et. al. , 2006, p. 162). This premise is especially important in understanding human behavior; for it argues that the proper functioning of human behavior depends, in a way, on right perspective and right choices. Conclusion This paper concludes that first the rise of Psychotherapy theories – and Logotherapy – during the post-war era is an important event for Psychology because it enabled us to apply abstract theories in addressing concrete human behavioral problems.
Second, in view of the foregoing, this paper also concludes that Logotherapy is important in that it may have engendered a great impact on the way we understand human behavior in its profoundly spiritual aspect. In the final analysis, one needs to give Logotherapy a credit for seeing human behavior not just under the lenses of biological functions, but also in the context of non-material forces such as meaning, freedom, purpose and vision.
Adamczyk, A.“Frankl, Bettelheim and the Camps”. Journal of Genocide Research 7 (March 2005), Issue 1. Hoffman, E. “Victor Frankl at 90: A Voice for Life”. America 172 (18 March 1995), Issue 9. Hunt, M. (993). The Story of Psychology. New York, Doubleday. Southwick, S. , Gilmartin, R. , McDonough, P. & Morrissey, P. “Logotherapy as an Adjunctive Treatment for Chronic Combat-related PTSD: A Meaning-based Intervention”. American Journal of Psychotherapy 60 (2006), Issue 2.
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