19051997 Background Worked as professor of Neurology an psychiatry in Vienna Contemplated the meaning and purpose of human existence Opposed ideas that humans are mere mechanisms or animals Was a student of Freud and Adler ID: 776097 Download Presentation


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Presentation on theme: " VICTOR FRANKL EXISTENTIAL THEORY"— Presentation transcript






Worked as professor of Neurology an psychiatry in Vienna

Contemplated the meaning and purpose of human existence

Opposed ideas that humans are mere mechanisms or animals

Was a student of Freud and Adler

He believed that as human being we are primarily motivated by a will to meaning

Own school of thought called logo therapy, known as the third Viennese school of psychotherapy

Jewish prisoner in several Nazi camps(having something to live for was what enable prisoners to hold on to the will to live)

Transcendental vision of being encompasses a great deal more than Maslow’s theory of self-actualisation

Unusually positive perspective, believed in indestructible significance of life

Death is the boundary which makes life a unique, unrepeatable opportunity, life is given to us so that we can find meaning, even in suffering


View of the person underlying the theory 

We have been given freedom to be able to exercise responsibility,To live life beyond mere animal existence,To live on a dimension of meaning in releasing timeless values as these emanate from a divine Trans human dimension,To live highly personalized lives as we (uniquely) embrace the opportunities and fulfil the tasks that life presents to each one of us

Freedom to be responsible 

Level of being beyond animal existence 

Trans human Dimension 

Highly personalized way of being (personally accountable) 


Freedom to be responsible

Person is not merely a highly developed animal shaped by the forces of heredity and the environment but the human person is primarily a spiritual being – a being that has freedom and responsibility

We are also not compelled to behave in any particular way, we can say YES or NO

Because of this freedom to make choices we cannot ascribe our behaviour to conditioning or drives, but must take responsibility for making those choices and taking responsibility =


dimension = makes us human


Level of being beyond animal existence 

True fulfilment is hardly possible without a sense of purpose (spiritual direction) in life – the struggle to find and experience this MEANING in life = the opportunity presented to and discerned by us through our conscience as something we are to realise or to grasp in each and every unique situation of our own personal lives

It is true that on a physical and crude psychosocial level we have much in common with the animal, but we also have properties NOT shared by animals

Being a person is distinguished by the radical transcendence of the biopsychical, and social faculties and a combination thereof

Self-transcendence = the freedom to rise above conditions and being able to think and do something about them

When we achieve psychological and spiritual maturity the will to meaning will be stronger that any other motivation

We want to know, we will make sacrifices, and devote ourselves to a cause


Trans-human Dimension  

Meaning is something that exist in an objective sense and is phenomenologically proven by the fact that in life we feel addresses by our conscience, called upon to act responsibly

Conscience is the vehicle through which we detect meaning, the one right thing to do in any particular situation or moment in life

We are not merely subjected to the social restrictions our superego has internalized, this conscience functions on a higher level

“life is unconditionally meaningful” = faith – the substance of thins hoped for, the evidence of things not seen


Highly personalized way of being (personally accountable) –  

Something can only be meaningful if it is personally experienced as such

“religion is genuine only if we commit ourselves to it by freely choosing to be religious, never can anyone be forced to it”

Life holds meaning under all circumstances and that meaning can be experienced by anyone at anytime

We are only fully what we have been created to be when we live and move and have our being our being on the dimension of meaning


The structure of the personality :  (1)


The structure of the personality :  (2)

Dynamics of Personality:

Frankl speaks about noödynamics (spiritual dynamics) of being human, rather than psychodynamics

Our wills are not instrumental in satisfying instincts (pleasure) or ensuring self-preservation (power).  

Dynamics of the personality are based on 3 things:

1. Freedom of will

2. Will to meaning

3. Meaning of life


Freedom of the will


We all constantly faces choices and the decisions we make determine the future course of events

Not absolutely free – contend with our own limitations and constraints placed upon us by our particular environments.

Our freedom is contained in what we will achieve, despite our limitations

Will to meaning 

The will to meaning is deeper and more powerful than any other human motivation:      

Our will are free

Not merely propelled and aimlessly driven

We can think and make decisions

Want to know why

Four observation to prove our basic motivation is our will to meaning:

The will to meaning is manifested in circumstances of destitution as well as in circumstances of plenty

The satisfaction of physical and psychological needs is not the ultimate aim of human striving, but rather he means to being free to strive towards spiritual goals

The more a person pursues happiness, the more it eludes him or her because happiness is the effect of the attainment of meaning and cannot be pursued as an end

When the will to pleasure and power are uppermost in our behaviours, this would be a sign that our will to meaning is frustrated

Meaning of life 

Can be found in 3 principal ways :

Creative values – experience through what we contribute to life

Experiential values – blessings we receive from life

Attitudinal values – values we experience through the right attitudes we have towards life


Development of personality

The core of the personality is already present at birth and develops throughout life

At birth life is an open possibility with the potential in us to achieve anything

Only at the end of our lives are we fully actualized

We are the force behind what we will become, self-determining

Biologically we are the ‘work’ of our parents, but spiritually we are our own life’s work

During the course of development uniquely human characteristics such as self-consciousness, conscience and responsible behaviour emerge

The person should be seen as a ‘time-Gestalt’. We are only fully developed in maturity and only then fully manifest uniquely human characteristics


Optimal Development

When we function on the spiritual level; fully exercise freedom of will, fulfil the basic human motive of searching for, finding and realising meaning in our lives

Only a small minority of people because it takes courage and boldness to be optimally human


1. Self-determining action

Take a stand concerning themselves and their circumstances, freely decide what they should do and how they should act

Does not attribute fate to internal or external factors or pressures


2. Realistic perception

Separate and distance themselves from what is happening to them, thus view matters objectively and critically

Therefore e perceive self and circumstances realistically


3. Humour

Distance self from weaknesses and problems and can laugh at self


4. Self-transcendence

Are outward-looking rather than turned in on self, move beyond the self

Want to be involved in whatever gives their life meaning

Want to be faced with a tasks, to be challenged and to feel they have a calling

Dedicated to values and ideals

Own satisfaction and happiness are not the primary goals in life, but incidental side-effects of meaning


self from weaknesses and problems and can laugh at self


5. Future directedness

Are actively future directed as they are continually reaching out beyond a mere day-to-day existence

Have goals, a vision for their future

Past is also a rich treasure house of fulfilled possibilities

Death is not a threat, but a meaningful conclusion of the life that offered them precious opportunities and that they used to the best of their abilities


6. Work as vacation

Regard their work as a vocation through which they respond to the demands of responsibility

Work is an opportunity to make a worthwhile contribution to life


7. Appreciation of goodness, beauty and truth

Receptive to the experience of good, beautiful and genuine thing life offers

Deeply enjoy and appreciate things like art, music, literature, nature

‘everyday, every moment, each situation, is ready with new meaning’

Open to these new experiences offered daily


8. Respect and appreciation for the uniqueness of others

Attitude towards others is one of respect and appreciation

Never makes other people the object of won satisfaction or use them to achieve own selfish ends

Want to have meaningful encounters with others and this can only happen when others are respected as individuals in their own right

Are free from prejudice, and discrimination in their attitude towards others


9. Meaning in suffering

Have accepted that tragic fatalities of life and in such a way that it does not diminish their joy in life and that their belief in the meaning of life is actually deepened, it is unshakeable

These people have reached the highest peak of development


Views on Psychopathology 

Noögenic neurosis Lacing courage to respond to the challenge of life to exercise their freedom responsiblyResponsibility is evaded, avoided, shirked or minimized; conscience becomes dulledThey seek pleasure and power and position, they have an adroit business due to the denial of their spiritual sideLife becomes empty and meaningless, and existential vacuum developsThis neurosis has some characteristics: (man’s fear of responsibility and his escape from freedom)And unplanned day-to-day existenceA fatalistic attitude towards lifeConformismTotalitarianism

Human dignity of the psychiatric patient


Even psychotic and mentally deficient people are human and have dignity

The so-called life not worth living does not exist, the nucleus of man remains indestructible, if this were not the case, it would be futile to be a psychiatrist



Logo therapy – the third Viennese school of psychotherapy

Not only recognizes man’s spirit but actually starts from it

Logo therapy – therapy through meaning

To help people discover or re-discover meaning in their lives

To challenge people to become aware of things which require them to be responsible and which demand their love, care and involvement

Their attention is drawn to this meaning by way of using Socratic dialogue which evokes critical and creative thought to come up with their own answers

Not a problem-


but meaning-



Focus is not on their problems but their freedom to deal with them, to take a stand by the way of the attitudes they choose to adopt

Often simple to view and existing situation differently

Can also use shocking confrontation, paradoxical intention (outsmart anxiety with a humorous trick), or de-reflection (think of something else)

Also utilize self-detachment and self-transcendence with these techniques

 And existential re-orientation


Interpretation and handling of aggression 

Unmistakable and pronounced evil inclination in human nature

Aggression is an inherent part of the human make-up

We are shaped by the kind of society in which we live = violence breeds violence

BUT we have the freedom and ability not only to control aggressive impulses but also to counteract and overcome them

We can resist negative pressures and conditioning and even change the environment for the better

The freedom to bear oneself this way or that way

WHAT we do CHOOSE to do in the face of aggressive impulses and how do we DEAL with it in the environment




Past Papers &

Tutorials: 2016-2011


Which of the following statement/s best describes self-transcendence?

Psychologically healthy people are open to new experiences and seek to find meaning in suffering.Mature people do not focus on their problems. Rather, they pour their energy into searching for solutions to their problems.Self-transcendence is possible only in optimally developed people who have managed to satisfy their own individual and social needs.Self-transcendence can only be attained by forgetting about our own needs and problems and focusing on the world around us.

The correct answer is: (a) (d) (b) & (c) All of the above

Answer: 2


Alternative 2 is correct. Frankl considered self-transcendence to be a characteristic of the optimally developed person. It refers to the ability to move beyond our own problems and issues and to focus instead on reaching out to someone or something higher than ourselves.

In other words, self-transcendence is about moving beyond our own happiness and satisfaction such that we are able to cultivate meaningful relationships with people and the world.

Statement (a) is true: Psychologically healthy people demonstrate openness to new experiences and, rather than wallow in their own suffering, seek to find meaning in their trials and tribulations.


, this does not refer to self-transcendence.

Statement (b) is also correct: It is true that mature people focus rather on finding solutions to their problems than on the problem itself.


in searching for solutions to our own problems we are still focusing on ourselves rather than directing our attention and energy to the world around us.

Statement (c) is incorrect because self-transcendence refers to moving beyond satisfying our own needs.

Statement (d) is correct because, only by shifting our focus away from our own problems can we “move beyond the self in order to achieve intimate and productive relationships with the world and with others”.


Sipho’s life is one of the many tragic cases of homeless people in South Africa. He lives under a cardboard box in an alley behind the station in central Johannesburg. He has no money and often goes to sleep without having anything to eat. According to Frankl…

Sipho is unlikely to find meaning in life because he has no freedom or choice in his current circumstances.Sipho can find meaning in his suffering and rise above his tragic circumstances through the choices he makes in life.Sipho may be able to attain happiness despite his circumstances if he is able to find his life purpose.Sipho’s will to pleasure will dominate his behaviour as his lower-order needs for food and shelter have not been satisfied.

The correct answer is: (a) (b) (c) (d)

Answer: 2


Alternative (2) is correct. Frankl’s theory holds that, despite his tragic circumstances, Sipho can choose to find meaning in his suffering. People cannot always control the constraints imposed upon us by the environment, but we can choose how we react to them. By actively choosing to transcend the pain of our circumstances we can turn our pain into triumph by living a life of worth and dignity, even in the face of suffering.

Statement (a) is incorrect: Frankl maintained that we always have a choice as to how to react, even in the face of tremendous suffering (such as he endured in the concentration camps).

Statement (c) is incorrect because happiness is not a goal that can be ‘attained’: Happiness cannot be pursued as an end in itself, because happiness results from the meaning we find in life.

Statement (d) is also incorrect: The will to pleasure (or power) dominates when the will to meaning is frustrated (and not because of unfulfilled needs for food or shelter).


Many people believe that our childhood experiences shape our personalities and impact our adult lives and our views of the future. Which of the following statements correctly reflects Frankl’s views on this issue?

Freedom of the will means that we can choose to disregard the trials and tribulations of childhood and thus triumph over adversity as adults.We are not absolutely free: Our childhood suffering teaches us about the situations we have control over and those we do not. As adults we can therefore exercise our freedom of will to deal with situations we can control whilst avoiding those we cannot.As adults, our freedom lies in how we choose to deal with the environmental constraints that were placed on us as children.As adults, we can avoid the suffering we experienced as children by choosing to be responsible.

The correct answer is: (a) (a), (c) & (d) (b) & (d) (c)

Answer: 4


Alternative 4 is correct.

Statement (a) is incorrect as we cannot simply disregard the suffering we experienced as children: Many childhood experiences stay with us for a long time. However, as adults, we still have the freedom to choose how we will react to adversity, despite childhood suffering.

Statement (b) is incorrect because we are often faced with situations we cannot control. The point is not to avoid these difficult situations but to choose to act responsibly in spite of them.

Statement (d) is incorrect as we cannot avoid suffering: Suffering is an inevitable part of the human condition. Through our freedom of will we can merely choose to deal with the adversity we encounter in life in a responsible, productive and moral way.


Thabo is a successful businessman who lives the high life. He gambles at a local casino several times per week. He loves partying and spends vast amounts of money on cars and exotic holidays. He calls himself a womaniser and often brags to his friends about his many sexual escapades. According to Frankl…

Thabo can be considered to be an optimally developed person: His success has brought him happiness and an appreciation of the good, beauty and truth in life. Thabo is exercising his freedom of the will by making choices that bring him happiness and success.Thabo’s will to meaning is frustrated because, despite his success, he is not functioning at the level of self-actualisation.Thabo is motivated primarily by the will to pleasure and is therefore living in an existential vacuum.

The correct answer is: (a) (a) & (b) (c) & (d) (d)

Answer: 4


Alternative 4 is correct.

Statement (a) is incorrect because being successful does not necessarily bring a sense of happiness or mean that a person is optimally developed. Many successful people are driven simply by money or pleasure (which seems to be the case with Thabo). Despite their success, however, they remain bitterly unhappy. (One just has to think about the many successful actors and singers who, despite having every material thing they could ever wish for, have overdosed on drugs or committed suicide. Money and success does not bring you happiness and could, in contrast, serve to detract from the good, beauty and truth in life.)

Statement (b) is incorrect because, even though it may seem that he is making the right choices and exercising his freedom of will, being motivated by money and success suggests that Thabo is looking for happiness in all the wrong places. His pursuit of pleasure further suggests that, despite his success, his will to meaning is frustrated.

However, this is not because, as Statement (c) states, he is functioning at the level of self-actualisation: Self-actualisation, according to Frankl, is a by-product of a meaningful life and not a goal in itself.

Statement (d) is correct because, being driven mainly by a will to pleasure, as in Thabo’s case, indicates that Thabo’s life holds little meaning despite his success. This is why he needs to spend money on cars, women and gambling in order to feel like a success.


Sandy has a problem with stuttering. Whenever she has to stand up and talk in front of a room full of people, she is unable to control her stutter. Sandy enlisted the help of a speech therapist to help her manage her stuttering. The therapist suggested an unusual but effective technique for Sandy to use the next time she has to talk in front of an audience: Rather than concentrating on and worrying about her stuttering she must picture the audience as if they were dressed in a funny way. Directing her attention away from her stuttering and concentrating rather on the funny mental image of the audience that is dressed in a funny way is an example of…

Self-determining actionDereflectionSelf-awarenessLogotherapy



Alternative 2 is correct.

Directing attention away from a problem by focussing on someone or something other than ourselves is a therapeutic technique used in logotherapy called dereflection.

Self-determining action is a characteristic of optimally developed people and refers to the notion that we cannot attribute our fate to internal or external factors.

Self-awareness refers to the fact that human beings, unlike animals, have the capacity to think intelligently about ourselves, our motives and our behaviours.

Logotherapy refers to a therapeutic method developed by Frankl and is aimed at challenging people to discover meaning in their lives and to become aware of things which require them to live life responsibly through an investment in love, care and an involvement in the world around us.


There may have been times in your life that you felt extremely anxious. Virtually all you could think about was how to protect or somehow defend yourself against what you were experiencing. Which of the following statements would fit what Frankl had to say about such situations in the lives of human beings?

Freedom of choice only operates when we are in situations of relative safety and security.The most effective way of dealing with extreme stress is to back away or withdraw from confrontation with the problem or situation causing the stress and to find relieving ways or techniques of coping with it.The greatest sense of triumph and joyous relief comes from the realisation that we are not the hapless victim of circumstances but that, even in the worst situations, we still have the freedom to determine what kind of person we are going to be in the face of the stressful situation.Like the animal, we as human beings have strong survival instincts which can prompt us, under extreme situations, to act in ways that under other circumstances we will not think of doing (e.g. in securing our own safety at the cost of others; in being deceitful, even in stealing or, at the extreme, plotting the downfall or even killing those whom we feel are a threat to us).


The correct answer is:

(a) & (b)

(a) & (d)


(c) & (d)


Frankl maintained that even under the most adverse circumstances, we still retain the freedom to choose whether we will deal in a moral or immoral way with that which threatens us.

Statement (a) is therefore incorrect. The realisation that we are not the hapless victim of circumstances, enables us to face up to and deal with difficult or stressful events in our lives. We will not try to escape the situation but courageously confront it.

Statement (b) is therefore incorrect and

Statement (c) correct. However, we share survival instincts with the animals which at times can be so predominant that we can act in cruel, thoughtless and destructive ways. We are not compelled to act that way, but can be tempted to do so.

Statement (d) is therefore correct. The correct answer is thus Alternative 4 which includes Statements (c) and (d).


We live in a world that is highly competitive. It is also a world that sharply distinguishes between the haves and the have not or the achievers and the non-achievers. What ideas have you developed and what beliefs do you hold with regard to your own position in life? Indicate which of these ideas and beliefs correspond to the views of Frankl.

Success is a measure of your worth as a person. Failure is the experience of the weak and the inadequate.Every person should strive to actualise whatever potential and talent he or she has. The highest goal in life is self-actualisation.Every person has a destined role to play. The secret is to discover what life requires of us and to do it, no matter what it brings in its wake.The law of nature is the law of human society as well: it is the fittest that survive or make it in this world.


The correct answer is:

(a) & (d)

(a), (b) & (c)

(b) & (c)



Frankl maintained that all of life has meaning, even failure. Failure, like suffering, can cause us to realise truths and learn things about ourselves and about life which we may never have done otherwise. Success therefore cannot be seen as the yardstick of a worthwhile or meaningful life.

Statement (a) is thus incorrect. Frankl clearly maintained that we best actualise ourselves by not placing the focus on ourselves and on our success or reputations in life, but on a worthy cause that we commit ourselves to. In serving others, we serve ourselves!

Statement (b) is therefore also incorrect. Frankl maintained that we have only our own lives to live with its own problems, challenges and opportunities. Often the road we feel destined to travel requires that we choose to realise one rather than the other thing that we are good at. Not all of our talents get realised, only those that serve to let us fulfil our peculiar tasks or destined duties in life.

This view of Frankl further highlights the incorrectness of making self-actualisation our focus in life, and is expressed in Statement (c), the correct option.

Frankl’s concentration camp experiences further illuminated the fact that, even if this was no guarantee of survival, it was not so much the physically fit or hardy individuals that survived, but those with a strong spirit, even if they were physically weak and not so hardy constitutionally. In human society, therefore, the law of the jungle does not prevail, but the exact opposite. The greatness of human society or of human beings is measured not in how physically fit and hardy they are, but in how much they care for the weak and to what extent they commit themselves in alleviating the suffering of others.

Statement (d) is therefore incorrect. Since only Statement (c) reflects the view of Frankl, Alternative 4 is the correct answer.


How strongly does religion feature in your life? What views do you hold as a result of your religious mind-set? Which of the following views, that may or may not reflect your own views, correspond to the views held by Frankl?

Religion is a conscious commitment, and only those who have committed themselves in such a conscious way are included in the community of true believers.Everyone relates to God or to a Higher Power, whether this relationship is expressed consciously or is unconscious and also whether this relationship is a positive or a negative one (e.g. expresses itself in faith in the existence of God or in a denial of such existence).If we are convinced of the truth of our particular religious persuasions, it is our duty to persuade others to believe likewise.Unconditional faith in the unconditional meaningfulness of life allows us to say: Yes! To life under all circumstances, even the incomprehensible ones.


The correct answer is:

(a) & (c)

(a) & (d)

(b) & (d)

(a), (c) & (d)


Few areas in life are as provocative as those relating to religious views and persuasions.

Frankl’s views are particularly thought-provoking when applied to religious beliefs and mind-sets.

Statement (a), and with it Statement (c), are popular opinions among the religiously devout. The only problem is that there is more than one religion espousing these views, often making for conflict among them! Frankl’s dimensional ontology can make for greater religious tolerance.

He maintained that just as the human dimension overarches the subhuman or animalistic dimensions, so the Supra-human dimension overarches the human. This means that the Supra-human dimension or God cannot be fully explained in human terms nor be encapsulated within just one belief system at the exclusion of all others. Since faith, to be genuine, must be something personally meaningful and real to the individual person, it makes little sense to condemn others who do not feel exactly the same way we do about ultimate (or religious) issues.

Statements (a) and (c) therefore, do not correspond to Frankl’s views.

Frankl further maintained that at the heart of every human life is a will to meaning, however much this will may have been thwarted or even will-fully suppressed. These views are reflected in Statement (b), which, unlike Statements (a) and (c), expresses Frankl’s view.

Statement (d) is another refreshing view of Frankl, indicating that our faith often transcends the need to have all the answers to everything in life. We can therefore live life the way we feel it should be lived, even if we do not fully understand everything about it!

Since Statements (b) and (d) reflect the views of Frankl, Alternative 3 is the correct answer.


You may have considered the impact of your childhood experiences on the shaping of your personality and how it still impacts on your present life and your views of the future. Considering Frankl’s views on the dynamics of the personality, which of the following statements correctly reflect/s what he believed?

We are not absolutely free. Our freedom is contained in what we do with the influences we have undergone and the circumstances in which we have been placed.Human freedom means that we have the power to disregard the unhappy things we suffered in our formative years and that we can triumph in total victory over it all.It is possible that childhood influences could have been so bad, hardships so severe or an illness so devastating, that we experience ourselves as helpless to do anything about it.The true view of what it means to be human cannot be found in averages since those who reach full human stature in manifesting what human beings are capable of, are in the minority.


The correct answer is:

(a) & (c)

(a), (c) & (d)


(b) & (d)


It is important to realise that Frankl contended that his illumination of the higher reaches of personality development does not cancel out what transpires on the lower levels of being. He regarded logotherapy as a complement to other types of therapies which deal with physical or organic diseases like schizophrenia, or with the psychodynamic psychotherapies dealing with emotional and social conflict.

Frankl maintained that we are not absolutely free and that sometimes, like in schizophrenia or some extreme stress situation, we do indeed experience our wills as not free.

It does ask exceptional courage and the grace of circumstances to reach the highest levels of being.

Those who reach it, have the responsibility of feeling compassion for, and helping those, who have not or even cannot reach those levels of supreme being.

Statement (b) is therefore incorrect while Statements (a), (c) and (d), correct.

The correct answer is therefore Alternative 2.


What do you long for in your life? What are your prospects for the future? In considering the answer to these questions, which of the following ideas correspond to what Viktor Frankl had to say on these subjects?

To gain optimum security and a sense of belonging to a group, religion, nation or country which one has designated as one’s own, is the foothold we all need to feel optimally happy and satisfied.To do your own thing, at your own discretion, time and to your own personal liking, even if it upsets the apple cart, or goes against the grain of what your family, religion or group want of you, is the only way to feel good about yourself.The greatest challenge is to live with uncertainty and to realise that you are not the complete master of your own destiny.The secret of human fulfilment is to discover where you are needed and to give of yourself even if this, at times, depletes, depresses or exhausts you.


The correct answer is:



(b) & (d)

(c) & (d)


Frankl contended that the more open and receptive to change we are, the more able to live with uncertainty, the greater our sense of awe at the beauty, wonder and order or meaning of human existence in a world that needs us.

It is in a sense of responsibility towards someone or something outside of ourselves and a realisation of being dependent on something greater than ourselves, that a sense of the true worthwhileness of life can be found.

In view of this particular life’s orientation espoused by Frankl,

Statements (a) and (b) are incorrect and

Statements (c) and (d) (Alternative 4) correct.

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