by Dr. Elisabeth Lukas


In logotherapy, logos is simply defined as meaning (Viktor E. Frankl), and logotherapy is, therefore, a meaning-centered psychotherapy. Logotherapy's view of a human being is a being that is profoundly striving for meaning and is not satisfied with merely the satisfying of needs. Rather, beyond reducing base drives and the addiction to gain, it embraces the will to realize something meaningful in life. Here personal sensitivity to value plays a major role, which is orientated toward creating an objective value in the external world through 'existing' (Dasein) for something or for someone' (Frankl). When such a meaning and value dimension is missing, the human being will consequently live his self-reflective life only for the sake of his own well being, which may lead to frustration of the innate will to meaning (Frankl). This frustration finds expression in feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness, overindulgence, boredom, lack of purpose, lack of enthusiasm and numb despair.

The inner meaning fulfillment is thereby relatively independent from external conditions in the life of a human being. This inner meaning fulfillment can be achieved under extreme negative conditions, while prosperity, achievement and possessions could possibly be implied as obstacles in the search for meaning. Evidence of this is seen in the high rates of suicides, drug problems, criminal offenses and in the propensity of the population to perversion. All of these clearly have their roots in existential frustration (Frankl), despite the high ratio of satisfaction of needs. The human being needs not only something from what to live, but also something towards what to live, as Viktor E. Frankl explains in his works.

The existential frustration in itself is not pathological. Rather, it is an alarm signal, a discomfort, which urges one to shape one's being more meaningfully and to orient oneself towards being instead of having. The dedication to a self-chosen task, the forming of genuine friendships and relationships, the perception of new and meaningful goals, or embedding past experiences into an all-encompassing context could immediately neutralize existential frustration and reverse the process to inner meaning fulfillment. However, when existential frustration is not recognized as a warning or remains constant over a long period of time or even cumulates, then it can lead to 'noogenic neurosis' or 'noogenic depression' (Frankl). In this particular case, it can become pathological. A noogenic problem, due to the constant questioning of meaningfulness, is one that overshadows, devalues and qualitatively undermines a healthy life. Further, it is the breeding ground on which other kinds of pathogenics spread, such as bad moods, sociogenic neurosis and psychosomatic diseases. In short, it promotes the general decay of psychic stability.


Dr. Elisabeth Lukas