The Therapist and the Soul:
From Fate to Freedom
Elisabeth Lukas is one of the leading practitioners of logotherapy in the world, and is internationally known for applying and extending Frankl’s work. Viktor Frankl noted that, “For Lukas, there is no human being who does not retain a chance to grow, no situation which does not have its spark of meaning…. To elucidate meaning possibilities is the art of Elisabeth Lukas and entirely in the tradition of logotherapy.”
Dr. Lukas wrote this manuscript as a psychological counterpart to Frankl’s first book, which was titled Medical Ministry in its German edition; in English, Frankl’s book was published as The Doctor and the Soul. Lukas’ book was therefore published in German as Psychological Ministry; though the manuscript was translated into English in the early 1990s, its distribution was limited to a small number of photocopies. The manuscript has been carefully copyedited and corrected. It has been typeset using the latest software, the line drawings have been crisply redrawn, and the images have been reproduced from the photocopied translation.
The book is divided into three parts: A. Toward a psychology of human dignity; B. Being for something or someone; and C. Psychological ministry. In this book, Lukas offers hope to those who suffer from fear or guilt, and helps the individual to discern between guilt and fear that is justified or unjustified. Each must be dealt with differently; for example, it is common for a person to suffer from guilt for an accident for which there is no responsibility. Such unjustified guilt is actually the result of the blows of fate, which were not chosen and for which the person was therefore not responsible (able to respond). On the other hand, where guilt is justified, the offering of “absolution” is not appropriate, and practical measures must be offered for the individual to make reparations.
Lukas devotes separate chapters to: meaningful approaches to the unique struggles facing men and women; saying “Yes!” to “problem children”; the use of books for self-therapy; and the prevention of suicide, among others. Lukas establishes (using examples and case studies) that it is not necessary to dredge up the past, uncover old wounds, or analyze childhood traumas in order to find meaning and healing. What awaits us all in each moment is a single meaningful choice among a constellation of possibilities.
Excerpts from The Therapist and the Soul: From Fate to Freedom
If we want to think about overcoming crises without wasting time on reconstructing their origin, then we can use a simple formula: Where meaning is perceived, life becomes bearable; where no meaning is perceived, life becomes unbearable. And this is independent of all other life circumstances. (p. 64)
On closer scrutiny, it becomes apparent that everybody can be good for something or someone, independent of the perhaps miserable position in which the person exists. At the very moment when such a “being good for something” (that is, a meaning element of one’s own existence) lights up, the question “why live?” or “why go on living?” is already answered. (p. 186)
How can helping support be given in the search for meaning, which every person faces sooner or later? One fact has to be kept in mind: Meaning can never be given—it must be discovered. (p. 12)
It will never be possible to trace an irrational fear to its deepest roots, but with a healthy defiance it is possible to prevent its growing and to cause it to wilt with a distancing laughter. One can hardly credit what healing power there really is in humor. A fear that can be caricatured is no longer a fear, at least not one that can cause damage. Humor is part of the human being’s spiritual potential, exclusively at each individual’s disposal, for no animal can laugh. (pp. 151-152)
It is the central concern of the logotherapist to guide vulnerable people towards meaning-oriented thinking and to rouse in them supportive attitudes which will prove themselves in times of need and crisis. (pp. 185-186)
We are faced today with the difficult task of reintegrating the spiritual dimension into our psychological concept of the human being. And we also have to make sure that the spiritual dimension gets that superior value which it deserves–and must have–if our human society is to continue. (p. 207)
Psychotherapy has its foundation in the concept of human nature prevailing at the time. Unfortunately, psychotherapy is in many ways still based on a psychology “devoid of spirit” and risks degenerating into a mechanical treatment “devoid of dignity.” (p. 207)
The concept of “sacrifice” is always related to a “what for,” which alone determines the meaningfulness of every sacrifice. The greater the value of a “what for,” the greater the meaning of the sacrifice to be made. (p. 211)
It is not the intention of those practicing logotherapy to put blame onto patients; nor are practitioners interested in exonerating patients of guilt. Rather, the logotherapist is concerned with insight into just how far we are free and hence responsible, in contrast to how far we are the plaything of fate and hence not responsible or guilty. Which possibility is preferred is an open question. (p. 221)
Fate entails that the circumstances themselves cannot be changed. But we are not responsible for what we cannot change and have not chosen, nor can we be at fault in such circumstances. However, what we have chosen freely, done freely, decided freely to be a part of our own lives, to this we have committed ourselves with all its consequences. It is undeniably our own deed or our own fault.
When we look at it this way, we may hesitate to prefer the area of freedom. For freedom may well be a gift, but it is also a sentence to responsibility. And fate may well force us to do something, but it is also a pardon from responsibility. (p. 218)
This 1986 classic is now in its 2nd edition. Elisabeth Lukas’ artistic discovery of the uniqueness of each individual shines across dozens of case studies and examples; thus, she illuminates the potential for meaning in the presence of even intractable pain, guilt, and suffering. Lukas demonstrates a living logotherapy, not by standardized techniques, but by the compassion and insight she brings into each therapeutic relationship.
“The true heroes of life are not the triumphant victors, but the defeated who find a ray of hope” (p. 52).
As Lukas notes in the introduction:
“For thousands of years, people have done pretty well without the science of psychotherapy. Yet, something like psychotherapy has always existed―through persons who, with charisma, persuasiveness, and force of conviction, were able to bring comfort to those looking for help. Such help was usually based on a specific philosophy of life.
The afflicted were promised eternal well-being and justice in the hereafter, their suffering was presented as a test on their way to happiness, or philosophical-ethical images were invoked to make blows of fate bearable. Psychotherapy was religion and vice versa.
This embeddedness in mysticism made it difficult for psychotherapy to find a scientific approach. Today, if we try to find rational explanations for irrational behavior and offer rational help for irrational psychological problems, we stand on a narrow ridge between two abysses: On the one side lies the danger of reverting to mysticism; on the other, slipping into a mechanized manipulation of the human person.
Has psychology, on its long development through magic, exorcism, trickery, and fanaticism, finally attained the status of science? In recent decades, great strides have been made in that direction. Successes were conspicuous and resulted in a great variety of tools in a giant psychological workshop to serve people, but unfortunately the specifically human dimension—the spirit—was left out. “Psychotherapy without magic” has been replaced by “psychotherapy without spirit.” What was gained in the field of science was lost from humanity. Psychotherapists may choose from a great number of methods, but are forced to walk on that narrow ridge between old views and new perspectives, between speculative interpretations and human programming. It is a path illuminated by alarmingly few firm criteria.
This book is written for those who trust psychotherapy to find comfort. The trust of patients is valuable but must not be blindly given, or they may be pushed into one of the abysses on either side. They may fall under the spell of speculative [psychoanalytic] hypotheses from which they cannot free themselves, or they may be wrecked by a cold, impersonal [behavioral] conditioning process because they no longer can sense the meanings of their lives.
The book is also for psychotherapists who walk that narrow ridge, weighed down by responsibility for those who trust them. Few are the guideposts, many the contradictory theories, the confusions, the criticisms. What school are they to believe, what concepts to make their own?
This book suggests a path for both lay reader and professional, a path through the maze of psychological schools to a psychotherapy that no longer is a myth. To do so, it must include the human spirit, combine science and humanity; in so doing, it can justify our trust, especially the trust of the suffering person. The value of a psychotherapy is tested by what it can do for those who suffer. Where help is no longer possible, comfort must be given; where no comfort is possible, any psychotherapy is useless.”
The Positive Psychology of Meaning and Addiction Recovery
Edited by Lilian C. J. Wong, Geoffrey R. Thompson, and Paul T. P. Wong
This is a rare collection of papers by leading authorities on addiction recovery. The distinguished list of contributors includes Alan Marlatt, George Vaillant, Stanton Peele, Jaak Panksepp, and Scott Tonigan. Although each represents different theoretical perspectives of addiction and recovery, all see recovery as more than mere abstinence. The first half of this book contains addresses from the Fourth International Meaning Conference, which focused on meaning and addiction. The second half of this volume uniquely focuses on the positive psychology of meaning and spirituality as an answer for addiction. The existential dilemmas of meaninglessness, boredom, and anxieties often trigger cravings for substance abuse. Geoffrey Thompson and Paul T. P. Wong articulate that only a personally meaningful life is powerful enough to overcome addictive cravings and satisfy the deep-seated human yearnings for happiness and meaning. Ken Hart connects the spiritual underpinnings of Alcoholics Anonymous to the New Thought movement and transpersonal psychology. This edited volume offers practical resources not only for addiction counselors and treatment centers, but also for college and university professors who teach addiction studies. Instead of focusing on coping skills and cognitive-behavioral strategies, a holistic approach emphasizes fulfilling the human needs for well-being, meaningful living, and self-transcendence.
The Pursuit of Meaning
by Joseph B. Fabry
Edited and typeset, this is largely a reprint of the 1987 classic. Contains the essence of the logotherapeutic writings of Viktor Frankl, who noted that many readers report that they understand some parts of logotherapy for the first time after reading this book.
Fabry wrote in the introduction:
Many older therapies place responsibility for our difficulties on our early upbringing. Logotherapy is “education to responsibility.” Outside influences are important but not all-determining. Within limitations, we have a say about who we are and who we want to become. We need never let ourselves be reduced to helpless victims. Consequently, logotherapy—unlike therapies that aim at equilibrium by adjusting patients to society—does not see a tensionless life as a therapeutic goal. Tension is part of living as a human being in a human society. To remain healthy, the unhealthy tensions of body and psyche are to be avoided. But the healthy tension of the spirit strengthens our spiritual muscles. The healthiest tension is between what we are and what we have the vision of growing toward, or, to use Frankl’s favorite phrase, “the tension between being and meaning” (Psychotherapy and Existentialism, p. 10). The struggle for meaning is not easy. Life does not owe us pleasure; it does offer us meaning.