Contributed by Tyler Finders, Therapy Intern
Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “[Anyone] who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” Philosophers, psychologists, theologians, cab drivers, construction workers, etc. have all wondered, “Why?” Why are we here? Why is this happening to me? Why? Dr. Viktor Frankl devoted his life work to develop a therapeutic technique called logotherapy or meaning-centered therapy. This therapeutic technique helped individuals tackle one of life’s most difficult answers, “What is the meaning of life?” However, Frankl discovered that the task of finding ultimate meaning is futile and can lead to hopelessness. In his book The Doctor and the Soul, Frankl (1986) wrote, “In life, too, the peaks decide the meaningfulness of the life, and a single moment can retroactively flood an entire life with meaning.” To put it simply, meaning is found in the moment. The cloud of depression, anxiety, stress, grief, loss, suffering, and life can block our view of meaningful moments. How can find meaning in times of ultimate suffering? The following questions help explore various peaks that can occur daily and meaning that is found in the moment.
What gifts have you given others today? This question reflects upon your creative values. Creative values can be found in innate gifts to others, talents in your work, deeds done for others, and/or goals achieved that hold meaning for you. What did you achieve at work/school today? What did you do today that brought joy to another person? What can you do tomorrow that gives life to another being?
What gifts have you received today? This next question explores the next set of values, experiential. These values are experiences that you receive from relationships, nature, cultural or religion. Watching the sunrise, hearing the birds chirp, seeing a loved one smile, oxygen filling your lungs, or enjoying a special holiday. These are all examples of experiential values. How do meaningful experiences make you feel?
When all is lost, what is my attitude towards life? This final value is called an attitudinal value. This third value is found in the absence of creative or experiential values. When life is not “fruitful in creation or rich in experience,” what is your attitude towards life (Frankl, 1986)? What have you learned about yourself when enduring suffering? When courageously confronting life’s greatest challenges, where do you find hope?
Learn from your answers and refocus through these values. When engaging in trying and difficult times, use creativity, experiences, and a new outlook to give life meaning in the moment. Even though all may be lost, these values will continue to persist. Even in the darkest valleys, there is a mountain to climb and peaks to be experienced.
Frankl, V. E. (1986). The doctor and the soul: From psychotherapy to logotherapy. New York: Vintage Books.