Advance course on Logotherapy Logotask 1 (as specified in tutorial letter 103/2012) Name: Wessels, Nicolaas Johannes Student no: 7294-232-0 Course code: LOGO 01-8 Academic Qualifications: B Comm (Marketing) UP; B Comm (Marketing) (Hons) Unisa; MBL Unisa Occupation: Business Leadership Coach Postal address: PO Box 786411, Sandton, 2146 Tel: 011 783 4155 (H); 011 253 9919 (O); 082 554 4614 (M) e-mail: [email protected] co. za “As much as it was a point of utter determination, it was also a point of surrender”. By reading Teria’s story one could also say that “it was a moment of truth”.
She seemed to have reached new levels of self awareness and consciousness about what her life was like up to that point and what could be from there on. What we see here is a defining moment, a moment of truth and a moment of decisiveness. To take action and turn the focus on what is and what could be, not on what was. By all accounts she has reached a level of self awareness to such an extent that she could transcend herself and connect to her spiritual dimension where a discovery was made of life changing proportions.
We have here a very good example of how tension had played a role in directing someone towards her values and what is important to her. By transcending herself, Teria not only moved away from a needs driven focus on the past, she moved to a values directed focus on the future and all the possibilities it holds. “I was somehow missing to fully live my present life with an eye on the future that was “waiting” to be reached out to. My life seemed to lack vision – a dream to realize or ideals to be inspired by” (Shantall 2002: 13). The tension which brought on this state of realization is a health one.
Without this meaning will not be found. “A sound amount of tension, such as that tension which is aroused by a meaning to fulfill, is inherent in being human and is indispensible for mental well-being” (Frankl 1998: 48). By recognizing her own power to self transcend, Teria reached the “highest stage in human development” (Lucas 1998:34). In this turning point, three catalysts are particularly interesting. Firstly the death of her father presented not only the shock of losing a loved one, it also served as a stark reminder of the transitoriness of life. And how wasteful lost opportunities are.
Sometimes this awareness of how life’s opportunities are passing us by comes easier with older people who have experienced the full granaries of life. With others the urgency to live life fully may need to be awakened by techniques such as the Socratic dialogue. Teria was aching for something different and experiencing the effects of an awakened consciousness prompting her towards action. As Frankl puts it “Thus, the transitoriness of our existence in no way makes it meaningless. But it does constitute our responsibleness; for everything hinges upon our realizing the essentially transitory possibilities”. Frankl 2004:124). Teria wanted more from life, more vision, more meaning and more significance. This moment in her life, this point of surrender suggests an awareness that now is the time to make a decision. And the application of transitoriness as a Logotherapeutic tool is testimony to Frankl’s observation “Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essential transitoriness of human existence, is not pessimistic but rather optimistic” (Frankl 2004:124). The second catalyst was the diary her father left her. It served as a powerful metaphor and last challenge from him to live life powerfully with authenticity. I felt that he expected me to fill up the yet empty pages of that diary with the events of my life that I would now undertake to life fully and with care” (Shantall 2002:14). Her will to meaning was triggered and she was challenged to be creative with her life and treat it with a responsibility becoming of her. With this diary her father created a healthy tension between Teria and life, asking her to take up a commission to run her race. She was reminded of her own freedom of will by the blank pages staring at her.
Freedom of will is one of the three fundamental tenet on which Logotherapy is built “Logotherapy’s concept of man is based on three pillars, the freedom of will, the will to menaing and the meaning of life”. (Frankl 1988:16). The diary played the role of visible canvass against which she could transcend and surrender the old and connect to a point beyond herself. The third catalyst was the physical distance between her and the rest of the family. By being far away, alone and not able to pay last respects, Teria was forced to deal with this traumatic incident herself and find her own defiant power to awaken her will to meaning.
With no distraction or consolation she had to dig for courage to process the full implications of this experience. With this third catalyst she was put alone before life as if to be asked two questions: what are you going to give life and what is life asking from you? “This experience of a breakthrough of meaning in my own suffering, with the added feeling of greater sense of responsibility as I came to see my life as a gift which I could either use or abuse” (Shantall 2002:15).
The morning after the death of her father, Teria experienced heightened levels of appreciation for what was important to her, what was possible and what was meaningful to her at that stage. The two dominant emotions presented to us in her quote: determination and surrender are also of interest. Determined to find some defined destination worth living for, she connected to her defiant power to overcome and knew that nothing else but a strong, clear, meaningful life would do. And by surrendering the old and the meaningless, she made way for new meaning to be discovered.
Clearing the past and transcending onto a new level of possibilities. These two emotions or channels of energy go hand in hand like the critical chemicals without which the desired reaction would not be possible. Without determination, surrender could have been left alone to sulk and doubt. Without surrender, determination could have been a relentless energy with no direction, possible of destruction. Giving up on her self-centered way of living, she may also have given up on a hyper reflective ways of thinking. My own psychodynamics, which I have explored during my years of psychoanalysis began to fade in importance or, most surprisingly began to take on a refreshingly new and deeper meaning” (Shantall 2002: 14). With a state of hyper-reflection and hyper-intention, fulfillment and happiness will elude. She may also have been surrendering to faith that happiness and fulfillment will ensue “Attaining a goal constitute a reason to be happy. In other words, if there is a reason for happiness, happiness ensues, automatically and spontaneously, as it were.
And that is why one need not pursue happiness, one need not care for it once there is a reason for it. But, even more, one cannot pursue it” (Frankl 1998:34). Aching for something more, something worthwhile, she transformed and became inspired to be present, take up the challenge and recognize her scope of free choice. I would contest that her life up to this point has not been wasted. True to the duality which life presents so frequently to us, her new sense of highs would not have been reached had it been for her perceived sense of lows.
The discovery of a new powerful meaningful life is like the discovery of a secret garden in a fairy tale. Often it is protected by an angry dragon and we are tested by life on how badly do we want to be more, and live significantly. This experience in Teria’s life was clearly a turning point away from the meaningless, a new beginning of something profoundly powerful and a courageous change in direction. What is meaning all about? “Existence is not only intentional but also transcendent. Self transcendence is the essence of existence” (Frankl 1998:50).
And what is there to live for if living is un-intentional and just for one self alone? In order to get a grasp on meaning, one could look at the various facets and characteristics it constitutes, yet even after having done so, it may still elude full comprehension. Meaning first and foremost has to be experienced. And it is something to be experienced personally. It is not something which could be passed on, taught or transferred. It may be illuminated or hinted at but is uniquely personal in its experiencing. “Meaning is relative in that it is related to a specific person who is entangled is a specific situation.
One could say that meaning differs from man to man and from second from day to day, indeed from hour to hour” (Frankl 1998:54). On the question “what is meant by meaning? ”, Frankl comments that “it is absolutely down to earth inasmuch as it refers to that which a concrete situation means to a concrete person” (Frankl 1998:140). Whereas meaning may be hard to define conceptually, it is simple and clearly visible in its experiences. We will recognize meaning when we find it! And paradoxically “the more comprehensive the meaning, the less comprehensible it is”. (Frankl 2000:136).
Semantically, meaning is both verb and noun. It is alive and reveals itself though action and activity. And it is discovered like a treasure hidden waiting for the right time and the right person to appear. Although we cannot observe it in itself like a concrete object, we can observe the powers it has on a subject. And it can appear at any time in any situation. “The perception of meaning as I see it, could be defined suddenly becoming aware of a possibility against a background of reality” (Frankl 1998: 140). Our inherent desire to find meaning is the most powerful energy we posses.
In Nietzsche’s words, “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How” (Frankl 2004:7). Without a reason to live for or to move towards, life will be empty and fragile. Meaning gives us the power to move forward and this will to meaning is one of the three pillars on which Logotherapy is built (Frankl 1988:16). Our will to meaning is expressed in a space of freedom to pursue whatever is meaningful to the individual. We are not free from, but free to do what is meaningful. “Man’s freedom is no freedom from conditions but rather a freedom to take a stand on whatever conditions might confront him” (Frankl 1998:16).
We are constantly challenged by life to make it meaningful and called on our courage to do so. This strongly suggests there is a responsibility attached to meaning. A responsibility to live authentically and courageously – to do the right thing. This is emphasized by an Logotherapeatic imperative: “live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as you are about to act now” (Frankl 2004:114). Our lives are not something beyond our control – whereas we cannot control what happens to us, we can certainly control how we behave or respond.
And it is here where our biggest responsibility presents itself. To act the right way, befitting of how we could be potentially. Living in a dimension of meaning means to live responsibly according to our governing values and conscious awareness. By connecting to our consciousness we will identify for ourselves what the right action is and there is ever only one right action. And conscience is essentially intuitive (Frankl 2000:40) and the only means for grasping the meaning of any moment. To quote Graber: “The human experience calls for an ability to make independent decisions at each moment in life.
To live responsibly calls for listening to the thousands of commandments arising from the thousands of unique situations of which life consists. It is the intuitive conscience that guides us in the moment by moment experiences of life. It gives voice to the available resources of the spirit within” (Graber 2004:79). Consciousness and creativity are the most important facilitators to find meaning. It is in our noetic realm where we connect to our consciousness and a deeper desire to do the right thing. Paradoxically, by experiencing meaning we connect to our spiritual consciousness.
In terms of Frankl’s dimensional ontology, our noetic dimension is what makes us human. And it is in this dimension where we have the faculty to identify meaning. “Freedom of choice, intentionality, creative and artistic interest, religious encounters, ethical sensitivity, conscience, understanding of values and love, the capacity to be awed by experiences, intuition and inspiration and the search for meaning are at home” (Graber: 2004:71). This is not to suggest that meaning is found inside ourselves. Our conscious is where meaning is interpreted.
Meaning is found outside ourselves by connecting to something greater or beyond. By this statement I am not suggesting it is very far away. It may be very close indeed, but beyond and outside nevertheless, discovered by self-transcendence as Frankl calls it (Frankl 2000:138). And it resides in the future like a magnet to which we are drawn, pulling us out of our self absorbed existence and connecting us to life. With no real meaning there is no real connection to life. Experiencing meaning presents itself as a paradox.
According to Frankl: “The more meaning is experienced as a reality of our lives, the more exercised and refined is our faith in the reality of its existence and the broader is our experience and awareness of the deeper meanings of life”. We only know it when we know it! Meaning is found by having uniquely personal encounters with life. It could be by way of what we do creatively or give to the world; by what we get as an experience or take from life; or thirdly by the attitude we adopt towards what is presented to us. (Frankl 1988:70).
Not only does meaning rewards us, it gives us strength it gives life sustained worth and defines our unique purpose. Whilst suggesting meaning is waiting to be discovered right in front of us in everyday life, one has to acknowledge that there may be a deeper meaning to life. Or as Frankl calls it “ultimate meaning” (Frankl 2000:143). This is meaning of the whole – of life as a whole or of our life as a whole. And the comprehension of this is beyond our mental faculties, which positions ultimate meaning in a realm inaccessible to reason or intellect (Frankl 2000:144).
And as he puts it “but what is unknowable need not be unbelievable. In fact where knowledge gives up, the torch is passed on the faith” (Frankl 200:146). Or as Albert Einstain once said: “supra-meaning is no longer a matter of thinking but rather a matter of believing” (Ffankl 1998:145). To sum up, meaning is connected to purpose, to goals, a mission and linked to a cause beyond and outside ourselves. The key enabler to fining meaning is hidden in our conscious where we can awaken an element of tension and become aware of how things are now and how things could be.
To attain meaning requires an open attitude and requires us to choose, to interact and engage with life. It shapes our life and makes everything worthwhile. In a logotherapeutic session, the following diagram could serve as a discussion guide: How meaningful life could be (what we do, experience of or the attitude we take) Indispensible noetic tension of what ought to be How things are now * Become aware of uniquely personal values, strengths, dreams, and existing characteristics of life. * Use these realities as guideposts towards what ought to be. What does meaning mean to me?
Thinking about my own experience of meaning, I am aware of the many sources I have tapped into and could still tap into, in order to experience a more fulfilling and purposeful life. Within all the dimensions and facets of my life, meaning lurks. And by this I do not imply by any means that my life is ultimately fulfilling at the moment or that I have identified all the places and sources of finding meaning. It is rather a case of me having noticed the rays of meaning by what I did, experienced or by the stance I took in my journey through life up to now.
It’s been said that if life’s purpose is to find your gift, your mission is to use it – and that makes life meaningful. I am aware happiness and sadness are emotions, and fulfillment is a state of being. Right and wrong are judgmental and when one operates from a higher level of consciousness, there is no judgment. And is in this higher level of being where I find my biggest growth and my most profound meaning. As Frankl states: “In no way are we justified in speaking of man as only a somatic-psychic whole. Body and psyche may form a unity- a psychophysical unity- but this unity does not yet represent the wholeness of man.
Without the spiritual as its essential ground, this wholeness cannot exist” (Frankl 2000:34). If I have to highlight the most meaningful moments or areas of my life, it could be summarized in the meaning matrix below. Reflecting on my own dimensional ontology (Frankl 2000:34) my wholeness exist by recognizing all the dimension of my being. And I am aware of the meaning imbedded in fleeting moments and in longer passages of my life, on different levels. For me the most powerful awareness about meaning is the understanding of where it may be and how to look for it.
I have found it in the seemingly most insignificant actions (by giving someone at work a spontaneous hug), and in epic sporting events like finishing 8 day cycle races where shear attitude and commitment got me to the finish line. My meaning matrix. Populating the realms of what makes me human according to Frankl’s dimensional ontology with the three principle ways to find meaning. (Frankl 1998:70). Where meaning is foundOntological dimension| What I do/give to life| What I get and experience from life| The attitude I take towards life| Noetic dimension| Acting out my values and setting examples. Being conscious of doing the right thing.
Connecting to my consciousness and communicating with my soul. Behaving like it is my mission to make a difference (trying to! ). | Noticing synchronicities, finding peace though spiritual rituals of mediation and contemplation. Receiving feedback from life on the level of my soul. | Having faith in an ultimate meaning, trusting life to be unconditionally meaningful, knowing I have a unique purpose to fulfill no matter how challenging “this” moment may be. | Psychic dimension| Facilitating coaching conversations, mentoring and counseling people. Assisting people with their personal development and growth.
Helping my family and loved ones wherever & however I can. | Meaningful moments with wife, kids and friends – Relationships. Coaching & mentoring someone and noticing the change in perception or awareness. Coaching & mentoring at the school in Soweto. | Resigning myself to what will be and to whatever life challenges me with. Treating challenges and emotional stress as signposts for personal growth. | Somatic dimension| Doing sport and adventure activities with friends (triathlons, cycle rides/races, mountain climbs). Cooking. | Sharing the experiences of bicycle rides, triathlons and mountain climbs with friends.
Enjoying a great cup of coffee. | Gritting it out when I suffer physically, reminding me extreme sport is “what I do” and what gives me energy. | Reflecting on the role of my conscience and my awareness of responsible action, I recognize the healthy tension of what I want to be/have/do, and what ought to be/have/do. This tension is what unlocks meaning and protects me against psychic rigor mortis as Frankl puts it. Finding the balance between responsibility and dependence on something other than ourselves bring into the conversation the concept of authenticity.
And the extent to which decisions are based on personal, right choice rather than inclination (as Teria phrased it). By taking full responsibility and not be dependent or rely on what others may say or think, a state of independence and interdependence will be reached. This responsibility also includes acceptance of what happens to one and the attitude with which someone embraces the cards dealt by life. Striking a balance between what is right, authentic and responsible action for me, and what am I inclined to do given the external, dependency based conditioning of conformism and totalitarianism, has shown itself in a number of instances.
Whereas I had perceived meaning in some parts of my life, it was greatly lacking in my work environment. I was reveling in my “extra mural” sporting activities, had a great circle of friends and enjoyed wonderful times with my family. Yet, my work life was becoming increasingly grey. In 2005, I found myself stuck in a very successful, well paying corporate job at a company that has been my professional home for 25 years. Amidst all the success and trappings of corporate life was the feeling of time and potential being wasted. I was increasingly getting g more irritable with people around me, intolerant and short tempered.
I was in an existential vacuum (Frankl 2004:110), and the only meaning I had was my sport where I lived my passion out by focusing on training for endurance events rather than making an effort to attend to my business challenges and responsibilities. I was displaying the classic characteristics of the neurotic triad with behavior of aggression (impatience with people around me), depression (boredom and feeling stuck) and addiction (excessive training). (Graber 2004:124). Over a period of two years I contemplated my corporate life and finally reached the conclusion that my behavior at the time was not any different from that of a mercenary.
I was not doing the job the company is paying me for to the fullest of my abilities neither was I free to express myself to my authentic calling. I was not living authentically and not according to my values and was becoming a cheat. “Man lives by ideals and values. Human existence is not authentic unless it is lived in terms of self-transcendence” (Frankl 1998:52). During this period my brother died of cancer at the relatively young age of 61 and my father passed away at the age of 93. The passing away of my father was in itself not a traumatic experience for me and by all accounts, not for him.
As a Springbok track athlete he often referred to himself as “having run his last lap” and being ready to pass on. “For me the bell of the last lap has tolled. I am ready to die”, he often would tell me. Maybe the death of my brother and father in the space of this time reminded me of the transitoriness of life. I was becoming acutely aware of the wealth in health and how important it is to do what my heart was telling me. I was increasingly questioning myself on what am I still doing here in a crude rendition of a Socratic dialogue.
Confronting myself with questions like: * What is the worst that could happen? * Is this it? * Although I am successful, where to from here? * What advice will some of my mentors give me? * What if I was to get terminally ill – will I regret not having made the decision to leave? * But the most powerful question was a promise I made myself about 20 years earlier in my life, when as a 16 year old school boy, I likened myself to David Livingstone, the explorer. And I was not living this dream! I too wanted to explore one day. And this dream was slipping away from me.
During the month of December 2006, I made the decision to resign. The tension I felt was text book existential vacuum but I had no idea and very little understanding on how to deal with it. although I was thinking about resigning constantly I am not sure exactly what made me do it that time and at the moment I did. A financial bonus had some effect on the timing of my public announcement but the final internal trigger escapes me. All I recall is one day standing alone in an office looking at the blue sky outside and thinking “there’s a sun shining outside, but not in here where I am! maybe this realization was final confirmation for me to get off my backside and step into the sun. This dynamic tension I experienced at the time can be graphically illustrated as follows: Consequences and possible outcomes of in-authentic actions What I want or must (selfish desire, conformism or totalitarianism) Dynamic tension within my conscience to do the right thing. The voice of reason with me which will guide me towards meaning. Consequences and possible outcomes of authentic right action Where am I now
What I ought (right action) Consequences of being responsible (and of being irresponsible) was particularly high on my agenda during this time. The consequences of staying in my current job felt to me like a bad compromise. I would have been untrue to myself, my company and my family by hanging around any longer. I felt torn between being responsible to a deep-felt desire to seek out a more purposeful life of meaning vs perpetuating lucrative mediocrity. Once the decision was taken and announced, I felt liberated, free and terribly alone.
What I had to do here, is to look beyond my immediate circumstances to what might be. I had a dream and had to make some pretty uncomfortable decisions in order to get myself out of the headspace I was stuck in. Self transcendence, knowing that there is more waiting for me to be discovered covered my thinking. It was clear to me that the work has only just begun. As clear as I was that it’s time to go, as unclear was I on where to. It took me quite some time to get used to my new status as a free agent and many times felt anxious by my scope of free action.
Too many choices and a deliberate action to seek out something new and meaningful lead me in many interesting directions – not all of them meaningful. Finally after almost 18 months of searching did I find a new rhythm and sense of energy. Like a snowball it gained momentum and with it, clarity of what I find meaningful as a vocation – helping people discover meaning in their own lives. My search for a new career had lead me to “adventure coaching” or what I would like to term “experiential logotherapy”. I have managed to manifest a ombination of two personal passions – physical adventure and helping people discover something unique about themselves best described by the personal development journeys to the slums of India and Everest Base Camp. This has become the signature pieces of my new career – taking people on adventurous journeys mixing physical experience with contemplating matters of the mind and connecting to a deeper self. The EBC journey will be the subject of my research workshop and I will present more detail on this experience later in the year.
Teaching in a Delhi slum school – I took people on a personal development journey in October 2011. At the moment I apply myself in 4 areas: Corporate Talent Management (businesses in Sandton) , Individual counseling and coaching (various types of people), Adventure coaching (journeys to India and Nepal) and Empowerment coaching (coaching disadvantaged black school kids). My empowerment coaching initiative is worth a mention. I do this at a school in Dobsonville, Soweto and this came about as follows: In 2010 I decided to climb Aconcagua in South America – the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas.
I had taken the decision to do this expedition on my own, but was looking for a cause that could benefit and hope to turn it into a fundraising campaign. A friend of mine was involved with a corporate social responsibility initiative called “one school at a time” and this fitted perfectly. He had identified Forte High school in Dobsonville as the first beneficiary of this CSI program and we turned my Aconcagua expedition into a fundraising campaign for the school. We managed to raise R530,000 through corporate contacts I had and the expedition was a huge success in financial terms.
The climb itself was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the lows I reached and internal change I experienced is food for another essay! Suffice to say I didn’t make it to the top as we were caught in a constant snow storm for 5 days at an altitude of 5,600m. Stuck for 5 days in a high altitude camp weakened us severely and when our food eventually ran out we pulled the plug and headed home. Some big logotherapy experiences! However, when I got back to SA I decided to do more at the school and offered to start group coaching conversations with some of the kids.
Since then I have been working with groups of grade 10 and 11 kids facilitating structured conversations about whatever they choose to talk about – topics include confidence, fear, reaching dreams, relationships and doing picture dream boards. I am slowly working logotherapy into the conversations and the kids love it! Fundraising campaign in Johannesburg in October 2010 and carrying the flag on Aconcagua, South America (I’m on the right). In July this year, I will be taking a group of 15 high school kids to Dharamsala, India where the Dalai Lama lives, to “teach English to Tibetan monks”.
This is part of their personal development program and aims to awaken gratitude, patience, understanding and strong sense of purpose with participants. We will go for 8 days and I am coordinating this journey directly with the office of the Tibetan People in Centurion. Responsibility is something I am acutely aware of. However, in the past couple of years I have become consciously aware of my responsibility to “be more” and not merely to “provide”. Life has so much to offer and if I can overcome my own self limiting beliefs and connect to my inner source of energy, I will be more.
To make a difference and be of value are my governing intentions and I am constantly aware of the effort it takes to be authentic and responsible to the life that has been given to me. The opportunities and potentialities I encounter persistently remind me of what could be and pulls me towards living meaningfully. I am dependent on my own conscience and my faith in life, that meaning is all around me. I am also aware of the tasks and challenges life presents to me and believe that it is up to me to make it happen – not anyone else. Reference list: 1. Shantall, T 2002.
Life’s meaning in the face of suffering. Testimonies of holocaust survivors. Hebrew University Magnes Press. ISBN 965-493-142-7. 2. Frankl, V E 1988. The Will to Meaning. Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. Expanded edition. First Meridian Printing. 3. Frankl, V E 2000. Man’s search for ultimate meaning. Perseus Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-0-7382-0354-6. 4. Graber, A V 2004. Victor Frankl’s Logotherapy: Method of Choice in Ecumenical Pastoral Psychotherapy. Wyndham Hall Press. ISBN 1-55605-364-9. 5. Lukas, E 1998. Logotherapy Textbook: Meaning centered Psychotherapy. Liberty Press. ISBN 0-9686496-1-0.