Sources of Meaning

Logotherapy says that mental health arises when we learn how to close

the gap between what we are and what we could become. But what if we

are yet to identify what we could become? Frankl noted that the modern

person has almost too much freedom to deal with. We no longer live

through instinct, but tradition is no guide either. This is the existential

vacuum, in which the frustrated will to meaning is compensated for in

the urge for money, sex, entertainment, even violence. We are not open to

the various sources of meaning, which according to Frankl are:

1 Creating a work or doing a deed.

2 Experiencing something or encountering someone (love).

3 The attitude we take to unavoidable suffering.

The first is a classic source, defined as “life purpose” in the self-help literature.

Our culture expects happiness, yet Frankl says that this is not

something that we should seek directly. He defines happiness as a byproduct

of forgetting ourselves in a task that draws on all our imagination

and talents.

The second is important as it makes experience (inner and outer) a

legitimate alternative to achievement in a society built around achieving.

The third gives suffering a meaning, but what meaning? Frankl admits

that we may never know, or at least not until later in life. Just because

we do not comprehend meaning, it does not mean that there is none.

To the people who say that life is meaningless because it is transitory,

Frankl’s response is “only the unfulfilment of potential is meaningless,

not life itself.” Our culture worships the young, yet it is age

that is to be admired, since the older person has loved, suffered, and

fulfilled so much. Fulfillment of your own potential, however humble,

will make a permanent imprint on the history of the world, and the

decision to make that imprint defines responsibility. Freedom is only

one half of the equation. The other half is responsibility to act on it.

Written by Victor Frankl and Posted by Motivationaltalks


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