Developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, Logotherapy is considered the “third Viennese school of psychotherapy” after Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology. It is a type of Existential Analysis that focuses on a “will to meaning” as opposed to the Nietzschian doctrine of “will to power” or Freud’s “will to pleasure”.

The following list of tenets represents Frankl’s basic beliefs regarding the philosophy of Logotherapy:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances — even the most miserable ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

A short introduction to this system is introduced in Frankl’s most famous book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, in which he outlines how his theories helped him to survive his Holocaust experience. A follow-up to this book was written by Alex Pattakos, named “Prisoner of Our Thoughts”. Pattakos worked closely with Frankl, and his goal with the book is to summarize Logotherapy in 7 core principles that can be applied to one’s life. These core principles are [1]:

  • Exercise the freedom to choose your attitude (a freedom that can never be taken away)
  • Realize your will to meaning
  • Detect the meaning of life’s moments
  • Don’t work against yourself
  • Look at yourself from a distance
  • Shift your focus of attention
  • Extend beyond yourself

The human spirit is referred to in several of the assumptions of Logotherapy, but it should be noted that the use of the term spirit is not “spiritual” or “religious.” In Frankl’s view, the spirit is the will of the human being. The emphasis, therefore, is on the search for meaning, not the search for God nor any other supernatural existential being. Frankl also noted the barriers to humanity’s quest for meaning in life. He warns against “…affluence, hedonism, [and] materialism…” in the search for meaning.


^ Alex Pattakos: “Prisoner of Our Thoughts.”, page vi. , Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2004