Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Therapy For The Spirit- Logotherapy

VIKTOR FRANKL [1905-1997]—Founder of Logo therapy

According to Vedanta, all activities are creations of the mind. However, the mind by itself is inert and it becomes active and alert only when it is illumined by an Immanent Power behind it which goes by the names Divine Power, Shakthi or God. According to Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts which has no independent existence. We often hear of a term ‘Strength of mind’, [also called by the name ‘Will Power’] and here the term ‘strength’ means the recognition of the Immanent Power behind the mind.

It is often noticed that there are some people who, in spite of most trying conditions and physical abnormalities, have enough mental resources to ignore them. They are even prepared to face death calmly and courageously with equanimity of mind.
Having acknowledged and submitted themselves to their spiritual dimension, they call upon it with the confidence of faith. Having tapped the infinite resource of that Power lying within them, they are cool and calm under all circumstances and endure the shocks and provocations of life without brooding and wallowing in self-pity. They do not succumb to tension, depression, anxiety, fear etc as they have understood the deeper meaning of suffering which alone gives them an opportunity to awaken the spiritual dimension lying dormant within them. One such special person who lived with us till recently and passed away about 10 years back was a German Professor by name Dr.Viktor Frankl.

Dr.Frankl was a professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Vienna, Austria when the Second World War took place. When the German dictator Adolph Hitler conquered Austria in August1938, a number of civilians were arrested and taken to Nazi prisons and Dr.Frankl was among them. Dr.Frankl had to spend three black years in the prison at Auschwitz and other Nazi prisons and had to undergo untold miseries, both physical and mental. Recalling some of his experiences under detention in the Nazi camps and how they were ruthlessly shifted from prison to prison, Frankl writes in one of his books:
“When, we, the new arrivals to the prison, were courted, one of us was missing. So we had to wait outside the prison in the pouring rain and chilly wind until the missing man was found. He was at last discovered in a dilapidated hut where he had fallen asleep due to exhaustion from long walk. Then the roll call was turned into a punishment parade. All through the night and into the morning we had to stand outside the camp , frozen and soaked to the skin after the strain of our long journey. On our entering the new prison, we found there was not enough room for every one even to couch on the floor at the same time. Most of us had to stand all the way while a few took turns at squatting on the scanty straw which was soaked with human urine”

When Dr.Frankl got released from the jail after three years, he discovered that every one in his family had been exterminated in the prison camps except his sister. During these terrible years he deliberately chose a life saving attitude: he would sublimate his degradation and suffering by total surrender [Sharanagathi] to a higher Force which could only give a meaning to life. Many times he felt like committing suicide but averted all such thoughts and lived through harshest conditions He and a few other physically weak persons like himself managed to survive the Nazi atrocities because of their firm belief that they had an undying soul tethered to their physical bodies. Others in the prison, who were physically much stronger and healthier but who lacked this belief in the existence of a Divine Force which would have come to their rescue,, fatally succumbed to stress and suffering. Writing a book much later and analyzing the reasons which enabled him and the like of him to withstand the stress and strain in the Nazi camps, Dr.Frankl says:
“Under the hammer blows of fate and in the white heat of suffering, meaning to life could be found only through the ‘right activity’ of re-orienting one to the belief in the existence of a Supernatural Power behind us. It is this Power [Shakthi] that raises our consciousness and allows us to perceive the higher perspective of inevitable and immutable destiny of ‘noble misfortune’. Those who did not believe in this, perished in the prison”.

With a view to making people aware of this innate Divinity hidden within us and the efficacy of total surrender[ Shranagathi ] to such Divinity, Dr.Frankl evolved a new theory which he called ‘ Logotherapy’, based on the Greek word ‘Logos ‘which means ‘spirit; or ‘divinity’ Logotherapy tries to analyze the ability of a man to survive suffering by finding the meaning and purpose of life and tries to establish that a higher power always dwells in us which gives us strength to bear any suffering calmly without any emotional disturbance. Due to this power we would be able to elevate our thoughts and realize that we are immortal, infinite and eternal. This infuses sufficient strength in us so that we face all calamities in life with a smile, including death—calamities which we can neither change nor avoid in life.

Viktor Frankl became the President of the Austrian Medical Society of Psychotherapy, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Vienna. In due course, he went to America. He taught psychiatry and neurology at the U.S.International University in San Diego, California and was a visiting Professor at the Harvard University as well as visiting Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University.
The deep inspiration he received while in the Nazi camps and the profound light it shed on the meaning of life was the subject of many of his lectures which drew large audiences. He was invited to lecture at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
He made at least 32 lecture tours in the United States as well as three lecture tours around the world. He had also visited India.

In modern hectic days, a feverishly hectic and restless individual is always tense around the clock and emotionally impaired. His busy life lacks the dimension of depth. The testimony of many great souls like Frankl and the life they led proves that the faith that springs from inner strength sustains us through otherwise intolerable sufferings and strong faith in God is always helpful.

Dr. Viktor Frankl passed away in 1997 at the age of 92 years.

B.M.N. Murthy

ARTICLE NO. 461--Dr.VIKTOR FRANKL, Founder of Logotherapy
CreatedFriday, September 5, 2008 10:24 PM


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