Viktor Frankl Symposium 2018

It is certainly right to consider Viktor Frankl the founder of the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy. After Sigmund Freud, who believed that the primary motivation of man could be found in his striving for pleasure, and Alfred Adler, who saw man driven by his need for dominance, Viktor Frankl recognized, when he was still a very young man, that the primary motivation of man lies in his will to meaning. With this, he reconquered autonomy for the human person and never stopped to emphasize that the spiritual dimension of the human being enables him to take a stance towards everything, also towards himself. There is no need for us to take everything from others or from ourselves. We can always shape things, even if we cannot escape our conditionalities. The space we have for this is supported by three pillars: freedom of will, will to meaning, and meaning of life.

It was Frankl´s primary concern to understand what it is that makes it possible for the human being to experience life as meaningful. Each individual, so his conviction, is called upon to freely find meaningful responses to the questions life asks. From these responses, responsibility arises, and this, in turn, can only be the result of autonomous action. Thus, man can, may, and must arrange the spaces he inhabits, and in this process he meets, again and again, his specific meaning. Because meaning for the individual is not established by a predetermined codex of rules, but meets him afresh in every moment of his life. Life can be successful when we respond to the 10,000 commandments of the 10,000 moments of our lives, freely and responsibly. Autonomy in the sense of Frankl, therefore, is decisive freedom in responsibility.

Jutta Clarke
Department for School Development