Life exists only where there is meaning… -C.G. Jung
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. -Viktor Frankl
He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How. –Friedrich Nietzsche
What is meaning therapy?
This is a frequently asked question of those of us practicing in this perspective. And, frankly, I can understand why there’s some confusion around what constitutes ‘meaning therapy’ or ‘logotherapy’. On the surface it may appear that ‘meaning’ is so obvious and general that it could be anything, nothing, or something in between. Yet, perhaps what is seemingly most obvious is also the most vital to our lives and experience. Much like air, meaning eludes the senses and yet, without it, life would not be possible. This may seem self-evident, but it gets to the heart of psychology while also not excluding others schools of thought. Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, gives a brief outline of logotherapy (aka meaning therapy). There, he asserts that the drive to discover meaning in one’s life is the most fundamental and important of all human activities. He outlines how his theories helped him survive internment in multiple Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust and how his experience therein served as a catalyst for the further development of his theory.
One of the most beautiful and powerful aspects of this perspective is that it leaves wide open room for other perspectives and, in fact, encourages them. Meaning therapy maintains that all life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most challenging. In fact, it is often (paradoxically) the most challenging of situations that afford the highest discovery of meaning. Central to this perspective is the notion that people have freedom and responsibility to discover meaning in what their actions and experience. At a bare minimum, under near hopeless situations, people still have the freedom to choose their response. Purpose and meaning play vital roles to psychological and physical well-being. The INPM is working diligently to make meaning therapy training and education available.
To this end, I am pleased to announce that the INPM Summer Institute 2015 will take place in Toronto this July 25-25, Saturday and Sunday. It will take place just prior to the annual conference of the American Psychological Association (APA) conference which is also being held in Toronto. Please note that the event will be offered live and also via webast. 12 CEs are available. The hours also count towards the Meaning Therapy Certification.
Click here for details and to register. (http://meaning.ca/summer-institute/)
A brief outline of the material is as follows:
Dr. Wong’s integrative meaning therapy will present:
- An evidence-based approach to achieve healing and thriving through MIL
- A step-by-step guide to make use of the human capacity for meaning making
- Hands-on training in meaning-centered intervention techniques
- A natural & innovative way to integrate MIL in major therapeutic modalities
- In session consultation for individual cases from participants
Dr. Potter’s existential-psychodynamic psychology will present:
- A cultural-historical narrative of the emergence of psychoanalysis via the ‘hysteric’
- Contemporary existential-psychodynamic therapy, focusing on ‘borderline personality disorder’
- Current research on the causes of ‘mental illness’ that is, developmental stress and trauma
- Discussion of clinical vignettes and/or case consultation
Aside from the Summer Institute 2015, in this newsletter, you will find Dr. Paul Wong’s President’s Letter, which addresses how to work with meaning in life (MIL) issues in counselling and therapy. This offers a further elaboration of meaning therapy in contemporary psychology. I also offer two featured members of our International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM), Daniel Jordon and Zvi Bellin. Finally, you will find book reviews written by me for New York Journal of Books on Irvin Yalom’s Creatures of the Day and Other Tales of Psychotherapy as well as The New Politics of Experience and Bitter Herbs by Theodor Itten and Ron Roberts.
[Creatures of the Day review link: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/creatures-day]
[New Politics of Experience review link: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/new]
I look forward to seeing you at the Summer Institute 2015, either in person or via webcast!
Brent Potter, PhD