PSYCHOLOGY: In search of the meaning of life - How Viktor E.Frankl helps explain it.

in steemstem •  last year  (edited)

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Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl is known to readers: "The will to meaning" - a book that is a tale of a witness to the Holocaust. The title to which I will refer today is, as the author himself said, the complement of "The will to meaning"

"The Unconscious God" is an explanation of the assumptions of philosophy, which has greatly contributed to the survival of the Holocaust by its author.

Victor Frankl

In this post, I do not want to quote only what Viktor Frankl wanted to say, but I will try to refer to how I understand it. Like Viktor Frankl, I think that psychology and religiosity are two separate topics that should be separated, but we must not forget about their mutual influence. If I were to prepare Venn diagrams for religiosity and psychology, I would have to prepare both a set in which religiosity is included in psychology and one in which psychology is included in religiosity. It all depends on the point from which we look at both topics.

The author himself postulates the existence of a spiritual dimension, that is, one which dominates over psychology and which is dominated by theology. This dimension can be explained as the one that simply embraces human phenomena. Among these phenomena, Viktor Frankl distinguishes one that is most representative of man. Search for meaning.

Search for meaning

Religiosity is a search for the ultimate sense for Frankl. It is worth noting that Albert Einsten has said that being a religious person means being a person who is looking for an answer to the question: What is the meaning of my life? By reasoning this way, we can consider faith as trust in the existence of this very sense. At this point, a small note from me: according to Erik Erickson (developmental psychologist) human development is based on breaking new conflicts and gaining new virtues. The first of these is basic trust.
Human as a psycho-physical-spiritual unity.
Frankl assumes the existence of three dimensions in which man can be described.

"They differ in their essence and in principle
they must be distinguished, [...] in man they are inseparable and can only be separated heuristically and artificially ":

  • biological and physiological dimension: it includes life processes that are the same for animals, human and plants;
  • the psychological and sociological dimension, common to people and animals, includes: conditioned reflexes, instincts, feelings, emotions;
  • a spiritual dimension, concerns only people and includes thinking, free decisions and attitudes.

A multidimensional man

The spiritual dimension is the center connecting all the above-described planes. This center is named Frankel by a "spiritual person". It is a bonding place but also a place where all other surfaces are located. To better explain the concept of man as a physical and psycho-physical unity, Frank uses the image of a man represented by geometric analogies. Such a multifaceted concept of a human being means that we don't have to reduce everything that concerns us only to the psychophysical. Thus, religiousness, the pursuit of meaning and its search, will be rooted in the center of our humanity, that is, the spiritual person, in the spiritual dimension of our existence. Religion is thus perceived as a human need, specific for people. Furthermore. They do not have to be based on psychological or social conditions. Religious need may be conscious or unconscious. The boundary between one and the other is very thin.

Human's psychic seen by Frankl

(The unconscious God - by V. Frankl)
Sigmund Freud, he perceived the unconscious as a reservoir of drives that are suppressed. Viktor Frankl is standing in a different position and he thinks that what is spiritual can be unconscious. He believes that being in itself is by definition unconscious because the foundations of human existence can't be fully reflected (they can, in my opinion, only in some part). The being can't be fully aware of itself. The same applies to human spirituality, which has conscious and unconscious areas.The Man has freedom. It is within its framework that we can drown out the religious need and push it into unconsciousness. - Frankl attributes a rather limited motivational role of the unconscious. Personally, I agree more with Frankl than with Freud.

What determines the meaning of our life?

Referring somewhat to the above information, I decided to ask about what determines our sense of life. And is it ever defined?
First, the meaning of life does not have to be transcendent or derive from our spiritual dimension, that is, according to Frankl, the center of our humanity. This does not mean, however, that people who have a sense of life more "psychobiological" than transcendent, do not have their own transcendental dimension, or are at a lower level of development. It seems to me that the essence of things is knowing yourself. Acceptance is the second element. People living in denial of their spiritual dimension may not look for meaning in Frankl's meaning. As I mentioned earlier, the subject of human spirituality can't be fully described in words. So it does not fit fully into our consciousness. Consequently, the search for meaning is not a fully conscious process in case of people looking for it in Frankl's way, and people who do it in a more mundane way. So if in both cases the search for meaning encompasses unconscious processes, why are the effects (transcendent sense or mundane sense) so different?

Exactly... Why?

It seems to me that in one case the unconscious transcendent processes take part in the motivational processes of seeking the meaning of life, and in the second case it is the instinctive part, the instinctive one.
It doesn't mean that the unconsciousness guides our actions in search of the meaning of life. I understand this as the beginning of the road. A spark that ignites the flame. And the arising of this spark seems to me to be an unconscious element that we can not control.


  1. Adler, A. (1958). What life should mean to you. New York, NY: Capricorn.
  2. V. E. Frankl, Homo patiens..., op. cit., p. 29-42
  3. V. E Frankl, The Unconscious God, p.21 -47
  4. P.T.P. Wong, (2012d). What is the Meaning Mindset? International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 4(1), 1–3.
  5. Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26, 179-201

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Thanks guys!

I think something that helps to put some perspective on the question about the meaning of life is the lens through which you look through when you ask the question. Individually the meaning of life can vary from person to person, and even the time in the life of the person when they ask themselves that question.

And when you broaden that scope to a group of people, a society, a country and then all of humanity (on Earth) and to all forms of 'life' in this universe I think it takes on different meaning (i.e. when you are not considering it from a human's perspective). So it is interesting to read all these ideas and interpretations because it is hard to see beyond the mind of a human when it comes to the meaning of life :)


@plushzilla Agree. Already at the level of asking questions, objectivity is lost because there are reasons that make us ask this question. I think that there are some universal answers to the question about the meaning of life, but they arise from the similarities between individual human situations. I see it more like induction process than on deduction.
Individual experiences allows us to create a general rule.

Thanks for your comment. I realy enjoy discussions on psychological topics


I have to say that it has been a really nice experience connecting with people from Poland! So far I have a friend from another social media website that I talk to on Skype about philosophical subjects, and I also enjoy reading @yeszuzia's posts about architecture and art. Now I can add psychology to the mix as well :)