Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Holocaust, Meaning, Survival, and Logotherapy

Of those who survived Auschwitz, one man made a committed effort not just to survive, but to have a reason for himself and the world why he survived.

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian state attorney turned psychiatrist, nearly died in the camps. He witnessed that many of his fellow prisoners passed away not directly because of the intensely atrocious abuse which they suffered, but because they lost hope of every escaping and surviving.

Unable to reconcile to themselves as to why they suffered such a terrible fate at the hands of the Nazi German state, many inmates gave in to the hateful lie that God had abandoned them, or that they were being punished for wrongs they had done, or that God simply did not exist, and therefore was no point to seek justice, restitution, or even a remotely happy ending at the end of this. "If you repeat a life often enough, it becomes the truth." Josef Goebbels claimed this adage explained the power of propaganda, yet the same phrase explains how the same self-condemning and self-defeating lies of despondent inmates would lead them to stop believing, give up, and died. With nothing to lean on or believe on, they attached themselves to the hateful spite of the Nazi regime, the SS, and even the evil recriminations of fellow inmates.

One father died after having learned that his own son stole bread that he had secreted for himself. A PBS special dramatized a moot court hearing which placed God on trial, for not saving His people or for providing them a way out of the death camp tragedy.

Frankl, rather than giving in to despair, realized that the only way that he would survive is that he had to develop a reason, discover the design behind why he was suffering in Auschwitz. Thereupon he concluded that he was in the camps in order to later teach the world that they can overcome any hardship if they establish meaning in their lives, and can specifically identify a meaning for the sufferings which they have endured.

Furthermore, Frankl made it a point to dedicate his life to teaching people to overcome hardships in this way. . .and we would call this new approach to psychology and psychiatry "Logotherapy", "Logos" being the Greek word for Reason and purpose, as well as the root word for logic.

No comments:

Post a Comment