From its conception, psychoanalysis has been as much about a therapeutic method for treating neuroses as a theory of the mind. In this way it considers some of the major questions around our continued search for meaning expressed through literature, music and art.
‘How to live in a world in which justice and power, right and might, often seem to have nothing to do with each other? How to deal with the fear that my own aggression and violence will overflow and violate all that I care about? How to confront my own death, and the deaths of those I love? How to act responsibly in the absence of freedom? How to make this inhumane world a more humane place and so comfort myself, and offer comfort to others.’
Alford 1992 The Psychoanalytic Theory of Greek Tragedy
Viktor Frankl, a psychotherapist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud, developed his therapeutic skills in an impossible setting. He was among those sent to the concentration camps by the Nazis, and he used his skills to inspire prisoners to fight for their survival by finding meaning in their suffering.
He states “As a professor in two fields, neurology and psychiatry, I am fully aware of the extent to which man is subject to biological, psychological and sociological conditions. But in addition to being a professor in two fields I am a survivor of four camps — concentration camps, that is — and as such I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable.”
In the clip below Frankl speaks to young people on how he came to formulate his ideas. And states – “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Frankl’s book ‘ Mans search for Meaning’ provides an extraordinary example of how humans are able to survive through some of the darkest hours and the most crushing situations imaginable and provides inspiration to us all.