What Is Logotherapy?

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 16, 2023
4 min read

Viktor Frankl was the founder of the logotherapy concept. He believed that human nature thrives on finding a life purpose. “Logo” is a word that comes from the Greek word "logos," which means "meaning.” The second part of the word, therapy, refers to treating an illness, condition, or maladjustment. The full definition of logotherapy is then “the search for meaning in your life”.

Frankl developed the theory after his own experience in different Nazi concentration camps. He found that by finding meaning and purpose in life, humans can cope with hardships and suffering. In doing so, they can enjoy healthy aging and a long life.

In the modern-day, researchers believe that having a purpose in life can make you more resilient to face life's hardships. They say that when you move schools, jobs, or countries, it is all in search of purpose. When there isn’t a revelation, you might become stressed and start questioning all the choices you’ve made. This affects your quality of life.

The logotherapy theory has three core principles that make up its foundation.

  1. Every person has a healthy core.
  2. Every individual's main focus is to enlighten others to discover their internal resources and provide the tools to use in their inner core.
  3. Life presents purpose and meaning but doesn't promise fulfillment or happiness.

The theory suggests that you can find meaning in your life in three main ways:

  1. Encountering someone or experiencing something
  2. Creating some work or doing an action
  3. By the attitude you carry toward unavoidable suffering

Frankl went further to show his belief in suffering as being part of life. He explained that freedom comes from choosing how to respond to both painful and happy circumstances. His theory reasons that you can find meaning by realizing the unique roles you can fulfill.

The theory has six basic assumptions that are similar to the core properties.

Body, mind, and spirit. You, as a person, are made up of a body and mind, but your spirit is what defines you and your essence. The theory did not borrow its idea from religion, but it compares in some ways.

You can find meaning in all situations. Frankl was a firm believer that life has meaning regardless of how bad a situation is. There is always a higher level of order that brings you meaning.

You have a will to meaning. Finding meaning in life is the biggest motivation to living and acting. It allows you to put up with pain and suffering. The will to find purpose in life is different from the will to achieve power and pleasure.

Freedom to find meaning. You have the freedom to use your will to help you find meaning. In this way, you can find meaning in any circumstance, even when you experience pain or suffering. 

Meaning of the moment. The fifth assumption has to do with finding the purpose of the moment. You must respond to the demands of daily life in a way that matches the values of society and your conscience.

You are unique. The theory strongly suggests that you are unique and no one and nothing can replace you.

Frankl says that you can quickly turn misery and suffering into accomplishment and achievement. If you feel guilty about something, that is an opportunity to change yourself for the better. Life transitions also give you the chance to take the right action through three techniques.

Dereflection. This approach to logotherapy helps you focus away from yourself and toward other people. It helps you become whole by spending less time thinking about your problems or how to reach a goal.

Paradoxical intention. This is where you wish for the thing that you fear most. In the case of anxiety and phobia, you can use humor and ridicule when fear overtakes you. For example, if you fear looking foolish in front of people, the theory suggests that you do something foolish intentionally. This way, you will overcome that fear.

Socratic dialogue. This tool is to help you discover the self in your own words. Working with a therapist, you can point out patterns of words and see their meaning. The process can help you realize an answer that you need to discover.

You can apply the principles of logotherapy in your life daily by trying the following:

  • Create something
  • Build relationships
  • Find purpose in pain
  • Understand and accept that life is unfair
  • Embrace the freedom to find meaning
  • Focus on others
  • Accept the worst

Logotherapy is the concept of finding meaning in every aspect of life. It encourages you to align your values and strengthens both good and bad experiences. This way, you will gain relief from all issues and increase your resilience and wellbeing.