Viktor Frankl’s theory and therapy grew out of his experiences in Nazi death camps.
Watching who did and did not survive (given an opportunity to survive!), he concluded that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had it right: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how. " (Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in 1963, p. 121)
He saw that people who had hopes of being reunited with loved ones, or who had projects they felt a need to complete, or who had great faith, tended to have better chances than those who had lost all hope.
logotherapy, from the Greek word logos, which can mean study, word, spirit, God, or meaning.
Comparing himself with those other great Viennese psychiatrists, Freud and Adler, he suggested that Freud essentially postulated a will to pleasure as the root of all human motivation, and Adler a will to power. Logotherapy postulates a will to meaning.
Frankl also uses the Greek word noös, which means mind or spirit. In traditional psychology, he suggests, we focus on “psychodynamics,” which sees people as trying to reduce psychological tension. Instead, or in addition, Frankl says we should pay attention to noödynamics, wherein tension is necessary for health, at least when it comes to meaning. People desire the tension involved in striving for some worthy goal!
One of Viktor Frankl's major concepts is conscience. He sees conscience as a sort of unconscious spirituality, different from the instinctual unconscious that Freud and others emphasize. The conscience is not just one factor among many; it is the core of our being and the source of our personal integrity.
"...(M)eaning is something to discover rather than to invent." (1975, p. 113)
"...(M)an must be equipped with the capacity to listen to and obey the ten thousand demands and commandments hidden in the ten thousand situations with which life is confronting him."
This striving after meaning can, of course, be frustrated, and this frustration can lead to noögenic neurosis, what others might call spiritual or existential neurosis.
existential vacuum. If meaning is what we desire, then meaninglessness is a hole, an emptiness, in our lives. Whenever you have a vacuum, of course, things rush in to fill it. Frankl suggests that one of the most conspicuous signs of existential vacuum in our society is boredom. He points out how often people, when they finally have the time to do what they want, don’t seem to want to do anything! People go into a tailspin when they retire; students get drunk every weekend; we submerge ourselves in passive entertainment every evening. The "Sunday neurosis," he calls it.