Viktor Frankl’s Meaning Seeking Model and Positive Psychology

Jan 1, 2014Articles


The main purpose of this chapter is to introduce Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy to the 21st century, especially to positive psychologists interested in meaning research and applications. Frankl’s radically positive message of re-humanizing psychotherapy is much needed in the current technological culture. More specifically, I explain the basic assumptions of logotherapy and translate them into a testable meaning-seeking model to facilitate meaning research and intervention. This model consists of five hypotheses: (1) The Self-Transcendence Hypothesis: The will to meaning is a spiritual and primary motivation for self-transcendence; thus, it predicts that spiritual pathways (e.g., spiritual care, self-transcendence) will enhance meaning in life and well-being, even when other pathways to well-being are not available. (2) The Ultimate Meaning Hypothesis: It predicts that belief in the intrinsic meaning and value of life, regardless of circumstances, is more functional than alternative global beliefs. It also predicts that belief in ultimate meaning facilitates the discovery of meaning of the moment. (3) The Meaning Mindset Hypothesis: A meaning mindset, as compared to the success mindset, leads to greater meaningfulness, compassion, moral excellence, eudaemonic happiness and resilience. (4) The Freedom of Will Hypothesis: People who believe in the inherent human capacity for freedom and responsibility, regardless of circumstances, will show higher autonomy and authenticity than those without such beliefs. (5) The Value Hypothesis of Discovering Meaning: Meaning is more likely to be discovered through creative, experiential and attitudinal values that are motivated by self-transcendence rather than by self-interest. Together, they capture the complexity and centrality of meaning seeking in healing and well-being. In sum, Viktor Frankl emphasizes the need for a radical shift from self-focus to meaning-focus as the most promising way to lift up individuals from the dark pit of despair to a higher ground of flourishing. This chapter outlines the differences between logotherapy and positive psychology and suggests future research to bridge these two parallel fields of study for the benefit of psychology and society.
This chapter is published as Wong, P. T. P. (2014). Viktor Frankl’s meaning seeking model and positive psychology. In A. Batthyany & P. Russo-Netzer (Eds.), Meaning in positive and existential psychology (pp. 149-184). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
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