Benjamin Franklin

nothing_toxic: During the class yesterday evening, I was reminded of Benjamin Franklin, the man of my dream so far. 🙂  Unluckily, non of student in my class knew about him. I’m on top of his topic because he is of course the man in my mind for years…
I’d like to dedicate  his  quick biography to all my classmates who may take it as useful material for next assignment research 🙂



Francis Folger Franklin, Ben’s son

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706. He was the tenth son of soap maker, Josiah Franklin. Benjamin’s mother was Abiah Folger, the second wife of Josiah. In all, Josiah would father 17 children.

Josiah intended for Benjamin to enter into the clergy. However, Josiah could only afford to send his son to school for one year and clergymen needed years of schooling. But, as young Benjamin loved to read he had him apprenticed to his brother James, who was a printer. After helping James compose pamphlets and set type which was grueling work, 12-year-old Benjamin would sell their products in the streets.

Learn More: Franklin Timeline

Apprentice Printer

When Benjamin was 15 his brother started The New England Courant the first “newspaper” in Boston. Though there were two papers in the city before James’s Courant, they only reprinted news from abroad. James’s paper carried articles, opinion pieces written by James’s friends, advertisements, and news of ship schedules.


Benjamin wanted to write for the paper too, but he knew that James would never let him. After all, Benjamin was just a lowly apprentice. So Ben began writing letters at night and signing them with the name of a fictional widow, Silence Dogood. Dogood was filled with advice and very critical of the world around her, particularly concerning the issue of how women were treated. Ben would sneak the letters under the print shop door at night so no one knew who was writing the pieces. They were a smash hit, and everyone wanted to know who was the real “Silence Dogood.”

After 16 letters, Ben confessed that he had been writing the letters all along. While James’s friends thought Ben was quite precocious and funny, James scolded his brother and was very jealous of the attention paid to him.

Before long the Franklins found themselves at odds with Boston’s powerful Puritan preachers, the Mathers. Smallpox was a deadly disease in those times, and the Mathers supported inoculation; the Franklins’ believed inoculation only made people sicker. And while most Bostonians agreed with the Franklins, they did not like the way James made fun of the clergy, during the debate. Ultimately, James was thrown in jail for his views, and Benjamin was left to run the paper for several issues.

Upon release from jail, James was not grateful to Ben for keeping the paper going. Instead he kept harassing his younger brother and administering beatings from time to time. Ben could not take it and decided to run away in 1723.

Learn More: New England Courant

Escape to Philadelphia


Running away was illegal. In early America, people all had to have a place in society and runaways did not fit in anywhere. Regardless Ben took a boat to New York where he hoped to find work as a printer. He didn’t, and walked across New Jersey, finally arriving in Philadelphia via a boat ride. After debarking, he used the last of his money to buy some rolls. He was wet, disheveled, and messy when his future wife, Deborah Read, saw him on that day, October, 6, 1723. She thought him odd-looking, never dreaming that seven years later they would be married.

Franklin found work as an apprentice printer. He did so well that the governor of Pennsylvania promised to set him up in business for himself if young Franklin would just go to London to buy fonts and printing equipment. Franklin did go to London, but the governor reneged on his promise and Benjamin was forced to spend several months in England doing print work.

Benjamin had been living with the Read family before he left for London. Deborah Read, the very same girl who had seen young Benjamin arrive in Philadelphia, started talking marriage, with the young printer. But Ben did not think he was ready. While he was gone, she married another man.

Upon returning to Philadelphia, Franklin tried his hand at helping to run a shop, but soon went back to being a printer’s helper. Franklin was a better printer than the man he was working for, so he borrowed some money and set himself up in the printing business. Franklin seemed to work all the time, and the citizens of Philadelphia began to notice the diligent young businessman. Soon he began getting the contract to do government jobs and started thriving in business.

In 1728, Benjamin fathered a child named William. The mother of William is not known. However, in 1730 Benjamin married his childhood sweetheart, Deborah Read. Deborah’s husband had run off, and now she was able to marry.

In addition to running a print shop, the Franklins also ran their own store at this time, with Deborah selling everything from soap to fabric. Ben also ran a book store. They were quite enterprising.

Learn More: Franklin’s Arrival In Philadelphia

The Pennsylvania Gazette


In 1729, Benjamin Franklin bought a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin not only printed the paper, but often contributed pieces to the paper under aliases. His newspaper soon became the most successful in the colonies. This newspaper, among other firsts, would print the first political cartoon, authored by Ben himself.

During the 1720s and 1730s, the side of Franklin devoted to public good started to show itself. He organized the Junto, a young working-man’s group dedicated to self- and-civic improvement. He joined the Masons. He was a very busy man socially.

Learn More: American Philosophical Society

Poor Richard’s Almanack


But Franklin thrived on work. In 1733 he started publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack. Almanacs of the era were printed annually, and contained things like weather reports, recipes, predictions and homilies. Franklin published his almanac under the guise of a man named Richard Saunders, a poor man who needed money to take care of his carping wife. What distinguished Franklin’s almanac were his witty aphorisms and lively writing. Many of the famous phrases associated with Franklin, such as, “A penny saved is a penny earned” come from Poor Richard.

Learn More: The Quotable Franklin

Fire Prevention


Franklin continued his civic contributions during the 1730s and 1740s. He helped launch projects to pave, clean and light Philadelphia’s streets. He started agitating for environmental clean up. Among the chief accomplishments of Franklin in this era was helping to launch the Library Company in 1731. During this time books were scarce and expensive. Franklin recognized that by pooling together resources, members could afford to buy books from England. Thus was born the nation’s first subscription library. In 1743, he helped to launch the American Philosophical Society, the first learned society in America. Recognizing that the city needed better help in treating the sick, Franklin brought together a group who formed the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751. The Library Company, Philosophical Society, and Pennsylvania Hospital are all in existence today.


Fires were very dangerous threat to Philadelphians, so Franklin set about trying to remedy the situation. In 1736, he organized Philadelphia’s Union Fire Company, the first in the city. His famous saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” was actually fire-fighting advice.

Those who suffered fire damage to their homes often suffered irreversible economic loss. So, in 1752, Franklin helped to found the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire. Those with insurance policies were not wiped out financially. The Contributionship is still in business today.

Learn More: Fire Department


Franklin’s printing business was thriving in this 1730s and 1740s. He also started setting up franchise printing partnerships in other cities. By 1749 he retired from business and started concentrating on science, experiments, and inventions. This was nothing new to Franklin. In 1743, he had already invented a heat-efficient stove — called the Franklin stove — to help warm houses efficiently. As the stove was invented to help improve society, he refused to take out a patent.


Among Franklin’s other inventions are swim fins, the glass armonica (a musical instrument) and bifocals.

In the early 1750’s he turned to the study of electricity. His observations, including his kite experiment which verified the nature of electricity and lightning brought Franklin international fame.

Learn More: Franklin and his kite experiment

The Political Scene

Politics became more of an active interest for Franklin in the 1750s. In 1757, he went to England to represent Pennsylvania in its fight with the descendants of the Penn family over who should represent the Colony. He remained in England to 1775, as a Colonial representative not only of Pennsylvania, but of Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts as well.

Early in his time abroad, Franklin considered himself a loyal Englishman. England had many of the amenities that America lacked. The country also had fine thinkers, theater, witty conversation — things in short supply in America. He kept asking Deborah to come visit him in England. He had thoughts of staying there permanently, but she was afraid of traveling by ship.


In 1765, Franklin was caught by surprise by America’s overwhelming opposition to the Stamp Act. His testimony before Parliament helped persuade the members to repeal the law. He started wondering if America should break free of England. Franklin, though he had many friends in England, was growing sick of the corruption he saw all around him in politics and royal circles. Franklin, who had proposed a plan for united colonies in 1754, now would earnestly start working toward that goal.

Franklin’s big break with England occurred in the “Hutchinson Affair.” Thomas Hutchinson was an English-appointed governor of Massachusetts. Although he pretended to take the side of the people of Massachusetts in their complaints against England, he was actually still working for the King. Franklin got a hold of some letters in which Hutchinson called for “an abridgment of what are called English Liberties” in America. He sent the letters to America where much of the population was outraged. After leaking the letters Franklin was called to Whitehall, the English Foreign Ministry, where he was condemned in public.

A New Nation


Franklin came home.

He started working actively for Independence. He naturally thought his son William, now the Royal governor of New Jersey, would agree with his views. William did not. William remained a Loyal Englishman. This caused a rift between father and son which was never healed.

Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and worked on a committee of five that helped to draft the Declaration of Independence. Though much of the writing is Thomas Jefferson’s, much of the contribution is Franklin’s. In 1776 Franklin signed the Declaration, and afterward sailed to France as an ambassador to the Court of Louis XVI.


The French loved Franklin. He was the man who had tamed lightning, the humble American who dressed like a backwoodsman but was a match for any wit in the world. He spoke French, though stutteringly. He was a favorite of the ladies. Several years earlier his wife Deborah had died, and Benjamin was now a notorious flirt.

In part via Franklin’s popularity, the government of France signed a Treaty of Alliance with the Americans in 1778. Franklin also helped secure loans and persuade the French they were doing the right thing. Franklin was on hand to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1783, after the Americans had won the Revolution.

Now a man in his late seventies, Franklin returned to America. He became President of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania. He served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and signed the Constitution. One of his last public acts was writing an anti-slavery treatise in 1789.

Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84. 20,000 people attended the funeral of the man who was called, “the harmonious human multitude.”

His electric personality, however, still lights the world.

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1905 – 1997

Dr. C. George Boeree
Shippensburg University






In September of 1942, a young doctor, his new bride, his mother, father, and brother, were arrested in Vienna and taken to a concentration camp in Bohemia.  It was events that occurred there and at three other camps that led the young doctor – prisoner 119,104 – to realize the significance of meaningfulness in life.

One of the earliest events to drive home the point was the loss of a manuscript – his life’s work – during his transfer to Auschwitz.  He had sewn it into the lining of his coat, but was forced to discard it at the last minute.  He spent many later nights trying to reconstruct it, first in his mind, then on slips of stolen paper.

Another significant moment came while on a predawn march to work on laying railroad tracks:  Another prisoner wondered out loud about the fate of their wives.  The young doctor began to think about his own wife, and realized that she was present within him:

The salvation of man is through love and in love.  I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world  still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. (1963, p. 59)

And throughout his ordeal, he could not help but see that, among those given a chance for survival, it was those who held on to a vision of the future — whether it be a significant task before them, or a return to their loved ones — that were most likely to survive their suffering.

It would be, in fact, the meaningfulness that could be found in suffering itself that would most impress him:

(T)here is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior:  namely, in man’s attitude to his existence, and existence restricted by external forces….  Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.  (1963, p. 106)

That young doctor was, of course, Viktor Emil Frankl.


Viktor Frankl was born in Vienna on March 26, 1905.  His father, Gabriel Frankl, was a strong, disciplined man from Moravia who worked his way from government stenographer to become the director of the Ministry of Social Service.  His mother, Elsa Frankl (nĂ©e Lion), was more tenderhearted, a pious woman from Prague.

The middle of three children, young Viktor was precocious and intensely curious.  Even at the tender age of four, he already knew that he wanted to be a physician.

In high school, Viktor was actively involved in the local Young Socialist Workers organization.  His interest in people turned him towards the study of psychology.  He finished his high school years with a psychoanalytic essay on the philosopher Schopenhauer, a publication in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, and the beginning of a rather intense correspondence with the great Sigmund Freud.

In 1925, a year after graduating and on his way towards his medical degree, he met Freud in person.  Alfred Adler’s theory was more to Frankl’s liking, though, and that year he published an article – “Psychotherapy and Weltanschauung” – in Adler’s International Journal of Individual Psychology.  The next year, Frankl used the term logo therapy in a public lecture for the first time, and began to refine his particular brand of Viennese psychology.

In 1928 and 1929, Frankl organized cost-free counseling centers for teenagers in Vienna and six other cities, and began working at the Psychiatric University Clinic.  In 1930, he earned his doctorate in medicine, and was promoted to assistant.  In the next few years, Frankl continued his training in neurology.

In 1933, He was put in charge of the ward for suicidal women at the Psychiatric Hospital, with many thousands of patients each year.  In 1937, Frankl opened his own practice in neurology and psychiatry.  One year later, Hitler’s troops invade Austria.  He obtained a visa to the U.S. in 1939, but, concerned for his elderly parents, he let it expire.

In 1940, Frankl was made head of the neurological department of Rothschild Hospital, the only hospital for Jews in Vienna during the Nazi regime.  He made many false diagnoses of his patients in order to circumvent the new policies requiring euthanasia of the mentally ill.  It was during this period that he began his manuscript, Ă„rztliche Seelsorge – in English, The Doctor and the Soul.

Frankl married in 1942, but in September of that year, he, his wife, his father, mother, and brother, were all arrested and brought to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt in Bohemia.  His father died there of starvation.  His mother and brother were killed at Auschwitz in 1944.  His wife died at Bergen-Belsen in 1945.  Only his sister Stella would survive, having managed to emigrate to Australia a short while earlier.

When he was moved to Auschwitz, his manuscript for The Doctor and the Soul was discovered and destroyed.  His desire to complete his work, and his  hopes that he would be reunited with his wife and family someday, kept him from losing hope in what seemed otherwise a hopeless situation.

After two more moves to two more camps, Frankl finally succumbed to typhoid fever.  He kept himself awake by reconstructing his manuscript on stolen slips of paper.  In April of 1945, Frankl’s camp was liberated, and he returned to Vienna, only to discover the deaths of his loved ones.  Although nearly broken and very much alone in the world, he was given the position of director of the Vienna Neurological Policlinic — a position he would hold for 25 years.

He finally reconstructed his book and published it, earning him a teaching appointment at the University of Vienna Medical School.  In only 9 days, he dictated another book, which would become Man’s Search for Meaning.  Before he died, it sold over nine million copies, five million in the U.S. alone!

During this period, he met a young operating room assistant named Eleonore Schwindt – “Elly” – and fell in love at first sight.  Although half his age, he credited her with giving him the courage to reestablish  himself in the world.  They married in 1947, and had a daughter, Gabriele, in December of that year.

In 1948, Frankl received his Ph.D. in philosophy.  His dissertation – The Unconscious God – was an examination of the relation of psychology and religion.  That same year, he was made associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna.  In 1950, he founded and became president of the Austrian Medical Society for Psychotherapy.

After being promoted to full professor, he became increasingly well known in circles outside Vienna.  His guest professorships, honorary doctorates, and awards are too many to list here but include the Oskar Pfister Prize by the American Society of Psychiatry and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Frankl continued to teach at the University of Vienna until 1990, when he was 85.  It should be noted that he was a vigorous mountain climber and earned his airplane pilot’s license when he was 67!

In 1992, friends and family members established the Viktor Frankl Institute in his honor.  In 1995, he finished his autobiography, and in 1997, he published his final work, Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning, based on his doctoral dissertation.  He has 32 books to his name, and they have been translated into 27 languages.

Viktor Emil Frankl died on September 2, 1997, of heart failure.  He is survived by his wife Eleonore, his daughter Dr. Gabriele Frankl-Vesely, his grandchildren Katharina and Alexander, and his great-granddaughter Anna Viktoria.  His impact on psychology and psychiatry will be felt for centuries to come.


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.

He called his form of therapy logo therapy, from the Greek word logos, which can mean study, word, spirit, God, or meaning.  It is this last sense Frankl focuses on, although the other meanings are never far off.  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.  Logo therapy 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 no dynamics, wherein tension is necessary for health, at least when it comes to meaning.  People desire the tension involved in striving for some worthy goal!

Perhaps the original issue with which Frankl was concerned, early in his career as a physician, was the danger of reductionism.  Then, as now, medical schools emphasized the idea that all things come down to physiology.  Psychology, too, promoted reductionism:  Mind could be best understood as a “side effect” of brain mechanisms.  The spiritual aspect of human life was (and is) hardly considered worth mentioning at all!  Frankl believed that entire generations of doctors and scientists were being indoctrinated into what could only lead to a certain cynicism in the study of human existence.

He set it as his goal to balance the physiological view with a spiritual perspective, and saw this as a significant step towards developing more effective treatment.  As he said, “…the de-eroticization of humanity requires a re-humanization of psychotherapy.”  (1975, p. 104)


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.

He puts it in no uncertain terms: “… (B)eing human is being responsible — existentially responsible, responsible for one’s own existence.”  (1975, p. 26)  Conscience is intuitive and highly personalized.  It refers to a real person in a real situation, and cannot be reduced to simple “universal laws.”  It must be lived.

He refers to conscience as a “pre-reflective ontological self-understanding” or “the wisdom of the heart,” “more sensitive than reason can ever be sensible.”  (1975, p. 39)  It is conscience that “sniffs out” that which gives our lives meaning.

Like Erich Fromm, Frankl notes that animals have instincts to guide them. In traditional societies, we have done well-enough replacing instincts with our social traditions.  Today, we hardly even have that.  Most attempt to find guidance in conformity and conventionality, but it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid facing the fact that we now have the freedom and the responsibility to make our own choices in life, to find our own meaning.

But “…meaning must be found and cannot be given.”  (1975, p. 112)  Meaning is like laughter, he says:  You cannot force someone to laugh, you must tell him a joke!  The same applies to faith, hope, and love — they cannot be be brought forth by an act of will, our own or someone else’s.

“…(M)eaning is something to discover rather than to invent.”  (1975, p. 113)  It has a reality of its own, independent of our minds.  Like an embedded figure or a “magic eye” picture, it is there to be seen, not something created by our imagination.  We may not always be able to bring the image — or the meaning — forth, but it is there.  It is, he says, “…primarily a perceptual phenomenon. ” (1975, p. 115)

Tradition and traditional values are quickly disappearing from many people’s lives.  But, while  that is difficult for us, it need not lead us into despair:  Meaning is not tied to society’s values.  Certainly, each society attempts to summarize meaningfulness in its codes of conduct, but ultimately, meanings are unique to each individual.

“…(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.”  (1975, p. 120) And it is our job as physicians, therapists, and educators to assist people in developing their individual consciences and finding and fulfilling their unique meanings.

The existential vacuum

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. People today seem more than ever to be experiencing their lives as empty, meaningless, purposeless, aimless, adrift, and so on, and seem to be responding to these experiences with unusual behaviors that hurt themselves, others, society, or all three.

One of his favorite metaphors is the 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.

So we attempt to fill our existential vacuums with “stuff” that, because it provides some satisfaction, we hope will provide ultimate satisfaction as well:  We might try to fill our lives with pleasure, eating beyond all necessity, having promiscuous sex, living “the high life;” or we might seek power, especially the power represented by monetary success; or we might fill our lives with “busy-ness,” conformity, conventionality; or we might fill the vacuum with anger and hatred and spend our days attempting to destroy what we think is hurting us.  We might also fill our lives with certain neurotic “vicious cycles,” such as obsession with germs and cleanliness, or fear-driven obsession with a phobic object.  The defining quality of these vicious cycles is that, whatever we do, it is never enough.

These neurotic vicious cycles are founded on something Frankl refers to as anticipatory anxiety:  Someone may be so afraid of getting certain anxiety-related symptoms that getting those symptoms becomes inevitable.  The anticipatory anxiety causes the very thing that is feared!  Test anxiety is an obvious example:  If you are afraid of doing poorly on tests, the anxiety will prevent you from doing well on the test, leading you to be afraid of tests, and so on.

A similar idea is hyper intention.  This is a matter of trying too hard, which itself prevents you from succeeding at something.  One of the most common examples is insomnia:  Many people, when they can’t sleep, continue to try to fall asleep, using every method in the book.  Of course, trying to sleep itself prevents sleep, so the cycle continues.  Another example is the way so many of us today feel we must be exceptional lovers:  Men feel they must “last” as long as possible, and women feel obliged to not only have orgasms, but to have multiple orgasms, and so on.  Too much concern in this regard, of course, leads to an inability to relax and enjoy oneself!

A third variation is hyper reflection.  In this case it is a matter of “thinking too hard.”  Sometimes we expect something to happen, so it does, simply because its occurrence is strongly tied to one’s beliefs or attitudes – the self-fulfilling prophecy.  Frankl mentions a woman who had had bad sexual experiences in childhood but who had nevertheless developed a strong and healthy personality.  When she became familiar with psychological literature suggesting that such experiences should leave one with an inability to enjoy sexual relations, she began having such problems!

His understanding of the existential vacuum goes back to his experiences in the Nazi death  camps.  As the day-to-day things that offer people a sense of meaning – work, family, the small pleasures of life – were taken from a prisoner, his future would seem to disappear.  Man, says Frankl, “can only live by looking to the future.” (1963 , p. 115)  “The prisoner who had lost faith in the future — his future — was doomed.” (1963, p. 117)

While few people seeking psychological help today are suffering the extremes of the concentration camp, Frankl feels that the problems caused by the existential vacuum are not only common, but rapidly spreading throughout society.  He points out the ubiquitous complaint of a “feeling of futility,” which he also refers to as the abyss experience.

Even the political and economic extremes of today’s world can be seen as the reverberations of futility:  We seem to be caught between the automaton conformity of western consumer culture and totalitarianism in its communist, fascist, and theocratic flavors.  Hiding in mass society, or hiding in authoritarianism – either direction caters to the person who wishes to deny the emptiness of his or her life.

Frankl calls depression, addiction, and aggression the mass neurotic triad.  He refers to research that shows a strong relationship between meaninglessness (as measured by “purpose in life” tests) and such behaviors as criminality and involvement with drugs.  He warns us that violence, drug use, and other negative behaviors, demonstrated daily on television, in movies, even in music, only convinces the meaning-hungry that their lives can improve by imitation of their “heroes.”  Even sports, he suggests, only encourage aggression.


Frankl gives us details as to the origin of a variety of psychopathologies.  For example, various anxiety neuroses are seen as founded on existential anxiety – “the sting of conscience.”  (1973, p. 179)  The individual, not understanding that his anxiety is due to his sense of unfulfilled responsibility and a lack of meaning, takes that anxiety and focuses it upon some problematic detail of life.  The hypochondriac, for example, focuses his anxiety on some horrible disease; the phobic focuses on some object that has caused him concern in the past; the agoraphobic sees her anxiety as coming from the world outside her door; the patient with stage fright or speech anxiety focuses on the stage or the podium.  The anxiety neurotic thus makes sense of his or her discomfort with life.

He notes, that “Sometimes, but not always, it (the neurosis) serves to tyrannize a member of the family or is used to justify oneself to others or to the self…” (1973, p. 181) but warns that this is, as others have noted as well, secondary to the deeper issues.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder works in a similar fashion.  The obsessive-compulsive person is lacking the sense of completion that most people have.  Most of us are satisfied with near certainty about, for example, a simple task like locking one’s door at night; the obsessive-compulsive requires a perfect certainty that is, ultimately, unattainable.  Because perfection in all things is, even for the obsessive-compulsive, an impossibility, he or she focuses attention on some domain in life that has caused difficulties in the past.

The therapist should attempt to help the patient to relax and not fight the tendencies to repeat thoughts and actions.  Further, the patient needs to come to recognize his temperamental inclinations towards perfection as fate and learn to accept at least a small degree of uncertainty.  But ultimately, the obsessive-compulsive, and the anxiety neurotic as well, must find meaning.  “As soon as life’s fullness of meaning is rediscovered, the neurotic anxiety… no longer has anything to fasten on.” (1973, p. 182)

Like most existential psychologists, Frankl acknowledges the importance of genetic and physiological factors on psychopathology.  He sees depression, for example, as founded in a “vital low,” i.e. a diminishment of physical energy.  On the psychological level, he relates depression to the feelings of inadequacy we feel when we are confronted by tasks that are beyond our capacities, physical or mental.

On the spiritual level, Frankl views depression as “tension between what the person is and what he ought to be.” (1973, p. 202)  The person’s goals seem unreachable to him, and he loses a sense of his own future.  Over time, he becomes disgusted at himself and projects that disgust onto others or even humanity in general.  The ever-present gap between what is and what should be becomes a “gaping abyss.”  (1973, p. 202)

Schizophrenia is also understood by Frankl as rooted in a physiological dysfunction, in this case one which leads to the person experiencing himself as an object rather than a subject.

Most of us, when we have thoughts, recognize them as coming from within our own minds.  We “own” them, as modern jargon puts it.  The schizophrenic, for reasons still not understood, is forced to  take a passive perspective on those thoughts, and perceives them as voices.  And he may watch himself and distrust himself — which he experiences passively, as being watched and persecuted.

Frankl believes that this passivity is rooted in an exaggerated tendency to self-observation.  It is as if there were a separation of the self as viewer and the self as viewed.  The viewing self, devoid of content, seems barely real, while the viewed self seems alien.

Although logo therapy was not designed to deal with severe psychoses, Frankl nevertheless feels that it can help:  By teaching the schizophrenic to ignore the voices and stop the constant self-observation, while simultaneously leading him or her towards meaningful activity, the therapist may be able to short-circuit the vicious cycle.

Finding meaning

So how do we find meaning?  Frankl discusses three broad approaches.  The first is through experiential values, that is, by experiencing something – or someone – we value.  This can include Maslow’s peak experiences and esthetic experiences such as viewing great art or natural wonders.

The most important example of experiential values is the love we feel towards another.  Through our love, we can enable our beloved to develop meaning, and by doing so, we develop meaning ourselves!  Love, he says, “is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.”  (1963, pp. 58-59)

Frankl points out that, in modern society, many confuse sex with love.  Without love, he says, sex is nothing more than masturbation, and the other is nothing more than a tool to be used, a means to an end.  Sex can only be fully enjoyed as the physical expression of love.

Love is the recognition of the uniqueness of the other as an individual, with an intuitive understanding  of their full potential as human beings.  Frankl believes this is only possible within monogamous relationships.  As long as partners are interchangeable, they remain objects.

A second means of discovering meaning is through creative values, by “doing a deed,” as he puts it.  This is the traditional existential idea of providing oneself with meaning by becoming involved in one’s projects, or, better, in the project of one’s own life.  It includes the creativity involved in art, music, writing, invention, and so on.

Frankl views creativity (as well as love) as a function of the spiritual unconscious, that is, the conscience.  The irrationality of artistic production is the same as the intuition that allows us to recognize the good.  He provides us with an interesting example:

We know a case in which a violinist always tried to play as consciously as possible.  From putting his violin in place on his shoulder to the most trifling technical detail, he wanted to do everything consciously, to perform in full self-reflection.  This led to a complete artistic breakdown….  Treatment had to give back to the patient his trust in the unconscious, by having him realize how much more musical his unconscious was than his conscious.  (1975, p. 38)

The third means of finding meaning is one few people besides Frankl talk about: attitudinal values.  Attitudinal values include such virtues as compassion, bravery, a good sense of humor, and so on.  But Frankl’s most famous example is achieving meaning by way of suffering.

He gives an example concerning one of his clients:  A doctor whose wife had died mourned her terribly.  Frankl asked him, “if you had died first, what would it have been like for her?”  The doctor answered that it would have been incredibly difficult for her.  Frankl then pointed out that, by her dying first, she had been spared that suffering, but that now he had to pay the price by surviving and mourning her.  In other words, grief is the price we pay for love.  For the doctor, this thought gave his wife’s death and his own pain meaning, which in turn allowed him to deal with it.  His suffering becomes something more: With meaning, suffering can be endured with dignity.

Frankl also notes that seriously ill people are not often given an opportunity to suffer bravely, and thereby retain some dignity.  Cheer up! we say.  Be optimistic!  Often, they are made to feel ashamed of their pain and unhappiness.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, he says this:  “…everything can be taken from a man but one thing:  the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  (1963, p. 104)


Ultimately, however, experiential, creative, and attitudinal values are merely surface manifestations of something much more fundamental, which he calls supra-meaning or transcendence.  Here we see Frankl’s religious bent:  Suprameaning is the idea that there is, in fact, ultimate meaning in life, meaning that is not dependent on others, on our projects, or even on our dignity.  It is a reference to God and spiritual meaning.

This sets Frankl’s existentialism apart from the existentialism of someone like Jean Paul Sartre.  Sartre and other atheistic existentialists suggest that life is ultimately meaningless, and we must find the courage to face that meaninglessness.  Sartre says we must learn to endure ultimate meaninglessness; Frankl instead says that we need to learn to endure our inability to fully comprehend ultimate meaningfulness, for “Logos is deeper than logic.”

Again, it was his experiences in the death camps that led him to these conclusions:  “In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen….  They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (1963, p. 56)  This certainly does contrast with Sigmund Freud’s perspective, as expressed in The Future of an Illusion: “Religion is the universal compulsive neurosis of mankind….”  (quoted in 1975, p. 69)

It should be understood that Frankl’s ideas about religion and spirituality are considerably broader than most.  His God is not the God of the narrow mind, not the God of one denomination or another.  It is not even the God of institutional religion.   God is very much a God of the inner human being, a God of the heart.  Even the atheist or the agnostic, he points out, may accept the idea of transcendence without making use of the word “God.”  Allow me to let Frankl speak for himself:

This unconscious religiousness, revealed by our phenomenological analysis, is to be understood as a latent relation to transcendence inherent in man.  If one prefers, he might conceive of this relation in terms of a relationship between the immanent self and a transcendent thou.  However one wishes to formulate it, we are confronted with what I should like to term “the transcendent unconscious.  This concept means no more or less than that man has always stood in an intentional relation to transcendence, even if only on an unconscious level.  If one calls the intentional referent of such an unconscious relation “God,” it is apt to speak of an “unconscious God.”  (1975, pp. 61-62)

It must also be understood that this “unconscious God” is not anything like the archetypes Jung talks about.  This God is clearly transcendent, and yet profoundly personal.  He is there, according to Frankl, within each of us, and it is merely a matter of our acknowledging that presence that will bring us to suprameaning.  On the other hand, turning away from God is the ultimate source of all the ills we have already discussed.:  “…(O)nce the angel in us is repressed, he turns into a demon.”  (1975, p. 70)


Viktor Frankl is nearly as well known for certain clinical details of his approach as for his overall theory.  The first of these details is a technique known as paradoxical intention, which is useful in breaking down the neurotic vicious cycles brought on by anticipatory anxiety and hyper intention.

Paradoxical intention is a matter of wishing the very thing you are afraid of.  A young man who sweated profusely whenever he was in social situations was told by Frankl to wish to sweat.  “I only sweated out a quart before, but now I’m going to pour at least ten quarts!” (1973, p. 223) was among his instructions.  Of course, when it came down to it, the young man couldn’t do it.  The absurdity of the task broke the vicious cycle.

The capacity human beings have of taking an objective stance towards their own life, or stepping outside themselves, is the basis, Frankl tells us, for humor.  And, as he noted in the camps, “Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.”  (1963, p. 68)

Another example concerns sleep problems:  If you suffer from insomnia, according to Frankl, don’t spend the night tossing and turning and trying to sleep.  Get up!  Try to stay up as long as you can!  Over time, you’ll find yourself gratefully crawling back into bed.

A second technique is called dereliction.  Frankl believes that many problems stem from an overemphasis on oneself.  By shifting attention away from oneself and onto others, problems often disappear.  If, for example, you have difficulties with sex, try to satisfy your partner without seeking your own gratification.  Concerns over erections and orgasms disappear — and satisfaction reappears!  Or don’t try to satisfy anyone at all.  Many sex therapists suggest that a couple do nothing but “pet,” avoiding orgasms “at all costs.”  These couples often find they can barely last the evening before what they had previously had difficulties with simply happens!

Frankl insists that, in today’s world, there is far too much emphasis on self reflection.  Since Freud, we have been encouraged to look into ourselves, to dig out our deepest motivations.  Frankl even refers to this tendency as our “collective obsessive neurosis.” (1975, p. 95) Focusing on ourselves this way actually serves to turn us away from meaning!

For all the interest these techniques have aroused, Frankl insists that, ultimately, the problems these people face are a matter of their need for meaning.  So, although these and other techniques are a fine beginning to therapy, they are not by any means the goal.

Perhaps the most significant task for the therapist is to assist the client in rediscovering the latent religiousness that Frankl believes exists in each of us.  This cannot be pushed, however: “Genuine religiousness must unfold in its own time.  Never can anyone be forced to it.”  (1975, p. 72)  The therapist must allow the patient to discover his or her own meanings.

“(H)uman existence — at least as long as it has not been neurotically distorted — is always directed to something, or someone, other than itself – be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter lovingly.” (1975, p. 78)  Frankl calls this self-transcendence, and contrasts it with self-actualization as Maslow uses the term.  Self-actualization, even pleasure and happiness, are side-effects of self-transcendence and the discovery of meaning.  He quotes Albert Schweitzer: “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”  (Quoted in 1975, p. 85)

In conclusion

Even if you (like me) are not of a religious inclination, it is difficult to ignore Frankl’s message:  There exists, beyond instincts and “selfish genes,” beyond classical and operant conditioning, beyond the imperatives of biology and culture, a special something, uniquely human, uniquely personal.  For much of psychology’s history, we have, in the name of science, tried to eliminate the “soul” from our professional vocabularies.  But perhaps it is time to follow Frankl’s lead and reverse the years of reductionism.

Man search for meaning

A miserable thought

What the Best CEOs Know

Leadership Strategies and Secrets of Seven Extraordinarily Successful CEOs

What the Best CEOs Know looks at the careers of this generation’s top CEOs, examining the beliefs and actions that propelled each to the top of the corporate world. By exploring what they did, why they did it, and what might have happened had they done it differently, this remarkable book turns the wisdom, strategies, and tactics of these business-world icons into a step-by-step handbook for the pursuit and achievement of breakthrough corporate leadership–at any level, in any industry.

Michael Dell … Bill Gates … Lou Gerstner … Andy Grove … Herb Kelleher … Sam Walton … Jack Welch …

What the Best CEOs Know
goes beyond theory and guesswork to look at how seven contemporary business icons carved their own paths to the pinnacles of corporate achievement. This no-nonsense guide isolates and examines the specific skills and styles that contributed to each CEO’s well-documented achievements. Its straightforward, sometimes startling, but always battle-tested guidelines for achievement include:

  • How Bill Gates trusted the instincts of his employees and successfully transformed Microsoft into a leading Web driver and innovator
  • How Andy Grove fostered awareness in his troops–what he calls paranoia–to sense threats and turn them to Intel’s competitive advantage
  • How Michael Dell created a computer juggernaut by placing customers at the epicenter of his enterprise
  • How Jack Welch created a learning infrastructure, aligning rewards with results to make GE an organization that harnessed the ideas and intellect of every employee
  • Herb Kelleher’s rules for creating an exceptional small company culture, even as Southwest grew to more than 30,000 employees

Along with subject interviews and expert analyses, What the Best CEOs Know features interactive What Would (the CEO) Do? case studies, Assessing Your CEO Quotient self-tests, and other innovative features to help you apply these traits and strategies to your own career. Contributions from CEOs and leading business theorists, including Philip Kotler, examine the CEOs from different viewpoints and add insights to particular concepts. Each chapter concludes with additional suggestions for adapting and implementing industry-specific ideas to improve your own organization.

Bestselling business author Jeffrey Krames is renowned for identifying the essence of leadership and communicating it in terms that are easy to both understand and apply. In What the Best CEOs Know, he reveals the defining traits, strategies, and accomplishments of today’s captains of corporate innovation–and delivers a vastly entertaining yet comprehensively researched framework for breakthrough success in virtually any industry or environment.

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family’s long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.

In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.

In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, “l Have a Dream”, he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.

Mahatma Gandhi : Film : MAHATMA – Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

Mahatma Gandhi : Film : MAHATMA – Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948 (5hrs 10min)

4:39:35 – 4 years ago

This is a 5 hrs. 10 min. documentary biography of Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi. All events and principles of Gandhi’s life and thought are viewed as integrated parts of his truth-intoxicated life depicting permanent and universal values. The purpose of the film is to tell the present and the future generations “that such a man as Gandhi in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”, to acquaint them with his life and work and to spread his message of peace and universal brotherhood to the war-weary and fear-stricken world. The film brings together a mass of visual record not only of 78-year life of Gandhi but also of an important period of India’s history. The aim of the film being education and not entertainment, there is no attempt at dramatization of those exciting times. The story is told with an eye to truthful documentation of the main events within the limits of available documentary visual material… Read more about the film:

Film id: mahatma_full_640x480 Courtesy: GandhiServe Foundation – Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service,

For personal, institutional and commercial use contact:

This is a 5 hrs. 10 min. documentary biography of Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi. All events and principles of Gandhi’s life and thought are viewed as integrated parts of his truth-intoxicated life depicting permanent and universal values. The purpose of the film is to tell the present and the future generations “that such a man as Gandhi in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”, to acquaint them with his life and work and to spread his message of peace and universal brotherhood to the war-weary and fear-stricken world. The film brings together a mass of visual record not only of 78-year life of Gandhi but also of an important period of India’s history. The aim of the film being education and not entertainment, there is no attempt at dramatization of those exciting times. The story is told with an eye to truthful documentation of the main events within the limits of available documentary visual material… Read more about the film:

Film id: mahatma_full_640x480 …all » This is a 5 hrs. 10 min. documentary biography of Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi. All events and principles of Gandhi’s life and thought are viewed as integrated parts of his truth-intoxicated life depicting permanent and universal values. The purpose of the film is to tell the present and the future generations “that such a man as Gandhi in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”, to acquaint them with his life and work and to spread his message of peace and universal brotherhood to the war-weary and fear-stricken world. The film brings together a mass of visual record not only of 78-year life of Gandhi but also of an important period of India’s history. The aim of the film being education and not entertainment, there is no attempt at dramatization of those exciting times. The story is told with an eye to truthful documentation of the main events within the limits of available documentary visual material… Read more about the film:

Film id: mahatma_full_640x480 Courtesy: GandhiServe Foundation – Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service,

For personal, institutional and commercial use contact: