One of Viktor Frankl’s assertions about Logotherapy is that meaning must be found and not invented. Meaning is objective, as it comes through the values that call out to us for their fulfillment.
Where those values come from if they are objectively given is not an easy question to answer. Why are values even necessary in a therapeutic conversation?
I believe an approach to answering this can be found in the words of Jeffrey Grant, a prisoner who was inspired by reading Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. He said,
“Throughout history great progress and innovation has occurred at the intersection of disciplines: law and medicine, medicine and physics, physics and religion.“
Why does great progress and innovation lie at the intersection between disciplines? Imagine that you are parked at a store, tired and about to go home when a stranger comes up to you and asks for help to get a jump for his car. This happened to me. Is it a moral question? Is it a mental health question?
From a logotherapy perspective the border between psychology, religion, anthropology and philosophy is not so tight. What is the conscionable thing to do? Can it be right if it will hurt the one who is doing it?
Whether I decided to help the person or not is not the issue. The point is that whichever value called out to me more strongly in the moment determined my decision. There is mutual interaction and influence between disciplines. And it is particularly through pursuing the intersecting points that novel ideas are born.
Logotherapy is an example of an innovation that intersects disciplines. It calls other branches of psychology to task for ignoring values because values, which are usually a religious concern, are an intrinsic part of what defines us as human and as such, they impact our mental health.
To be human according to Frankl is to be conscious that one is responsible. Responsibility is a function of freedom. We are deemed responsible for our actions because we are free to make responsible choices. And our choices are a product of how conscious we are of the implications and ramifications of those choices, i.e. what makes them valuable and what makes them valueless.
The awareness of values is a product of the human conscience, which is the ability to discern meaning. Therefore, the intersection between religion (which is interested in values) and psychology (which is interested in mental health) is the capacity to recognize and act on values. Therefore, choices are never ‘just’ issues of morality or ‘just’ issues of mental health. Choices and values are the intersecting points between both.