The movie A Dangerous Method, which revolves around the development of psychoanalysis by two leading European doctors in the early 1900s – Jung and Freud – includes dialogue with Jung declaring that he doesn’t believe in coincidences. Well, immediately after finishing the movie, I started reading the next book in my reading queue, Man’s Search for Meaning, and discovered that the book is written by a third 20th-century European psychotherapist, Viktor Frankl. No coincidence, indeed.
A Dangerous Method (2011) depicts the turbulent relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), founder of analytical psychology and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis. To spice up the movie, Keira Knightley plays Jung’s patient-cum-colleague Sabina Spielrein. Unfortunately, Knightley’s rough-sex scenes with Jung seem gratuitous to an otherwise dry storyline that consists primarily of Freud arguing that sex is the key to understanding all neuroses while Jung counters that therapy can and should do more than just understand neuroses. The Rotten Tomato critics seemed to have enjoyed the argument (77%), but the audience not as much (50%). I agree with the audience and give the movie two stars out of four.
Man’s Search for Meaning was written by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl in 1946. The first half of the book describes life in a concentration camp and the second half describes Frankl’s logotherapy, which is considered the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy,” after Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology.
Logotherapy posits that humans are motivated not by Nietzsche’s will to power nor by Freud’s will to pleasure, but rather by Kierkegaard’s will to meaning – i.e., the striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary, most powerful driving force in humans. Logotherapy focuses on envisioning an individual’s future instead of trying to understand his past.
Sources of meaning:
- By creating a work or doing a deed (achievement or accomplishment)
- By experiencing something (nature, culture) or encountering (loving) someone
- By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering
The first two ways to find meaning in life seem intuitive, but the last one is a surprise and apparently is prompted by the author’s stay at German concentration camps – i.e., a helpless victim in a hopeless situation. For now, I am happy to focus on the first two ways, but one never knows what is just around the next corner in our journey of life.