What sets Logotherapy apart as a coaching approach is its recognition of our spirituality. Victor Frankl the author of Logotherapy, portrayed the human being as three dimensional consisting of somatic, psychic and spiritual (noetic) domains. These three dimensions penetrate each other completely and are interrelated. The somatic plane is simple to understand. It contains all our biological-physiological body functions. The psyche is seen as containing our emotional states, moods, sensations, drives, instincts, desires and passions. What makes us different from animals is our spiritual or noetic domain. This is the sphere in which resides our power to take a stand despite circumstances, our independent will, artistic interests, humour, creativity, religious and ethical sensitivities, understanding of values and ability to experience love. The spiritual domain is distinct from the psyche and the most powerful place from which to navigate through life. According to Logotherapy we take our direction from our spiritual core, and towards it. We can only fully understand our humanness when we consider the spirit. This essence that makes us human must not get entangled in the web of psychic and physical drama. From the spiritual domain we receive a calling to what is right in any given moment.
The role of the logotherapist (or coach) is to help a client uncover that spiritual voice by untangling the obstructions they put up for ourselves. Logotherapy do not disregard the psycho-social and physical dimensions, in fact it encourages us to orientate ourselves towards those domains from the vantage point of the spirit and correct a psychic dysfunction or somatic suffering. Someone who struggles with what others are thinking, is listening to the ego and matters of thoughts and emotions. Someone who is struggling with what is meaningful, is listening to a calling from the spiritual. As a forward looking approach, Logotherapy’s central premise is built on the meaning of life, the recognition of meaning as our greatest quest, and our spiritual freedom to choose. Frankl’s psychiatric credo held that the human being is always capable of making a choice.
Logotherapy recognises that every individual is unique with a unique capacity to respond to life. When coaching someone, one never knows when this awakening to meaning may happen. The coach facilitates this realisation through the astute use of the correct tools and techniques. We know not when that hour will come. One meaningful moment can retrospectively fill a whole life with meaning. Frankl was fond of saying that the major question we should ask is not “What do I want from life?” but “What is life asking of me now?” To which each us has a unique response. It is the task of the logotherapist to help clients realise the magnitude of that life task. Are we actively wanting, or passively waiting on meaning? The demand quality of life takes no prisoners. The bigger questions in life present themselves deliberately and persistently. And the style of a Logotherapy session can be equally provocative. Frankl describes the difference between psychoanalysis and Logotherapy as follows: In psychoanalysis, the client lies on a couch and speaks of things that are difficult to talk about. In Logotherapy, the client sits upright in a chair to sometimes have to hear things that are difficult to hear. Although most coaches follow a non-directive approach to coaching, provocative and confrontational questions need to be considered.
We cannot live according to our spiritual wisdom without some form of inner tension. A spiritual tension that calls us to something greater, propelling us forward. To creatively forge forward is what makes us human and to deny ourselves meaningful growth is to impose an unconscious, self-imposed state of stagnation. And when we ignore the voices of the spirit we stagnate and run the risk of slipping into depression, aggression and addiction. These three manifestations are the alarm bells of the spirit calling us back into life. This tension can originate in any of our 3 principal human domains – the somatic, the psychic or the spiritual. In the biological realm this tension can manifests itself as pain reminding us of trouble ahead. And in the psycho-spiritual realm this pain manifests itself as mental suffering or stress which is intended to guard us from apathy, from psychic rigor mortis as Frankl calls it. In the spiritual domain this tension manifests as a restlessness of the heart. When coaching with Logotherapy, one needs to recognise this tension and the anchor points from which the client can pivot into a new direction.
Essentially the quality of our participation in life is dependent on our level of spiritual awareness. The extent to which we appreciate the context within which we live will determine the extent to which we experience meaning and fulfilment. To be aware (mindful) is to be open to our responsibilities despite our circumstances. We are never free from obligations but we are always free to choose how we will engage. We get born into a sociological environment with a biological reality yet we are constantly challenged to take a stand and presented with choices of how to behave. By applying the techniques of self-distancing or de-reflection (explained in a previous article), the client will enable to recognise the call from life and become aware of his existential realities.
Sometimes clients do not see their choices and get confused between destiny and freedom. Destiny can be defined as those events that will necessarily happen of which we have no control. But our unique human ability to reason, decide and take responsibility enable us to take action which may stand diametrically opposite matters of fate. If we consider our psychological fate in particular, our spiritual attitude has free reign to adopt any attitude it chooses. We do not have to submit blindly to our psychological (or biological) fate. Fate do not determine our destiny. We have the freedom to defy and shape a future despite the realities of fate. Frankl refers to destiny and freedom in the following manner: “Freedom of the will is opposed to destiny. For what we call destiny is that which is essentially exempt from human freedom, that which lies neither within the scope of man’s power nor his responsibility.” Although the past becomes part of our destiny and what has passed is intrinsically fate, the past do not necessarily determine the future. We are free to decide how we want to walk into our future. We have freedom despite our instincts, our inherited dispositions and our environment. To be fully human means that we will always experience a slight twitch of tension and a calling to respond in a way befitting our spiritual conscience. Our biological and sociological fate is like clay which can be formed by the spiritual power of freedom of will, choice of free action, and defiant attitude to do the right thing. The task of the coach is to help the client see the difference between fate and freedom and call forward the defiant will to spiritual growth.
To fully understand the therapeutic power of Logotherapy, one must appreciate a concept called “noo-psychic antagonism”. This is the vantage point from which a coaching conversation should really be considered. Meaningful life happens at the intersection of the three domains and on authority of our spiritual calling. Our psychic and noetic (spiritual) domains do not stand side by side, but rather in a relationship which sometimes oppose. The voices of expediency are confronted by the voices of reason. This is an antagonistic power-play that has the ability to bring us to greater insights and a deeper appreciation of what is meaningful.
Elizabeth Lucas one of the foremost practitioners and students of Frankl’s Logotherapy coins an interesting concept. She refers to the sins against the human spirit and identifies four cardinal transgressions against our humanness, four distorted images. When coaching one should look out for these four “sinful isms”:
Pan-determinism. The tension between fate and freedom, and the temptation to succumb to the notion that all has already been decided. We may never be free from certain realities and obligations. But we are always free to decide how we are going to respond. Between action and reaction is a small space and in that space exist the potential to discover meaning.
Second is Psychologism. To regard a human as a cacophony of thoughts, emotions and feeling fails to recognise the power of the spirit. This view reduces a person to a susceptible psychic apparatus. The defiant power of the human spirit must not be ignored. In the psyche we may be susceptible but in the noetic we are intact, powerful, able to stand tall.
Third is reductionism. By failing to appreciate our quest for meaning, we reduce the human to a bundle of emotional and physical drives and instincts. Although we want to experience pleasure, we are ultimately orientated towards meaning with the aim of making a difference.
Collectivism is the last of the sins against our humanness. Whoever ignore the uniqueness of each individual and the singularity of the moment in which they find themselves, reduces the human to a character typical of the collective within which they stand. We are greater than the sum of our parts. We have the ability to defy our psychological, biological and sociological conditions and do what is right. We have an autonomy and the freedom to act according to the wisdom of the heart.
|Sins against the human spirit|
|Dimension of the Psyche||Dimension of the Spirit||Inappropriate attribution|
|Acceptance of Fate||Expression of Freedom||Pan-determinism|
|Susceptibility to Psychic conditions||Intactness of our defiant Spirit||Psychologism|
|Assign character traits of the collective||Recognise the unique personality that stands before you||Collectivism|
Sometimes clients lose sight of their inner knowing and spin around at the behest of feelings and emotions. As coaches we need to regard a client as what they are capable of becoming. The task of the Logotherapist (or coach) is to reconnect a client to the wisdom of their heart and orientate them towards whatever is meaningful and beautiful in their lives. Frankl suggests “it is the task of the therapist to bring the client only so far so that the client can discern his own worldview and concept of life. So that he finds a new noetic way back to life out of his own responsibility”.