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Meaning-Seeking, Self-Transcendence, and Well-being

Part of the Logotherapy and Existential Analysis: Proceedings of the Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna book series (LOGO EXIST,volume 1)

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to present the thesis that meaning-seeking and self-transcendence express our spiritual nature and are essential for our healing and well-being. I first introduce Viktor Frankl’s concept of the noetic dimension as our spiritual core, where we can find uniquely human qualities such as compassion, conscience, will to meaning, and self-transcendence. Will to meaning is both a primary human motivation and a human capacity to strive for something that transcends self-interest and serves the greater good. I then discuss three levels of meaning-seeking that result in self-transcendence: (1) Meaning of the moment through mindful awareness, (2) Meaning in life through the pursuit of a calling, and (3) Ultimate meaning through faith in a transcendental realm. To attain self-transcendence is to become fully human. According to Frankl’s model, most psychological disorders result from failing to meet our basic spiritual need for meaning, as a result of egotistically pursuing happiness and success based on misguided values. Paradoxically, healing and well-being, to a large extent, require a shift away from attachment to materialistic pursuits to the spiritual realm of self-detachment and self-transcendence. The essence of logotherapy is to awaken people’s sense of responsibility to fulfill a concrete meaning in their existence. Empirical evidence will be presented to support the hypothesis that the pursuit of meaning is healthier than the pursuit of personal happiness. Evidence will also be presented to demonstrate that logotherapy or meaning therapy is uniquely designed to contribute to positive mental health, especially for the chronically ill and patients in hospice and palliative care. Finally, I propose that meaning-seeking and self-transcendence provide a useful conceptual framework for Life and Death Education because such a framework is supported by not only scientific research, but also by the most influential spiritual traditions in East and West.

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Wong, P.T.P. (2016). Meaning-Seeking, Self-Transcendence, and Well-being. In: Batthyány, A. (eds) Logotherapy and Existential Analysis. Logotherapy and Existential Analysis: Proceedings of the Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna, vol 1. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29424-7_27

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