Viktor & I

Filmmaker Alexander Vesely (grandson of Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”), traveled around the world to interview former friends and colleagues of his world renowned grandfather. His aim was to get a personal view on Frankl, and discover how Frankl’s theories are connected to him as a person. The result of his efforts is a one hour documentary film that for the first time gives a unique and personal look at Viktor Frankl. Read more



"The task varies not only from person to person – in accord with the uniqueness of each person, but also from hour to hour, in accord with the singularity of every situation."
(Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul, page 67)

In our new series #valuable-insights logotherapeutic consultants and logotherapists offer valuable, spiritual thoughts to hold on to while dealing with the challenging situation that life has fatefully placed us in. We will accompany you in the coming weeks with encouraging and uplifting insights based on Viktor E. Frankl’s thoughts on meaning. #valuable-insights offers a space for different thoughts that will help us to focus on what’s still intact during these difficult days.

#valuable-insights (No. 24): Salvation
Where there is danger, there is also the one who saves.(Friedrich Hölderlin)

Sigrid ObermairThe image of a coastal landscape on the Italian Riviera, on the horizon the ridges of three islands, which (can be only seen) only show themselves in the clarity on the morning after stormy days, reminds me of a realization by Viktor E. Frankl: "Suffering makes people clairvoyant and the world transparent" wrote Frankl.
Sometimes we are also in the need of stormy days, times of crisis, what enables us to clarify something with ourselves and let ourselves realize to see what the most important is for us.
This knowledge helps me not to distract myself, but - despite the strength of the storm - to withstand them. The gift will be the clear view to my "islands" and to what carries and holds me.  (Sigrid, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN, coach, trainer, art and culture manager)

#valuable-insights (No. 23): Mindfulness
Life has and retains ist meaning under all circumstances.(after Viktor E. Frankl)

COVID-19 has led many people into temporary social isolation and loneliness. Many people have been in this situation in the time before already. Many of them are still there despite the reductions of measures and budding attitude to life.
What can we do as a society against it? Or in other words – How can each individual counteract the loneliness of our fellow human beings?
Perhaps surprisingly bringing a flower greeting to the elderly lady next door and asking her how she is feeling? Say a few words of encouragement to the gentleman who bravely tortures himself with his walker over the edge of the pavement every day? Give a spontaneous smile to a person with a concerned expression on the street or offer help?
More than ever we are called upon to be mindful and to give hope and confidence to those around us. (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and lawyer)

#valuable-insights (No. 22): Fate
"The man who believes his fate is sealed is incapable of repealing it."
(Viktor E. Frankl)

These days I find myself again and again in deep mental valleys. Where in the psyche narrowness, heaviness and grief want to become widespread and the body reacts with tensions, sweating and states of fear. I like the line about the "courage to be happy" in a Viennese song sung by the ‑Strottern. It tells about the ‑ Yes to Life - in Spite of Everything. Courage as a decision, courage as an attitude, because the perspective on a thing can be turned and rotated. In spite of everything stay upright and do your own thing. Distance yourself with humor, when things get too much. Always look for this IN SPITE OF THIS. It works! It´s daily practice to get into this attitude. It remains a struggle. We are in demand. These days in particular. (Johanna, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and assistant)

#valuable-insights (No. 21): Being Human
“It is life itself that asks questions of man. It is not up to man to question; rather, he should recognize that he is questioned, questioned by life; he has to respond by being responsible.” (Viktor E. Frankl)

Faster and faster, further and further, higher and higher, more and more, there seems to be no upper limit – we have been living above the limit, above our stress levels for a long time. Now a tiny invisible virus forced us to pause. Let us take this break as a gift! Let’s go outside into the nature and reflect on the strength within ourselves and our connection with the “big picture” by “feeling to the inside”. Exhale and weigh what really counts and bears in life: solidarity, cohesion, neighborhood help, empathy: aren't these the values that make up our BEING human or do we want to keep running  after HAVING as a supposedly fundamental value? (Angelika, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and coach)

#valuable-insights (No. 20): Opportunities
"How often are the ruins the only view of the sky" (Viktor E. Frankl)

Such kind of breakdown can be a great opportunity for us! It takes us out of our comfort zone, wakes us up from our inertia and activates our creativity! Change can arise from an emergency situation because man is oriented towards development. Let us make use of this standstill!  Let us ask ourselves how we want to shape our lives from now on? What can we learn from this situation? Everything has a second side! Isn’t it time to put the human being in the center of attention? Have the courage to burst the bubble of ruthless greed for profit, to dare a breakdown, to admit a failure that opens a big door to a new world of humaneness and to all-embracing love. Each of us can ask himself the question: Do I want to go on living the way I do? The virus gives us the opportunity to discover our uniqueness within ourselves. Let us take this opportunity! (Angelika, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN, consultant and trainer)

#valuable-insights (No. 19): Tragic Optimism
“The last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  (Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)

Especially during those weird days Viktor E. Frankl opens his treasure chest of the human wisdom for us. His concept of “tragic optimism”, that even in painful situations of our lives there is a deeper, higher meaning hidden (even if the limited capacity of human understanding cannot recognize its meaning)  and that man has always the possibility, the mission, to wrestle the hidden optimum out of these situations, offers us a wonderful guidance to pass through difficult times well.
To face the reality, to accept suffering and loss, to bow (and to appreciate it as a personal achievement!), to make use of your freedom, to turn the attention to what remained “heal” and to the gifts of life, gratitude – and to keep up belief in a deeper, hidden meaning…
(Petra K., meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)

#valuable-insights (No. 18): Every Life Counts
„From all this we may learn that there are two races of men in this world, but only these two - the "race" of the decent man and the "race" of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people. In this sense, no group is of "pure race" (Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning)

The recent news from the USA has touched us deeply in the last few days. Pictures of excessive violence and brutality shock us. We are quickly tempted to blame whole groups of people. But this does not do justice to man, because each person always has the possibility to decide in freedom WHO he wants to be. The little stories are the once that give hope and show us what man is capable of.

A Police officer, who joins a march in solidarity. A 16-year old boy who helps peacefully end protests. People who have decided to act in a peace-fostering manner regardless of whether they are seen or not. The own attitude counts. #EveryLifeCounts (Elisabeth, logotherapist in training)

#valuable-insights (No. 17): Hope
„But the ego can become an ego only through a Thou“ (Viktor E. Frankl, Will to Meaning)

Today I`ve called a distant aunt after 20 years of "silence" - AND IT WAS GOOD. The initial distance (in space and time) was of course noticeable and there was also a certain skepticism in her voice – until she anxiously asked if something had happened ...
The consequence was a short pause on my part – what had really happened? Nothing! I just did it – I looked up her number and called her immediately. It was a very nice conversation, not very long, but very pleasant. What has kept me from taking this small step for so many years – and made it possible right now? And: Couldn't much more of what has not been possible for years become true? I am filled with hope. (Jutta, meaning-oriented consultant of VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and office worker)

#valuable-insights (No. 16): What does this situation ask me to do?
„There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

With this quote from Nietzsche I began my closing speech at the VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM in January 2020.
Especially in these days it reminds me that everyone has to go his or her unique way, even if life puts obstacles in the way that are sometimes incomprehensible. It’s now more and more important to BOW ONESELF TO THE MYSTERY. Remain in faith in a higher, often intangible meaning and ask yourself the question: What does this situation ask me to do? (Melanie, meaning-oriented consultant of VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN & holistic health consultant)

#valuable-insights (No. 15): Monument
"Each deed is its own monument"
(Viktor E. Frankl)

Days of humanity are required. A togetherness instead of going it alone, a for each other instead of against each other. Cohesion for a common goal. On the paths of life each of us is not a uniform cobblestone, but rather a piece of a puzzle – unique and irreplaceable in a big picture. Each of us makes his contribution – is now setting his monument  – it should shine, shouldn’t it? (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)

#valuable-insights (No. 14): Joy
Joy is always preceded by renunciation. (after Elizabeth Lukas)

This quote accompanies me in this special time and allows me to experience various things in an especially joyful way. Things that I probably took for granted too much in the time before: I don't have to live in a war zone,  I have a roof over my head, I don't have to starve, I can bear the current financial losses well because of my savings - and there is much more. I am especially grateful for the emergency stop that has come into my life. It shows me, how much of what I would have thought is completely impossible just a short time ago, is possible – how much despite of everything I could be the creator of my life - AND I CAN!
(Imma, doctor and meaning-oriented consultant according to VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)


#valuable-insights (No. 13): About patience

Slowly we are getting impatient. Various questions are permanently dominating the media: How long will this virus stay in our mind? What are the longer-term consequences?What will our summer look like? Will we be allowed to go on holiday? Will we be able to  celebrate planned parties of any kind? Worldwide we miss concrete answers and that makes us feel insecure.
Let us use this uncertainty as an opportunity. Let us free ourselves inwardly from these questions and dependencies. Let‘s practice patience in order to remain open and wide for life as it comes. (Petra, meaning-oriented consultant of VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and quality manager in the health care system)

Just like Rainer Maria Rilke says: "I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." by Rainer Maria Rilke, Viareggio near Pisa (Italy), on 23 April 1903; Letters to a young Poet

#valuable-insights (No. 12): Set sail
"The ship sails the way you set the sails and not the way the wind blows" (Logo-Education in the crisis prevention, module 2, p.46)

Not always blows a gentle breeze, swings the ship evenly on the waves and the sun does not always glitter on the surface of the water. From time to time a strong headwind blows, the ship sometimes gets into a tilt and the water whips you unkindly in the face.
Whether your life is like one scenario or the other at the moment, stay alert on board, hold the wheel firmly in your hand and set your own course steadfastly. Because at some point there is always land in sight. (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant of VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)

#valuable-insights (No. 11): Feedom
Freedom is not something we `have´ and therefore can lose; freedom is what we `are´."
(Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy)

Are we currently trapped and locked up or are we still free? Our spiritual freedom is and remains untouched. Our loving and strengthening thoughts are free, they change from person-to-person. Through our spiritual presence we always have the ability to give each other strength and to be a saving anchor. Through our spiritual presence, we always have the ability to give each other strength and to be a saving anchor. (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and lawyer)

#valuable-insights (No. 10): To have and to be
All having is losable, all being is captive. (after Elisabeth Lukas)

Challenges of life can be perceived as a threat to our existence. The question arises whether in case of the loss of all belongings, existence as such is actually threatened. Isn’t there nothing more than our possessions? Isn’t there nothing more than what we own? Do we really define our existence only through our acquired goods? Each of us is unique, matchless and irreplaceable. We will remain so for all time. (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)

#valuable-insights (No. 9): Abundance of values
“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.” (Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha)

When fateful events occur, one cannot really prepare for them. Suddenly we are confronted with facts that strongly influence our everyday life, our habits and our relationships. I miss the tender contact with my three grandchildren. Celebrating easter without family would have been unimaginable a few weeks ago. Nevertheless I become aware of the valuable things in my life:

  • the hope that sustains me...
  • Love, which now takes on so many different forms of expression
  • Joy about the helpfulness, about moving together, about kind words, about experiencing authentic community
  • Gratitude, because nothing can be taken for granted, especially not that so many people risk their health to be there for us
  • Time for what really matters: pause, mindfulness and even more turning to „YOU”.

This abundance of values protects me. "A human who feels secure has no need for a lot of things." (Elisabeth Lukas) (Michaela, meaning-oriented consultant, teaching in adult education, pedagogue)

#valuable-insights (No. 8): One humanity

... two humanities, three humanities, four... STOP! No, there is only one humanity - and this word only exists in singular: Frankl calls this phenomenon monanthropism. The coronavirus made us aware of it: One humanity - one world- one danger- one solution! Every human being is a part of this humanity, equal in dignity by his unique becoming, by his unique existence, by his personal decisions and attitudes. In this way, every human being works in the world and thus bears responsibility for himself and for humanity. You are an essential part of the whole – take responsibility in your area for the benefit of mankind! (Heidemarie, Educator and Director of the VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)

#valuable-insights (No. 7): be proactive
"It is not enough for our ears to be satisfiedfor our eyes to be satisfied; our hearts must be touched and our hands and feet must move." (Mahatma. Ghandi)

Life challenges us to become active - not merely re-acting, but rather be pro-active. We are thrown back by the current situation to the essential, to what really counts in life and a precious gift is to us. By the current situation we are thrown back to the essential, to what really counts in life and a precious gift is to us. Every personal commitment is worthwhile. (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)

#valuable-insights (No. 6): Change
“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become  the next moment.”  (Viktor Emil Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning)
Life is constantly changing. At this moment, however, for many of us on an unfamiliar scale. This can trigger feelings that “no stone is left unturned.” Change challenges us to leave our familiar paths and to strike out on new ones. But this also means a chance that must be seized. We have the opportunity to grasp the meaning of the moment and to realize the most meaningful for us and our environment. (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and lawyer)

#valuable-insights (No. 5): Gratitude
"There is no human life where you cannot find a reason for joy .The art lies in perceiving these occasions with an alert mind consciously, our daily life is full of it."
(Elisabeth Lukas, translated freely)
I lean back and close my eyes.  Pictures arise in my head : roaring surf. Melody in my ears: the sound of the sea. Feelings on my skin: the salty seawater. Just now I am mentally bringing these pictures into my mind and feel gratitude for experienced moments of joy and happiness. Deep satisfaction fills me. Everything in life is a gift. Every one of us has special places that we can visit with our thoughts. Let's keep these sources of power present and draw a life energy from them just now! (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant after VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and lawyer)

#valuable-insights (No. 4): Value

“There is a value in every lament” - this thought from Elisabeth Lukas has accompanied me since the Corona crisis started. The laments vary from too little work to too much, from too little silence to too much. It takes me some time before I realize the common value that unites these laments: It’s the FREEDOM! Yet noetic freedom is deeply rooted in our human existence. So I decide of my own free will to focus on the fullness of values: Instead of the loss of diverse possibilities I choose the gain of the unique situation. To be free means to take responsibility for the meaning of the moment. (Daniela, meaning-oriented consultant from the VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)

#valuable-insights (No. 3): What affords you a break in order to keep your composure?
"Freedom is not something we `have´ and therefore can lose; freedom is what we `are´."
(Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy)

The significance of any given moment is always unique, the source of power is also always unique. When being together with others gets too much, I like to listen to music. It varies from soft reggae to wild rock songs, from groovy jazz to Beethoven. I choose consciously and listen more carefully than before to the words text and nuances. Music provides me with an incredible sense of comfort, because it is able to unite mankind. At the moment the world stands culturally "open" to us through? the web.
From the bottom of my heart I hope you are able to take a few minutes each day to fill yourself up in order to meet the demands of this trying time with calm and composure. (Roswitha, logotherapist in training under supervisionand certified midwife)

#valuable-insights (No. 2): Be yourself…
"Be yourself the change you wish for this world." (Mahatma Gandhi)

Your blood pressure rises, your nerves are on edge and you are on the verge of an emotional meltdown. In recent days our ability to suffer and bring about peace have been sorely taxed. That is a very human response/ We are only human. But are we entirely at the mercy of these emotions? Must we give free rein to aggression and thus set chains of suffering in motion? Is it really an "I can't help it" situation? That doesn’t reflect the human spirit. We're not some kind of black box which everything passes unfiltered. Let's find ways to bring peace to the people around us. Right now. Start today - give someone a smile! (Kathrin, meaning-oriented consultant from the VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN and lawyer)

#valuable-insights (No. 1): "To be loved is a gift, loving is a task" (Heidemarie Zürner)

Grandparents are in demand today as never before - not with their physical presence, but with their voluntary renunciation of it! Namely the renunciation of contact with their grandchildren out of love and a sense of responsibility towards them and their parents! Our grandchildren are dear to our hearts and we want to accompany, protect and care for them in the best way possible. A wonderful task, which sometimes asks us to do precisely what hurts us the most! But renouncement out of love is our strongest motivation, that's why we manage to do it and live through it! This year there might be letters, Skype-meetings and hand-made things from Grandma and Grandpa, with the encouraging feeling that the family ties are strengthened by the virus! And our grandchildren will be able to view such cool grandparents as artists of life – and can hold on to them as role models perhaps when they themselves are challenged one day. (Johanna, DGKS & Logotherapist)


Recommended reading:

The Corona Crisis affects every one of us. Nearly everyone is touched by a loss.  Everyone is faced with different challenges. Feelings like anxiety, helplessness and grief are increasing. Can we find meaning despite this crisis?  “How, to pose the question differently, can life retain its potential meaning in spite of its tragic aspects?” (Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p.137) Yes, it can. Viktor Frankl “presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive.” (Viktor E. Frankl, p.137)
We cannot stop or change the crisis, but we can turn our suffering into a human accomplishment. In Logotherapy we call it the “tragic optimism”. In other words, what matters is to make the best of any given situation – an optimism in the face of tragedy. Yet what does doing one's best look like? Giving my best possible response for me and my personal environment given the current situation.Asking: Which personal skills do I have? What are my personal strengths? Which possibilities do I have? How can I bring "rays of hope" into our lives? What do I want to realize? What kind of action? What would I be sorry about not having lived, loved, decided, or formed now?
Creative ideas that are already inspiring us daily: People clapping to thank the medical staff, humorous videos on the web, handmade protective masks with a personal touch, providing help for elderly neighbours, singing artists.... This list could go on endlessly. The direct aim of all these actions is not happiness. "Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy.” (Viktor E. Frankl, p138)
Let's find a reason to become happy and not stop giving our best responses. The following article by Emily Esfahani Smith describes that believing in a meaning of life under any circumstances  and giving positive, life-affirming answers even in difficult times can protect people from psychological crisis. (By Elisabeth, Landi-Koptik, meaning-oriented consultant from the VIKTOR FRANKL ZENTRUM WIEN)

On Coronavirus Lockdown? Look for Meaning, Not Happiness
Why cultivating “tragic optimism” will help us weather this crisis — and even grow from it.

By Emily Esfahani Smith, The New York Times, 7. April 2020

The Moral Meaning of the Plague
By David Brooks, Opinion Columnist, The New York Times, 26. March 2020

CNN Health - Part 6: Entire CNN Cornonavirus Town Hall
CNN's Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta discuss the psychological impact a global pandemic has on both individuals and communities. 2. April 2020

« Back