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Dr Viktor Frankl

A psychologist

Dr Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor, an educator a physician, an Austrian neurologist, and psychiatrist. He was also the founder of logotherapy, otherwise known as a form of existential analysis. He authored a best-selling book titled Man’s Search for Meaning, which was published in 1946 under the name Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager and again in 1959 as From Death-Camp to Existentialism. This book not only chronicled his time as a concentration camp prisoner, it also led to the spread of the philosophy of existential therapy and became an irreverent source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists.

Frankl was instrumental in suicide prevention methods as far back as the 1920’s. He was influenced in his early development by contact with Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. While he was a medical student he offered counseling to high school students for free and developed an influential program that was notable because in 1931 no Viennese students committed suicide after receiving report cards. Up to that time, there were a disturbing number of students who suffered severe, and often suicidal depression, due to the stress of report cards. His program received accolades and renowned attention.

Dr Viktor Frankl

Dr Viktor Frankl

During his neurology and psychiatry residency in Vienna, he proceeded to create a suicide pavilion whereby he treated

over 30,000 suicide prone women. Again receiving accolades for his programs and his psychiatric measures.

When the Nazis invaded Austria and began to takeover in 1938, his world was forever changed. Eventually, in 1942, he, his wife, and his parents were taken to a Nazi Ghetto where Frankl worked as a physician in a clinic. His wife and parents died during the Nazi encampment, but Frankl somehow managed to survive and was liberated in 1945 by Americans.

An Author

The best-selling and world-famous book was written in 1945, immediately after his release from the Nazi concentration camps. His time in these camps further validated his belief that even in the most painful, dehumanizing, and absurd situations life has meaning. Therefore, even suffering is meaningful in life. This is the basis on which his logotherapy and existential analysis were derived from prior to World War II. His time in the concentration camps only strengthened his conclusions.

Frankl received many awards and accolades for his work on existentialism. In 1946 he was in charge of the Vienna Polyclinic of Neurology where he remained until 1971. He did remarry a few years after WWII ended and had a daughter, Gabriele. In 1955 he received a professorship of psychiatry and neurology from the University of Vienna.

Frankl lectured in Universities all over the world. He taught seminars on his logotherapy and existentialism analysis and proceeded to receive almost 30 honorary doctoral degrees. He published almost 40 books, which have been translated into as many different languages.

The most prestigious Oskar Pfister Award was delivered to Frankl in 1985 by the American Psychiatric Association for his important contributions to religion and psychiatry. Frankl’s legacy is vast and meaningful. His suffering at the hands of the Nazis only served to strengthen his philosophical teachings in the field of psychiatry. Frankl is believed to have birthed the term Sunday neurosis whereby an anxiety results from awareness of the emptiness in some people’s lives once the work week is over. The common complaint of a vague discontent, or a void, arises from an existential vacuum or feeling of meaninglessness. Often characterized by emptiness, apathy, and boredom, a person may find themselves lacking direction or feeling cynical if they are suffering from Sunday neurosis.

An Educator

Frankl received many accolades and awards during his lifetime such as the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, Great Silver Medal with Star for Services to the Republic of Austria, Grand Decoration of the Austrian Chamber of Physicians, Grand Merit Cross with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Hans Prinzhorn Medal. This is not by any means an exhaustive list of his many achievements, but it serves to show the reverence by which his teachings and philosophies are held by the psychiatric community as well as the people of his home of Austria.

As a professor and educator, his reputation is vast and the reach of his teachings is profound. He held many professorships in the U.S. alone such as ones at the University of Pittsburgh, Harvard University in Cambridge, the University of Dallas in Texas, and he was revered as a Distinguished Professor of Logotherapy at the U.S. International University in San Diego, California.

His teachings are thought to be the most significant work on Psychiatry since Freud and Adler, who impacted much of his own philosophies. On top of authoring almost 40 books, he held lectures at over 200 universities on 5 continents. His teachings in psychology have served to encourage students to be strong in the face of adversity. His message is clear – while suffering in life may be unavoidable, it holds the key to growth and should not be feared.

Frankl was a pioneer in his industry. After his death in 1997, at the age of 92, his grandson, Alexander Vesely, began a documentary project to honor all of his great achievements. Frankl is seen as a heavy influence in both religion and psychiatry the world over.

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