Unlike the neuroses dealt with in psychoanalytical practice, noögenic neuroses come from existential issues and problems with the will to meaning. Frankl says that the only treatment for these issues is logotherapy, which deals with “the specifically human dimension.”
Frankl believes that we are made human by our freedom to choose our response to any situation. He positions himself in contrast to Freud and asserts that only logotherapy deals with the fundamental problems of being human.
One of Frankl’s patients was an American diplomat who had been receiving psychoanalytical therapy for the past five years. The man was unhappy with his job and disagreed with much of American foreign policy, and his psychotherapist told him that his frustration with following orders came from deeply-held frustrations with his father.
Because Freud’s beliefs were so pervasive at the time of Frankl’s writing, he needed to prove why logotherapy was worth paying attention to. Here, he gives an example of a problem that logotherapy can cure and psychoanalysis cannot.
Frankl realized that this man’s will to meaning was existentially frustrated, and saw that what he needed to do was find a new job, rather than reconcile with his dad. The patient switched careers and continued to live happy and therapy-free for many years. Frankl writes that this man did not truly have a noögenic neuroses or need any therapy at all. He simply needed to be reoriented toward thinking about his future.
Just as Frankl made it clear that everyone can learn from his experiences in the concentration camp, he also demonstrates that everyone, even those without serious problems, can benefit from logotherapy.
According to Frankl, while existential frustration can bring about noögenic neuroses, or legitimate psychological problems that need to be addressed, this type of frustration does not inherently cause serious, long-term problems. In milder cases, frustration leads to “existential despair,” or a deep concern over the meaning of one’s life.
Frankl does not discount the experiences of those without truly pathological existential frustration. Anyone can use logotherapeutic techniques to reorient themselves and help them find meaning in their lives. “Despair” sounds like a more extreme problem than “neurosis,” but Frankl uses the term to refer to a milder, more solvable problem.
Like psychoanalysis, logotherapy involves an analytical approach that seeks to help a patient figure out and orient towards his problems. It is unlike psychoanalysis, however, in that it holds that man’s will to meaning is far more important than his will to pleasure. Logotherapy seeks to make the patient aware of his existential frustration and help him reconnect with his will to meaning.
Instead of searching for the origin of a patient’s problem in his past, logotherapists look for problems in their patients’ outlook on the present and future. They then help them understand why they are frustrated.