Pax and logos

The importance of peace and reconciliation from a logotherapeutic point of view
 

Ladies and gentlemen,


We are all happy and grateful that Professor Frankl survived the tortures of his concentration camp stays and was eventually freed 70 years ago. But his immense achievement, which cannot be appreciated enough, was not his survival - there what is usually called "chance" (you could also say "a blessing from above") probably played a role. His unbelievable achievement was that he had survived spiritually, and decades later he was able to say sincerely, in front of thousands of people in the Vienna Town Hall Square: "Do not expect a single word of hatred from me …" For this alone he would have deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

If I stand here before you and speak of peace and reconciliation, this is in no way an achievement. Many of you who may have experienced something terrible like Frankl, will perhaps even be involuntarily thinking, "Oh, Mrs. Lukas, you can easily talk! You have not been in a war, you have not been deported, you have not lost any relatives in war ... what can you tell us?" Well, I would like to say right away: I do not know if I could have an attitude of reconciliation if I were the victim of the atrocities of war and brutal persecution. I do not know. The worse the things a person has experienced, the more quickly he reaches his limits when it comes to "reconciliation". So if there is anyone in this room whose family was affected by the Holocaust, I bow down to you and beg your pardon, as a person who was not affected, for daring to plead against revenge and for peace. I only see myself as an ambassador to the legacy of Frankl. All I want is to trace his legacy with you here today and to emphasize its importance for our lives. For one thing is the same for the affected and the non-affected: the "tragic triad" of suffering, guilt and death affects us all, sooner or later, cruelly or gently, but inevitably, and consequently there is not a single person far and wide who must not at some point struggle for reconciliation - for reconciliation with oneself, with other people, with God, with finiteness and mortality.

Can I give you an example that would certainly have inspired Prof. Frankl? Last year, Ecowin published a book entitled "A Pretty Good Life". The author is Georg Fraberger, and it is already his second book. Georg Fraberger is a capable and well-loved psychologist at the General Hospital in Vienna, who helps people every day to deal with serious illnesses and the resulting difficulties. He is a happily married father with two children who dote on him. Is this something unusual? Usually not, but in his case, it is a human achievement equivalent to winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Georg Fraberger was born without arms and legs. He has only his trunk, which rests on a special frame, and his head. On his right shoulder he has a prosthetic arm, with the help of which he can press some buttons on a control panel. Probably none of us who are sitting here can begin to imagine how we would cope with everyday life under such conditions, let alone study, pursue a profession, establish a family, and publish books. Our imagination boggles. But even the little bit that we can imagine fills us deeply with awe. So what is the "recipe for success” that Fraberger describes in his book? Amongst other things, he asks: “How much body does a man need? I say: enough so that he can communicate well. The soul makes the man, not the body.” Elsewhere, he says: "Once in the subway I caused some congestion because of my wheelchair. One of the passengers muttered loudly: ‘This wouldn’t have happened under Hitler!’ That was dreadful, but it didn’t really affect me. We should have the confidence to be gracious. Even to people who don’t like us..." says Fraberger.

You see, "reconciliation" is his resource for perfect inner peace. Perhaps you thought a moment ago it would be easier to reconcile yourself with the restrictions of fate than with human cruelty, so I quoted the creep from the subway. Do you know what he meant? Not that there were no disabled people under Hitler, but that they were euthanized ... Not even the unbelievable insolence of a fellow passenger could unsettle Fraberger’s psychological balance - no wonder that his life (as inconceivable as it seems to us) is "quite good". One can only congratulate him!

I would like to mention something else in connection with this testimony to the highest art of life. In a newspaper interview, Georg Fraberger was asked if he had studied psychology in order to be able to help himself better. He laughed and replied, “Unfortunately, you don't learn much about this when you study psychology. No, I just thought I had a talent for psychology.” Well, I laugh with him. When I studied psychology, I didn’t hear anything about the alleviation of spiritual distress, except from Frankl, of course. I just hoped that this had changed in the last 50 years. What a pity that Fraberger can no longer listen to Frankl's lectures! How confirmed he would feel in his exemplary attitude, he, who has a talent for psychology and uses it for the benefit of his fellow human beings.

Let us now change the topic to Frankl's concept of man. "The soul makes the man" wrote Fraberger. The soul... indeed, how could he differentiate between the psychic dimension and the spiritual one if he had never heard of them? How could he see that the concept of soul includes both dimensions, but does not define them? Let's just translate what he wants to express: "The spiritual person makes the man". The intact spiritual person, no matter what body it is in.

With his three dimensional ontology, Frankl ingeniously achieved a new philosophical insight, in particular thanks to his identifying the combination of the psychical and the physical dimensions as the psychophysical organism, the "organon", the "tools" of the spiritual person, which carries and forms its organism, and which it uses to participate in the world, because this is the only way in which the uniquely human element, which, according to Fraberger, "makes the man", can operate.

 

All living creatures in nature are equipped with the power to fulfil two essential tasks: 1. to ensure their own survival (which is often difficult enough), and 2. to generate new life. For this they need both their physical and their gradually more or less developed psychic powers. A being like man, however, who possesses a spiritual dimension, also has spiritual powers, and anyone who knows anything about Frankl's logotherapy knows that he doesn’t mean pure intellect. Where the spirit blows, there is freedom, responsibility, creativity, self-detachment and self-transcendence, will to meaning, the search for values and the longing for God. These spiritual powers allow us humans to survive on a level beyond the biological one, and to create a completely different kind of new life; and with this we are slowly approaching our topic.

For we, and only we human beings, must survive in the pain of consciousness and in the face of the incomprehensible injustice and state of insanity around us, the chaotic conditions which we find within ourselves and outside us, in the face of the transience of our own efforts, which sink with us into the grave, in the face of the drolleries of chance, and an unpredictable fate that can destroy our finest intentions and plans in seconds. In short, we must constantly strive to "say yes to life in spite of everything"[1], to strive for an affirmation of life that can withstand any conditions - otherwise our spiritual life is at risk. Without a capacity for self-distancing, which allows us to step back a little from any misfortune, and to continue to act meaningfully even in the middle of uncertainty and affliction, we would sooner or later give in to resignation. Frankl showed us that even in the concentration camp it was possible to distance himself spiritually from the monstrous horror of that place by having an imaginary conversation with his beloved wife or by imagining himself standing at the lectern in a warm lecture theatre and lecturing. In a similar way, if necessary we can also step back a bit from our inner impulses: from hate, anger, despair, or from an impulse to retaliate, which only increases suffering.

Furthermore, it is given to us and only to us humans to create new life through our works, inventions, cultural achievements, recognized wisdom, through what we do in the world. Anyone today who listens to a symphony by Mozart or Beethoven enjoys the spiritual legacy of a composer who has long since ceased to exist on earth, but who still enriches us with melodies. It is our capacity for self-transcendence, for surpassing ourselves, which enables us and drives us to provide not only genetic material, but also a spiritual legacy for coming generations. Even in the concentration camp, Frankl was driven to reconstruct his lost book manuscript - for posterity. Quite apart from the fact that he provided his fellow inmates with spiritual healing and gave them the courage to endure, that is, he shared his own reserve of strength with them and distributed it amongst them.

Reconciliation, with whatever it is that happens, is absolutely necessary for human health and spiritual survival; it is a "spiritual child", born from a capacity for self-detachment. Just as peace with oneself and others is the most precious ethical commodity to be obtained and passed on to our descendants, if only as an ineluctable vision on the horizon, whereby peace is also a true “spiritual child”, born from a capacity for self-transcendence. Moreover, without peace, neither survival nor propagation is of any use, because aggression extinguishes everything. How did Bertolt Brecht put it? "The great city of Carthage waged three wars. After the first, it was still powerful, after the second still habitable, after the third it was extinct. "The alternative to peace is ultimately - extinction.

Let us look now at the most important consequences of reconciliation as a survival strategy. You will agree with me that life is complicated. That we are constantly required to make decisions - to make the right decisions if we can. That we should be "functional", even given the complexity of our roles and fields of activity. Someone is a project manager, a colleague, a subordinate, a father, a husband, a driver, a neighbor, a garden owner and much more. He wants to do everything right, and even in his spare time wheels still spin in his head; "turning off" is easier said than done.

Such complex obligations require strong concentration and presence of mind. We need presence of mind in the best sense of the words, and again this does not mean pure intelligence. It is about being, inside ourselves, undividedly present with the people, tasks and things with which we are currently engaged. Countless reports from patients have taught me that there are two main "predators" that rob us of much-needed presence of mind, namely fear of the past and fear of the future. These two predators - if they are not stopped - “feed” by tearing out such huge chunks of our presence of mind that we can only limp along with limited force and we usually mess things up as a result - providing a new reason for quarrelling with the once-again messed up past!

 

Here are a few characteristic statements from former patients of mine: "I still see the mocking grin of my sister in front of me as she took advantage of me at the lawyers’ and cheated my out of my inheritance. I keep thinking: if only our dead parents knew about this!” Another statement: "In every organisation I was bossed around, underpaid, forced to do overtime. And now that my health is ruined and I don’t know how to go on any more, no one wants me!" A third variant: "I never wanted much out of life, just a bit of fun and enjoyment, but that was not granted to me. For others everything falls into their lap - and what about me? I ponder over and over what I might have done wrong, and I find nothing.” The quarrel with the past is unmistakable in the case of these three people, but look at their present reality: "I keep thinking about it... I don’t know how to go on... I ponder over and over..." Does this look like constructive problem solving? Trying to patch up differences with the sister, trying to make a practical effort to recover health, trying to exploit existing opportunities? The "predator of non-reconciliation” has eaten all this away!

Here are some other typical statements by my former patients, this time not backward but forward-looking: "I worry all day about whether my business will succeed financially. At night I roll over and over in bed, bathed in sweat. I have no idea how I would overcome the shame of insolvency.” Another statement: "I'm worried about my daughter. Her husband keeps bad company, he drifts around in bars, and he never helps her with the household or with the children. When she calls me, I am always afraid there will be a crisis, and I start crying right away. "A third variant: "My heart is beating in my throat. I have to undergo a rigorous inspection regarding the new EU regulations, but I can’t cope with it. I take sedative pills and still become more and more nervous. "Fear of the future is unmistakeable in these three people, but look again at their present reality: "I roll over and over in bed ... I start crying right away ... I take sedative pills ... All this isn’t looking for constructive solutions either. Making a sensible financial plan, creating an emergency care plan for the daughter or taking an interest in up-to-date training. Once again, a "predator" has steadily drawn near, indeed on closer inspection it is actually the same "predator". For non-reconciliation plays an important role even in fear of the future. One does not want to reconcile oneself, even in advance, to any unpleasantness that might occur. The possible closure of one's own store, the failure of the daughter's marriage, or a the need to repeat a failed inspection.

The conclusion of the story is: unreconciled people have a severe attention deficit. Fear and strife cast them out of the realm of the present. They live so much under the spell of real or anticipated horrors that they miss out on meaningful action in the here and now - with all the unfortunate consequences of this absurd state of affairs. This is extremely tragic, because irretrievable failures pile up and form a mass.

Consider this: the present is different from the past or the future, even if it is often seen as the midpoint between them. It lifts itself out of the continuum of time; it is no period of measurable length, but a workspace, the only workspace that we possess for a lifetime. As important as it is to look back and look forward with reconciliation, so as to be able to concentrate fully on the present, it is equally important to create conditions in the present which as far as possible make reconciliation unnecessary. It is our task to work on the present circumstances, to chip away at them, to help to shape them in an acceptable way. Hour by hour, the workspace opens up a new gap for this purpose between the massive blocks of what has been and what will be.

A wise saying is that one cannot add more days to life, but one can add more life to days. How can one add more life to days? Only by deliberately shaping each day without grumbling about yesterday or trembling with fear about tomorrow. Aside from exceptional situations, every day can be enriched with a colorful mixture of work and rest, seriousness and lightheartedness, silence and social engagement, with getting done what is necessary and treating oneself to some little highlights along the way. But even in exceptional situations, which are generally more serious than lighthearted, alertness, spiritual alertness, is important, allows one to preserve niches of freedom and dignity by means of an appropriate attitude towards present circumstances. The French philosopher Michel Eyquem de Montaigne is said to have once admitted: "My life was full of dreadful calamities, which most of the time never happened" - this for example does not sound like days full of life and vitality. His fears of a threatening future probably caused many mistakes in the present to slip into the past and fill it with unhappiness despite the absence of actual misfortune.

I would like to add an original logotherapeutic thought on the topic of "being unhappy" I was recently a lecturer at an event and I had a conversation there with an experienced doctor. When I mentioned how unfortunate it is that the different forms of depression are rarely differentiated today as Prof. Frankl taught us, the doctor said that in any case about 80% of his depressive patients were suffering from fatigue-induced depression.

 

This statement irritated me for a while, because in Frankl's literature, the diagnosis "fatigue-induced depression" is not listed explicitly at all. I eventually discovered the reason for this, and not only that, I also found out why Frankl classified the disorder which is now called "fatigue-induced depression" amongst the neuroses. Let us remember the following core statement of logotherapy (also called the "Frankl triangle" by insiders): "Whoever strives for meaning in life becomes both happy and capable of suffering." This means: meaning-driven intention has been shown to increase the likelihood of unintended gratification, which leads to increased joy, success, positive feedback and self-awareness. Meaning-driven intention also demonstrably strengthens the immunity of the organism and intensifies its frustration tolerance so that one deals with failures, builds endurance and circumnavigates obstacles with bravura. Frankl, the “soul doctor”, has shown by means of his excellent core principle that a reduction of striving for meaning in favor of striving for pleasure or reaching directly for happiness and personal advantages just blocks these advantages, causes gratification to be lost, and drives one into neurotic processes. The less pleasure one gets, the more logical it is to give into the flight from pain, a main root cause of neurotic drama building.

But let us return to fatigue-induced depression. I am now going to turn around the core statement "Whoever strives for meaning in life will become both happy and capable of suffering." It is not formulated this way in Frankl's texts, but one could just as well say: "Whoever does not seek meaning in life (or has lost sight of meaning) will become unhappy and lose the capacity for suffering." Note: a lack of meaning orientation or an insufficient meaning orientation has two consequences: 1.: "One becomes unhappy" and 2.: "One loses strength and capacity". The phenomenon of fatigue-induced depression also has two branches: 1: the "depression" (being unhappy) and 2 .: the "fatigue" (losing strength and capacity). And someone claimed that Frankl had not dealt with fatigue-induced depression! His core statement not only addresses it implicitly, it also explains its origin. A meaning vacuum makes one depressed (you can also say "unhappy") and exhausted (you can also say "weak").

This has serious implications for the treatment of fatigue-induced depression, which is so common today. It suggests that the simple thesis that someone tried to do too much, ended up having too much stress, and ended up succumbing to fatigue-induced depression is wrong. It suggests that a therapy that consists only of relaxation and stress reduction does not work. The meaning problem is the origin of fatigue-induced depression! Someone may have worked too much or too little, but they have not worked a sensible amount. Or not on something meaningful. They have seen little meaning in their actions, or they have even sacrificed themselves meaninglessly. They have overexerted themselves in a non-meaningful way or they have not exerted themselves for something meaningful. Their "will to meaning" has gradually run out, and this has had negative physical and mental effects. Relaxation and stress reduction are not enough; what is needed is treatment that dares to venture into spiritual heights and stimulate the recovery of meaningful life-perspectives, as logotherapy does.

Perhaps you have become impatient about my little excurses on a common type of depression, because you are expecting thoughts about peace and reconciliation. But I assure you that I have not strayed from the point. People who cannot reconcile themselves with a painful trauma, people who have been trapped in the claws of a terrible hatred, cannot strive with all their heart to create meaning in the present. It is simply impossible to dedicate oneself committedly to a good thing and to be angrily engaged with another thing at the same time. The "heart" of an embittered, resentful person is occupied; there is little space left for the delicate touch of logos. So, what have we learned from Frankl? These people are 1. unhappy and 2. weakened. Their affect and their immune system deteriorate. What is happening? They attribute their unhappiness and their weakness to the tragedy that weighs them down, or to the enemy they hate; and this destroys their ability to be reconciled. Their "heart" bleeds more and more... They suffer from a full-blown post-traumatic psychosyndrome, they burn in blazing anger, they sink into a chronic depression of a more noogenic (i.e. spiritual) than psychogenic nature.

 

I have seen plenty of patients in this state. It is almost impossible to reach them with argument, because they are spiritually paralyzed. A woman had been beaten so badly over the head by her mother as a child that she had to go to the hospital. She had never gotten over the abuse. She had been angry with her mother for the rest of her life. The fact that she had been in good health for 25 years, that the single mother had financed her education as an interpreter training including expensive foreign stays, counted for nothing. When I raised the possibility of a reconciliatory discussion with her mother, she blurted out: "Never!" When I asked if she had friends, she denied it vehemently. She didn’t need anyone. Did she enjoy anything? She didn’t answer. The tenor of the conversation was the same in every session: The abuse had destroyed her once and for all. What she was looking for was a confirmation of her irrecoverable victimhood, which I could not and must not give her.

I had more success with a man who had fallen into the hands of a fraudster. He had lost everything he had, which had led to the breakdown of his marriage, and he was in rehabilitation after a failed suicide attempt. He could only see a black future for himself. It took weeks before he could speak of something other than the fraudster to whom he had fallen prey. But in the end I managed to persuade him to take a small initiative. In searching for positive values I noticed that the man had good memories of his school days. There was a particular school friend with whom he had a strong connection. He finally agreed to make contact with him again, whereupon the school friend asked him to help him out in his snack bar. There the man’s spiritual shell gradually softened. He got on well with the guests, and even listened to many of their sorrows. He realized that he was not alone in his suffering. Insofar as he once again took part in the fates of others, he succeeded in accepting his own and was gradually able to remove the fraudster from his life.

Socrates wrote: "Do not concentrate all your energies on combating the old, but on shaping the new." How impressively Prof. Frankl put this ancient Greek motto into practice after his liberation. How much he newly achieved in a short time after the war! Profession, wife, daughter, books, a second doctorate, lectures, travel, a professorship... and so it went on. He lived out the opposite of the rigidity that takes a lasting hold on unreconciled people. We know that it is in every respect important for health to remain flexible. On the physical level, for example, a modern study found that perpetual staring at smartphones (from 700 to 1400 hours per year) causes considerable damage to the cervical vertebrae because the head is bent forward by about 60 degrees, which increases the pressure of its weight on the neck. Similarly, on the psychological level, perpetual staring at tragic events or interpersonal strife is counter-productive, as I have already explained. "Rigid staring" perfectly describes the opposite of what Frankl exemplified with his meaning-driven living life to the full. The staring freezes out any meaning from the beginning.

So far I have stressed the consequences of non-reconciliation and dissatisfaction for the individual, and I could continue this theme for a long time. Prolonged latent anger creates the perpetual danger of an explosion at an inappropriate moment, which in turn causes social difficulties, or an implosion with minimal cause, as with the auto-aggression of the man I mentioned before. It makes one exhausted, depressed, rigid. But non-reconciliation is, in most cases, something that involves several parties. And if people these days have to deal with the fear of global climate change, I can only say: perhaps the fear of a heating of the climate between nations is even more topical. That is why we want to consider what ideas logotherapy has to offer for creating peace.

First of all: reconciliation does not mean forgetting. If I have forgotten something, I no longer need to reconcile myself with it. Forgiveness does not mean trivialization either. I do not need to forgive something which is trivial. For inner peace it is necessary to have the bleak facts in front of you and to be able to speak about them. Prof. Frankl was never silent about his experiences in the concentration camp; on the contrary, he put them under the magnifying glass of science in his writings. What is necessary is to distance oneself from things that are the responsibility of others, or from the things that fate has inescapably presented to one. What is necessary is to maintain one's own ethical, cultural, spiritual level, and neither stoop to the level of an aggressor, nor to claim "God-given rights” for oneself, to express it a bit dramatically. How respectfully Frankl stressed that man is not only the inventor of the gas chamber, but also the being who went into the gas chamber upright and with a prayer on the lips. It was the torturers who lost their humanity, whereas the prisoners were still able to keep the torch of humanity shining under the most horrifying conditions. One could certainly object that they got nothing for it, but in a philosophical sense, getting is not the important thing. Being is what establishes the nature of our identity. Only being, and having-been, writes our story for all eternity into the book of truth.

The aspect of maintaining one’s level is movingly presented in Frankl's concept of attitudinal values, i.e. the value-oriented attitude to unalterable conditions of suffering. Frankl asserted: "It all depends on the bearing - on how one bears one’s fate ..." Since I had to deal with a lot of interpersonal suffering in my practice, i.e. disputes and hostilities, it was a matter of interest for me to expand upon this aspect. If person A attacks person B, this cannot initially be changed by B. B is attacked, humiliated, offended, slandered, made ridiculous, etc. At least B believes this and experiences it like this. It might be a triviality, a misunderstanding, a badly-chosen word from A, impulsive behaviour without the intention of hurting anyone, but B is indignant. And then? B is induced to retaliate, to hurt A. And then? A angrily strikes back at B. And then? B strikes back even more brutally. It is only a matter of time until one or both parties collapse. All conflicts between people and groups of people are based on a spiral of escalation like this. The fatal thing is that each side locates the blame on the other side. But one cannot blame anyone but oneself for one's own actions.

I already hear advocates of self-defence crying out: “We must defend ourselves! We can’t just let people do anything they like to us!” Yes. A yes - with a question mark. Self-defence can force the cessation of aggressive behaviour. But can it produce peace? I do not know when and where in human history that has ever been the case. It is also not the case in family histories. A defeated enemy is far from being a friend! Ending a conflict by power and strength does not convince the opponent, but buries their inner grudge underground, from whence it reappears at the first opportunity. Pax and logos are siblings. And just as one cannot actualize meaning by meaninglessness, one cannot achieve peace by force, even if this violence somehow seems justified. William Shakespeare wrote: "Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself." A fitting metaphor. I have seen countless pairs of people in such self-made "furnaces", heated by both sides, scorching both sides.

So what should we advise B, who rightly (or possibly also wrongly) feels attacked? In logotherapeutic language: To maintain his or her level. It depends on B, on B’s "bearing" (Frankl). B has the power to nip an escalating quarrel in the bud. B can still stop what is beginning to perpetuate itself as mutual torment with no end. To be sure, this requires courage and moral character. It is very difficult to go to an opponent and discuss things calmly and objectively. To understand their concerns and to develop compromises. Or to shun them if necessary without demonization. It is close to the limit of human possibility and probably almost unimaginable in many political contexts, and yet it is the only chance for peace. The thought that none of us are without guilt may be a soothing one. That we are also responsible for mistakes, and by no means rarely. If we were in our enemy’s place, we would be in exactly the same position, and in the end we would not behave very differently. Is humanity alien to us? Oh no. "Every nation is, in principle, capable of a holocaust", Frankl boldly asserted. So if A fails, stumbles, falls below his level, B does not need to do the same, nor does he have to condemn A. He could also commiserate with A. He could remember that he also knows what it is like to stumble. He could try to help A back up. Anyone who maintains their own level is best able to raise someone else up to the same level.

I would like to add a simple example which can be briefly characterized. A lady sat with me in Munich and complained about her father, who lived in Graz, and whom she visited once or twice a year. He was a lonely old pensioner, spending his days mostly watching television. When she came through the door on one of her rare visits, he was crouching as usual in his armchair in front of the TV and he received her with the instruction to be quiet because he wanted to concentrate on the film he was watching. Deeply angry that the story was more important to him than his daughter, she turned around and left him again, slamming the door behind her. She drove back to Munich in a rage, where she found a telephone message from her father, who was also angry at her bad manners. Our "person B" responded to the call with icy silence, so the relationship between the two progressively deteriorated. In the session, I explained to the woman that although she could not change her father, she was free to determine her own actions. That it was entirely her choice how she encountered her TV fixated father. Certainly, she could hate him, punish him, but she could generously give him a small advance of filial love... that was entirely up to her. There was also the question of who she wanted to be: a hateful person? A kind person? I explained to her Frankl’s striking statement that every act is its own monument. She became very thoughtful and immediately decided to make a new choice.

The next time she came to me, she had actually jumped over her own shadow. Having arrived in Graz, she marched to her father's door, pressed a welcome kiss on his forehead, and sat quietly beside him in front of the TV. A miracle happened. The father turned to her and exclaimed, "How lovely, child, that you are here!" He turned off the sound on the television and enjoyed himself. Yes, such miracles happen when pax and logos walk arm in arm over the earth ... or when people see themselves as acting and not merely as responding beings.

Undoubtedly, there would have been several possibilities for conflict resolution in this case, such as an honest but friendly message from the daughter to her father that his seeming indifference hat hurt her (this is called an "I-message” in the specialist literature), and the like, but the anticipatory affection which she had chosen seemed particularly good to me. Positive advances do not necessarily lead to reciprocation, but they have an enormous charisma, which leaves only extremely hardened persons cold. Moreover, person A can, of course, make a new choice at any time. If the old gentleman from Graz had come to me with his sorrows, I would probably have advised him to abstain from watching TV during future visits from his daughter and instead to prepare a few nice sandwiches for a meal together. Just imagine what would happen if, in a horrendous conflict, which has perhaps divided generations, indeed, whole peoples, suddenly both of the adversaries voluntarily offered an advance of goodwill, so to speak a "kiss on the forehead" and "sandwiches on the table". The war would be over. Immediately.

What else does psychology have to offer for the cause? In September 2014 (not in the last century!) I found an announcement in a specialist magazine that frustrated people can at last be drastically helped. In Halle an der Saale, Germany'’s first “anger space” has been opened for people who have been aggravated by someone or something, who get to let out all their aggression for half an hour by destroying furniture with golf clubs and hammers. Cost: 89 euros. The furniture is procured from housing estates; allegedly there is a plentiful supply and plenty of customers. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not want to comment on this nonsense, it has long been known that so-called “letting out” of aggression only stokes it up; I just want to confess that my sympathy for logotherapy increases all the more when I read things like this. How unworthy is therapy at this level! No, destruction does not help, not in the protected “anger space” and not on the stage of the world! What we need more than ever today is the awareness of one's own freedom and of collective responsibility.

One more word about living together: Positive advances are most likely to be made for the sake of a perceived value. We have had excellent experiences with parents who are getting a divorce and fighting with each other as soon as we have put the welfare of their common child at the center of the consultation. The parental differences recede when placed beside the important task of guarding the child from hardship. The heads of government of hostile states could take their example from this by communicating with each other firstly about the welfare of the inhabitants living in their territories. This would probably be more important than the need to establish their claims to power, to keep face, and similar affectations. Even for humanity as a whole, an orientation towards common values such as inviolable personal dignity or the preservation of ethical and cultural achievements would be an excellent life ring. "Since Hiroshima we know what is at stake", Frankl has warned.

Let's summarize: Guilt belongs to humanity, but so does the power to forgive and to renew. If someone has experienced something bad or unjust, then it is sad and remains sad. Nevertheless, the person affected does not have to rigidify into depression. He has survived the terrible thing, and life is a wonderful gift. He has accumulated experience that can be used in a fruitful way; one thinks, for example, of ex-users who are skilled in drug therapy. Every upsetting experience enhances and develops competence for life. "Suffering makes people clairvoyant and the world transparent," wrote Frankl. Moreover, no one has ever experienced only bad things, and it would be a pity if a sufferer blocked out the uplifting and joyful things that he has experienced. But above all, one thing: He can maintain his level despite suffering. Hate does not have to devour his heart, strife with God and with fate does not have to tear apart his soul. He can - I hardly dare say it - remain in love. And that means to achieve peace, for himself and for all those who let themselves be inspired by him. There are also de-escalation spirits, and no one is better qualified to set them in motion than one who has suffered, and who therefore knows what is at stake, just as our revered Prof. Frankl did. I would like to conclude with a slogan which was used last year for a military history exhibition in Vienna on the outbreak of the 1st world war one hundred years ago. It was: "War belongs in a museum". I am delighted by this slogan. Yes, this is where the innumerable wars of the past should be kept: the private wars in people’s living rooms, bedrooms, and studies, the military wars in devastated cities and lands, and there we can grieve over them and draw lessons from them. But they should be banished from the present, the only workspace available to each of us, for the museum has enough of them. And we know: it is up to all of us. So I will borrow my final words from the Holy Mass: "Go in peace!"

 



[1] This is a literal translation of Trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen ..., the German title of Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning..