Here is a couple of quotes by Roberto Assagioli about The Viennese neurologist Viktor Frankl:
Investigation of the Superconscious
The basic premise or hypothesis is that there exists – in addition to those parts of the unconscious which we have called the lower and middle unconscious, including the collective unconscious -another vast realm of our inner being which has been for the most part neglected by the science of psychology, although its nature and its hu man value are of a superior quality. The reason for such curious neglect would in itself constitute an interesting piece of psychoanalysis and would shed much light on the psychology of psychologists. This higher realm has been known throughout the ages and, in the last decades, so me daring investigators have started to study it in a scientific way, thus laying the foundations for what Frankl aptly calls the “height psychology” (Frankl : Der unbewusste Cott, Amandus, Wien, 1949) . (Assagioli in his book Psychosynthesis)
“Another form of persistence is that of endurance. It is outstandingly demonstrated in the endurance of physical hardships, in sport in general, especially in mountain-climbing, and recently was admirably apparent in the astronauts. It is a saving quality when one finds oneself in protracted painful and unavoidable conditions.
One outstanding example of endurance is that of Viktor Frankl’s willed survival of Nazi concentration camps, vividly described in his book From Death Camp to Existentialism. Such heroic cases can help us overcome any tendency toward grumbling, self-pity, and giving up when faced with much much lesser physical hardships or adverse conditions. (Assagioli in The Act of Will)
Maslow has clearly described the “hierarchy of needs” in Motivation and Personality. He speaks first of the basic psychological needs; then of the personal needs such as belonging and love, esteem, and selfactualization; and also of a third group: Transpersonal or Meta needs, Achieving the satisfaction of the first two groups of needs often engenders, paradoxically, a sense of boredom, ennui, emptiness, and meaninglessness. It leads to a more or less blind search for “something other,” something more. This is seen in many who, having had great satisfactions and successes in the ordinary world, become increasingly restless, rebellious, or depressed. Viktor Frankl has dealt extensively with this condition, which he has aptly termed “the existential vacuum”: Ever more patients complain of what they call an “inner void,” and that is the reason why I have termed this “existential vacuum.”
In contradistinction of the peak experience so aptly described by Maslow, one could conceive of the existential vacuum in throes of an “abyss experience.” But this condition need not necessarily be considered pathological. Frankl goes so far as to say, “The existential vacuum is no neurosis; or, if it is a neurosis at all, it is a sociogenic neurosis, or even an iatrogenic neurosis—that is to say, a neurosis which is caused by the doctor who pretends to cure it.” (Assagioli in the Act of Will)
Tolstoi’s Statement is significant because it shows the fundamental importance of the need for understanding the meaning of life. Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning gives ample testimony of this. While a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, he noticed that those who saw meaning in life, or who gave it meaning, demonstrated a surprising degree of strength and resistance. Finding this meaning proved to be of decisive survival value, as many of those who lacked such incentive gave up and died. (Assagioli, in The Act of Will)
“In recent years two developments have opened the way for dealing with the subject of the will in a more understanding and fruitful manner. One has been the rapid growth of the existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychologies. The other is the emergence of a broader and at the same time more refined conception of the scientific method. This new conception has been brought to light through the ideas of general semantics, and, more directly, through the openminded and original analysis of the scientific method by A. H. Maslow.
In this context, Frankl’s concept and practice of logotherapy deserve mention and appreciation. He emphasized the “will to meaning” as a fundamental urge and need. (Assagioli in The Act of Will)
The Viennese neurologist Viktor Frankl openly acknowledges the existence of superconscious experiences. The psychiatrist Urban of Innsbruck speaks of ‘higher psychology’ . (Assagioli in his book Transpersonal Development)
One of the ways to eliminate or prevent the vicious circles that these glamours are apt to create is that of catharsis, that is, expression, throwing out the emotional charge attached to the glamour. Another is the acceptance, the temporary acceptance, of the possibility we fear. Let us take, for instance, fear of failure; if we face the possibility of a failure we see that it will not be a catastrophe, that we can survive it, can learn from it, and next time may suceed. This can be brought to the point of what Frankl calls “paradoxical intention”, that is, arriving at the point of desiring the very thing that we fear. He applies it as a therapeutic technique with success, particularly in insomnia.
People who have difficulty in getting to sleep or who wake too early often become too much concerned with it and fearful about it, and that of course fixes the trouble. Then, Frankl suggests, instead of worrying about it, we should welcome it and say “Oh well, I am glad I can’t sleep; I shall be able to read and make good use of the time”. Then one falls to sleep! It is the fear of it that enhances insomnia, and so by reading and forgetting it we get to sleep.
(Assagioli in Meditation for the New Age)
Victor Frankl wrote of the profound importance to the individual of this recognition in his book “From Prison Camp to Existentialism”, where he cites some of his own experiences in the last war. Those in the prison camps who had some deep faith or conviction and who acknowledged a purpose underlying life had far greater ability to survive than those who had no such beliefs, who were among the first to die. (Assagioli in Meditation for the New Age)
“A number of researchers—therapists and educators, most of them American—have produced a series of books and articles reflecting their humanistic orientation. Some of them have aligned themselves with existential psychology to the extent of speaking of a humanistic-existential psychology. Prominently associated with the emergence of this movement are Rollo May, Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, and Gordon Allport. This movement has had its adherents also in Europe, and Adrian Van Kaan has presented a broad, if incomplete, survey of it in his paper, “The Third Force in European Psychology” published by the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation of New York in 1960. Its major representative in Europe is Viktor Frankl, whose book, The Doctor and His Soul, is a document of the highest humanistic value.” (Assagioli in The New Dimensions of Psychology: The Third, Fourth and Fifth Forces, By Roberto Assagioli, M.D.)
The most widespread reactions were, and still are, rebellion, denial, mental suffering and even despair. Existential attitudes and convictions of a negative kind (there are others with a positive slant) have led to life being labelled absurd, to the denial of every higher, transcendent reality, to a position of protest and challenge which, however, is felt at the same time to be useless and impotent. This has been termed existential frustration and accurately described by Viktor Frankl. Now Director of the Neurological Clinic of the University of Vienna, he underwent an exceptional testing experience in a concentration camp which lasted many months and was accompanied by acute suffering and continual threats of death. These conditions provided the background of a spiritual awakening which transformed his life and now forms the basis of his thinking and psychotherapeutic approach. In his book, Theorie und Therapie der Neurosen which I strongly recommend to doctors, he writes:
“Besides inferiority feelings, psychic illness can be induced in man also by the feeling of absurdity, i.e., by frustration aroused by his need to give life a meaning. In such cases, in which a person sees failure of his aspiration to give his existence sufficient meaning to make it worth pursuing, we speak of existential frustration…”If we seek to get to the bottom of this question and determine the pathogenic basis of these disturbances, we are continually made aware that it resides principally in this fact. What we term the ‘will to meaning’, in contrast both to the ‘will to pleasure’ (i.e., the pleasure principle in a psychoanalytic sense) and the ‘will to power’ (i.e., ‘self- assertion’ in the Adlerian sense) remains ungratified and frustrated”(Frankl, Theorie und Therapie der Neurosen, Ernst Reinhardt, Munich, 1956).
One of the ways in which this crisis manifests itself is the sense of oppression engendered by the immensity of the cosmos and the enormous time cycles revealed by astronomy. This is evident in some people’s reaction to the “cosmic test”. It consists in showing pictures of the universe increasingly enlarged in scale until the earth is seen to disappear in the immensities of space. Here is how Frankl speaks of this kind of anxiety; “I remember a case in which the patient’s anxiety turned out to be of an existential character. ‘The infinite’, she confessed, ‘oppresses me. It bewilders me, I feel insubstantial to the point of dissolution.’ Here let us add an observation of Scheler: ‘The infinite emptiness of space and time is the void man experiences in his heart’. Inasmuch as this anxiety is in the last analysis, about nothing, ‘the infinite emptiness of space’ here assumes the place of nothing. But this macrocosmic void appears to be simply the projection of an inner emptiness, an existential emptying, that is, a microcosmic emptiness. It resembles the reflection of the insubstantiality of our Dasein (being).” (Assagioli in The Resolution of Conflicts & Spiritual Conflicts and Crises)