Sigmund Freud was a very brilliant man, and possessed an intellect adept at penetrating the myriad thought processes of others. Why is this so? From the evidence of his life, of the various choices he made and his expressed views on what and who man is, it would seem that Freud himself was a person beset with many interior demons, that is, neurotic tendencies evolving out of an internal conflict wherein he is attempting to negotiate and understand the traumas he has experienced in his life.
I am sure that we all accept that to experience something is to gain an understanding, or at least a familiarity with it, which we could not otherwise gain. In this respect, and also due to his natural gift of intellect and his tendency to self-obsession and observation, we can thus understand why Freud was drawn to develop the field of psycho-analysis and why he was so good at it.
Pope Benedict was very clear on this point. Before any type of evangelization and catechesis can take place, each person must know that it is good that they exist, and that they are specifically willed into and sustained in existence by a God who loves them, and it is out of love that they have been created. Freud’s process of psycho-analysis does in fact not do this.
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After the war, he developed an approach to the practice of psychotherapy known as logotherapy. In contrast to psycho-analysis and Freud, Frankl’s view placed first and foremost the fact the patient is a person, as opposed to a mere organism which is experiencing a malfunction due to some process reduceable to the level of biology and cause and effect. I would like to quote from Frankl’s most famous work Man’s Search for Meaning pgs. 134-135: “There is nothing conceivable which would so condition a man as to leave him without the slightest freedom. Therefore, a residue of freedom, however limited it may be, is left to man in neurotic and psychotic cases. Indeed, the innermost core of a patient’s personality is not even touched by a psychosis. An incurably psychotic individual may lose his usefulness but yet retain the dignity of a human being. This is my psychiatric credo. Without it I should not think it worthwhile to be a psychiatrist. For whose sake? Just for the sake of a damaged brain machine which cannot be repaired? If the patient were not definitely more, euthanasia would be justified.”
It seems to me that one of the most pervasive lies present in our world today, one which does untold damage, is that there is no meaning to our lives, when we suffer, it is to no avail and that we are, in the end, all alone in a cold, dark universe. This lie breeds fear and rage. It breeds despair. Despair is the enemy of Hope. The reality is that we have good reason to hope, even, and most especially, in the midst of the greatest sufferings, because Jesus loves us. He proved this, since He suffered with us and forgave us. In the end, it is Jesus who gives meaning to our sufferings. The greatest freedom we have, and the one freedom which can never be taken away from us, is the freedom to love.
In conclusion, I would say that it is Frankl’s understanding of the human person which gives hope to those who suffer. It is also no surprise to learn that, towards the end of his life, Viktor Frankl converted to the Catholic faith and embraced Christ. It almost seems like Frankl knew him through all of the sufferings he endured, prior to his conversion, though he was not necessarily conscious of the fact that it was Jesus whom he knew.”