Thursday, March 18, 2010

Living in meaning vs. living in addiction

I've been reading Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. This book has sat unread on my shelf for at least a decade. Monday, my spiritual director suggested I read it, so I dug it out of one of the back shelves and got completely engrossed. Frankl was a young Viennese psychiatrist who spent four years in concentration camps during WWII. In this book, he writes of his experiences as related to how prisoners did or didn't find meaning in their suffering and the impact it had on their well-being and survival. The second part of the book concerns logotherapy, or meaning therapy, his contribution to psychological treatments.

I was most struck by a short passage subtitled "The Existential Vacuum," which he describes as the loss of a meaning worth living for. In a survey of American students in the early 1980s, Frankl says, nearly 60% described themselves as unclear of a purpose or meaning for their lives. The origins of the vacuum are interesting but not my point here. Frankl goes on to say, "The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom," and that state of meaningless or boredom is a key player in aggression (violence) and addiction. In our culture, he says, we focus on the how to live (acquisition/money), not the why to live.

This seems deeply critical to me. I know that state of boredom, that state of restlessness, that feeling of is-this-all-there-is? I drank to not feel it, I ate sugar to not feel it. Now I want to move through it. I want to get clear on what's meaningful for me and live into it. That seems one of the next stages of this sobriety journey.

1 comment:

Scot Kamins said...

So I guess you're talking about the spiritual component of our lives. I think that's where meaning comes from. Or is it more than that -- not just the business of a "higher power" but the whole idea of connectedness and how we fit into it.

I guess.