Victor Frankl is perhaps one the most famous leaders in the discussion of meaning. In his signature book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he talks about his many years as a prisoner in Auschwitz where mere survival was the source of meaning, and yet in such a deplorable setting, the search for further meaning became even more important. In this book he says, “Striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force.” (2006, p.99)
To explore our daily sense of meaning and purpose may be a more significant starting point. For instance, one meaning may be about just getting out of bed every day and going to work or getting the kids off to school for that day. The larger purpose in the daily tasks are obviously about making a living, parenting or getting an education, but those sometimes get lost in the details. Therefore, we can lose sight of this grander perspective and perhaps develop a sense of meaninglessness or lack of purpose.
It is when we “get stuck in the weeds” of life that we are prone to have more existential anxiety about the meaning of our lives; about our identity as human beings. Many times we may not be fully aware of the complete nature of this anxiety, we just know that we feel something’s missing.
This feeling is amplified exponentially, of course, by experiences of trauma or loss. Depending on the severity and timing of such destructive life events, it can be that an individual has not been able to develop such an identity or that identity has been seriously damaged.
Breaking out of this existential angst or repairing an identity to a fuller meaning and purpose is a central part of psychotherapy. There are several ways in which a therapist can be helpful in this process. The primary way is through the qualitative tone in the relationship. If therapists can genuinely provide a comprehensive presence of respect for the client sitting in front of us, we can better foster the opportunity for the growth of internal respect.
We can then foster and support the courage of our client to widen the lens from the mundane existence of daily living. To understand a larger scope of life to include a more solid sense of meaning, such as a spiritual, values or a cause-driven sense of purpose.
Finally, we can assist in the creative process that the client embarks on to build the tools and resources necessary to implement and grow into a restored identity.
Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic