Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was examining concepts similar to Ikigai in the wake of the Second World War. His approach to personal well-being led to what he called “logotherapy,” the process by which patients learned to find a purpose in life. Frankl was trained in Freudian psychoanalysis, which mines the past for traumatic causes of one’s current mental and emotional instabilities.
Logotherapy doesn’t look to the past, but instead trains an eye on the future and conceives of the self in relatively abstract, spiritual terms, thus leading to a more holistic sense of being. In some cases, Frankl found, all it took was the right question to start someone on the path toward healing. His method was almost entirely self-driven and based on a principle of agency.
His patients learned to access a feeling of purpose on their terms. As logotherapy was crystallizing in Vienna, a psychotherapist and practicing Zen Buddhist in Japan by the name of Shoma Morita was encouraging his patients to be at peace with their emotional landscape, renewing themselves through action over inspiration.
His mastery of Zen meditation had led him to see the self as the common denominator in all problems. The only way to break the cycle was to stop attributing one’s suffering to other people. Recognizing yourself as the common denominator in all your problems helps you solve them, thus giving you a reason to live beyond cages of your own making.
This process of healing prepares you to face any situation with something greater than fear: enthusiasm. As so many of us go about our daily routines, wondering what it’s all for, it’s difficult to hold firmly to any sense of purpose. But life isn’t something to discover; it’s something to create.
Our capacities for joy and sadness are equal, and it’s up to us to choose which will rule us. For those of us feeling stuck in life, a dramatic change — of career, of location, of perspective — might be all we need to right ourselves.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK