From Logotherapy Institute blog

Reflections on Hope and Resilience

Summary of “Navigating Israel’s Meaning Crisis” Workshop

Israel – In the face of challenging times, the recent three-part Mental Health and Hope Workshop, “Navigating Israel’s Meaning Crisis” brought together participants from all over the world for a profound exploration of how tools of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy can help foster resilience, responsibility and hope in the face of Israel’s current crisis.

The workshop, held on November 21, 28, and December 5, focused on the application of three main topics of logotherapy, i.e. resilience, choice and balance, which when utilized in response to crisis help foster realistic hope.

Emphasis was placed on creating a safe space to reflect and share experiences.

The workshop succeeded in providing a platform for those in Israel and elsewhere to connect in a mutual search for meaning.

The workshop consisted of an introduction by Batya, presentations by professionals, breakout rooms, and group discussion.

  • Professional presentations: Logotherapists guided us through a comprehensive explanation of logotherapeutic tools and how they can be applied in today’s situation,
  • Breakout rooms: Participants went into breakout rooms where they discussed their answers to questions in small groups

Key Workshop Highlights

Meaning in Life

Batya Yaniger discussed the concept of meaning in life according to logotherapy.

She explained that being human means being moral and having the capacity to distinguish between good and evil.

She also talked about how embracing difficult circumstances can lead to growth.

Meaning of the moment

A recurring theme throughout the workshops was the meaning of the moment, and seeing how every moment is unique, offering the individual the opportunity to move from what is to what ought to be.

By being present in the moment, we can acknowledge the tension between what is, what ought to be and what ought not to be.

Beliefs vs Reality

The workshop highlighted the importance of distinguishing personal beliefs from reality, especially when consuming information from various sources.

The November 21st meeting was a discussion of the crisis of faith.

October 7 and its aftermath brought up shock, horror, fear, loss of safety and security, betrayal, anger, shame, feeling alone in a world that is supporting the call for annihilation of the Jews and a loss of faith in mankind.

Timur Liwinski explained that both the Greek and Chinese definition of the word crisis imply opportunity and choice.

In regards to resilience, Timur asserted that a key element of resiliency is flexibility.

Flexibility allows the individual to accept and tolerate the reality of his or her conditions and respond in a positive manner. Resilience is an expression of resistance.

Basic trust in being

Logotherapy teaches that we cannot live without a basic trust in being.

We need to trust a higher power.

We need to trust ourselves.

We need to believe that there is something good that can come out of even the worst situation.

Participants were asked: What is a source of strength and resilience for you? 

Here were some of their answers:

  • We need to find an anchor – whether in God, a higher power or ultimate meaning. Despite the chaos, we can look to things that reaffirm that there is order to the universe
  • We don’t know how resilient we are until we are tested
  • We need to learn the truth about history
  • We need to give attention to terrible things with the aim to respond appropriately but not let it drag us down
  • We need to be aware of our values
  • We must not allow atrocities like October 7 to happen ever again
  • We have to be aware of people’s needs so that we can make a positive contribution
  • We must not blame the innocent
  • We are challenged to go into the unknown, and to meet each other beyond the ego

The November 28 meeting was a discussion of free choice.

The meaning of free choice and the response-ability to take action

The definition of meaning in logotherapy is “what can be done” about a situation.

Thus, the potential for good is there all along, and we manifest good through our response to the challenge.

Logotherapy teaches that freedom of choice is choosing to listen to our conscience, which is our intuitive understanding of the best choice.

Free choice is what makes us human.

Otherwise we are just automatons, machines. Without freedom of choice we cannot change, we cannot grow and we cannot love.

Giving has to come from the heart. Even when there is nothing else we can do, we ca always choose our attitude.  

Main points from Shai Lewinsohn’s presentation

  • The October 7th massacre and atrocities carried out by Hamas terrorists who killed, raped, mutilated, burnt alive and kidnapped babies, children, women and men, both citizens of Israel and other nationalities, caused a mental-health earthquake in Israel and abroad.
  • All of us were affected in various ways and varying intensity, depending on our emotional distance from the event. We can start with the inner circle of bereaved families, and then draw wider circles of the kidnapped, their families, communities in Israel, and finally citizens of the world
  • Defining one’s unique role in adversity empowers the individual to make constructive choices in response to difficult life events, and gives meaning to these difficulties.
  • “The greatness of human beings lies in the decision to be stronger than the situation in which they are subjected”. This quote by Albert Camus reflects Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy, and demonstrates that human beings have the capacity to self-transcend and defy their circumstances. 

Participants were asked: What is your area of responsibility as an individual, as a parent, as an Israeli or as a citizen of the world? How are we called by our role in the grand scheme of things

Workshop participants presented a very few number of stories of bravery out of hundreds that took place on October 7th and afterword.  Thousands of Israelis and citizens of the world volunteered immediately to offer various types of help.

The December 5th meeting was about finding balance through acceptance and hope

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl described the “presentist existence” of the prisoners in the concentration camps.

People living in suvival mode are disoriented and experience a shutdown of their system, even on a physiological level.

In complete contrast, being present for the meaning of the moment allows us to realize the richness in the moment and the potential for the moment to explode into meaning.

In the mode of meaning we are connected to what is beyond just our self.

The meaning of acceptance

Acceptance in logotherapy is not resignation or passivity, rather recognizing and accepting the things that cannot be changed, while taking responsibility for the things that can be changed.

 In order to change anything, we need to work in partnership with life, realizing that each of us has a meaningful part to play.

When we play our role, we learn about life on its own terms.

We learn to accept the whole of life, and use the entire spectrum of our emotions as a springboard for growth.

What is hope

Hope is unconditional faith in unconditional meaning, where every moment has potential for meaning even if it’s not yet clear what the meaning is.

When we connect to something or someone beyond ourselves, we are empowered to make a difference in the world.

What gives hope in uncertainty

The idea of tragic optimism in logotherapy means that the meaning of life does not vanish under any circumstance, even if it is not discernible in a certain situation.

Also, external prompts towards hope can inspire us to find meaning in difficult situations.

Allowing life to guide you

Allowing life to guide you moment by moment can lead to feeling more present and focused on what needs to be done right now.

It also helps one appreciate being human with all its emotions while identifying the value at stake and acting with wisdom and humility.

Participants were asked: What stories can you share that give you hope and inspiration? What is it like when you allow yourself to be guided by life?

In addition, participants were prompted to consider what questions they would ask a higher power and how they would respond if asked similar questions.

  • Participants shared inspirational stories, including a miraculous event during a terrorist attack and experiences that reaffirmed the belief in higher guidance and protection.
  • Alina shared an inspirational story about three tanks in Gaza, where a malfunctioning of a tank led the soldiers to all get out. The tank behind it thought that they too, should apparently leave their tank. The third tank behind them thought that apparently something was wrong and they too got out. As a result, the soldiers from all three tanks got out minutes before a rocket hit, and if they had not gotten out, they would have all been killed. She found this story as a reminder of higher guidance and protection during difficult times.
  • Participants suggested the need for a platform to share stories of miracles and hope
  • One participant shared her feelings of isolation, and how this changed when she opened up to her colleagues at work.

Concluding remarks

One participant shared her appreciation of the workshop, where she felt connected with people who care, heard in a safe space without harshness or dogmatism, and felt less alone after hearing others’ experiences.

Tani brought up the issue of polarization on social media and unethical practices in big tech companies.

Batya encouraged face-to-face meetings such as this one as a way to meet real people and try to understand each other’s perspectives better.

She emphasized the importance of listening and grappling with differences instead of avoiding them, and about being a force for good by recognizing one humanity under one God.

She encouraged everyone to stand up for who they are and bring greater strength and cohesiveness in the world by caring and playing a meaningful role.

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