Dr. Klingberg will be presenting a lecture entitled Harbinger and Paradox: Viktor Frankl and Positive Psychology.
Harbinger and Paradox: Viktor Frankl and Positive Psychology
This presentation is personal. It reflects on Viktor Frankl as a private, suffering man while it considers the dense connections between logotherapy and positive psychology. And the approach is possible because of the convergence of three circumstances in my own journey.
First, fresh out of college in 1962–63, I was in Vienna to study with Frankl, just seven years after his liberation from the Türkheim concentration camp. Decades later (1993) Viktor and Elly, his wife and collaborator for half a century, had the idea to share their stories with me; urgency was a factor since Viktor was then nearing 90. During his final four years we spent countless hours together in their Vienna home, visiting friends and family, and taking side trips around the city. An intimate friendship had developed earlier and Viktor said of our conversations, “Elly and I feel no inhibition to tell whatever can be told at all. We have no hesitation whatsoever.”
The second converging circumstance was my transition from 20 years providing and administrating clinical services to teaching. As professor I had time to take the pulse of psychology and to pursue the Frankl saga and data. For seven years I devoted sabbatical leaves and summers to biography, and the personal contexts of Viktor and Elly included life and times with their families in Vienna, even through the horrors of the Holocaust. (If Ellen Berscheid is right about the greatest human strength—other humans—then Frankl cannot be understood apart from the relationships that nurtured, inspired, and sustained him. Yet it is rare in logotherapeutic literature to find Frankl embedded in them; one might get the impression that he flew solo into his accomplishments.)
Preparing university courses and the advent of positive psychology became the third converging circumstance. (Viktor died in 1997 and two years later the movement was born, so 2 we had never discussed positive psychology by that name.) There I was, writing the story of Frankl and logotherapy and discovering simultaneously that Seligman, Peterson, Csikszentmihalyi, et al. were nudging psychology’s century right down Frankl’s alley. Ever since for me, Frankl and logotherapy and positive psychology have been joined at the hip. At times I felt near the core of momentous change, of which Frankl had been harbinger since the 1920s (!), like a forerunner in ancient times who went ahead to arrange accommodations for an influential traveling party.
Using stories and some photographs and other slides to illustrate, this presentation will:
- Identify both paradoxes and parallels in Frankl’s life and logotherapy and in the subsequently emerging positive psychology
- Turn the spotlight of positive psychology retrospectively onto Frankl himself—to which he would object—with reference to three particular human strengths described by Seligman and Peterson:
- Under the sixth virtue category of TRANSCENDENCE (the very bedrock of logotherapy) the character strengths Humor and Spirituality
- Under the fifth virtue category of HUMANITY the character strength Forgiveness and mercy