Although he began as an Austrian psychiatrist, his real training…and horrendous suffering…began in World War II…as an inmate at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was there that he lost his brother…and his father….and his wife.
But through a series of discoveries he made in those camps over three years, as described in his magnum opus, A Man’s Search for Meaning, he developed a theory of psychology that has changed the world.
He called his theory, “Logotherapy.”
Logotherapy is based on his observations that the inmates who knew WHY they were alive WERE THE ONES WHO SURVIVED THE CAMPS IN THE LARGEST NUMBERS. He also discovered that DISCOVERING THIS MEANING MUST BE INDIVIDUAL. In other words, we must determine our own mission in life for ourselves.
It is YOUR Choice
I personally like this because, compared to other psychological doctrines that focus on looking back at our past, or looking inwardly through introspection, logotherapy looks to the future and to a person’s willingness to do something about it. In other words, dear reader: “Today is indeed the first day of the rest of your life.” And today you can choose:
- What you are going to do
- Where you want to go
- And what you are saying to yourself…about yourself…as you walk through the day
The Purpose-in-Life Scale
At first, psychologists were very skeptical about using logotherapy to treat psychiatric disorders, because they thought that a person’s ‘Purpose in Life” could not be measured. We now know it can be, and psychologists call it a “Purpose-in-Life” (PIL) scale. It is this scale, developed by psychologists James Crumbaugh and Leonard Maholick, in 1964 that has been used in studies around the world.
A person’s Purpose-in-Life scale is based on three dimensions:
- Believing that life DOES have a purpose
- Upholding a personal value system
- Having the motivation to achieve future goals and overcome future challenges.
Scientists are now discovering how much a high Purpose-in-Life scale significantly supports our health, in a number of ways.
The Heart of the Matter
Although the heart is not technically part of your nervous system, it is profoundly linked to your brain. In fact, it is your brain which uses adrenalin to monitor your heart; and it is your heart which delivers oxygen-rich blood to your brain.
This two-way relationship depends on the health of your blood vessels. A stroke occurs when those vessels fail to provide blood to your brain, which literally kills brain tissue by depriving it of oxygen.
While a healthy diet and exercise are ways to reduce the risk of stroke, research suggests that HAVING A HIGH PURPOSE-IN-LIFE PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN PREVENTING STROKES!.
In one study, Eric Kim and his team assessed the Purpose-in-Life scale in almost seven thousand older adults who had never had a stroke and followed them over a four-year period to determine stroke incidence. They found that for each standard-deviation increase in their Purpose-in-Life score, these adults reduced their stroke risk by 22 percent.
Another study followed 1,500 individuals with cardiovascular disease for two years. The researchers found that each unit increase in their Purpose in Life score was associated with a 27 percent decrease in their risk of having a heart attack within two years.
Protecting ourselves from Alzheimer’s
“Dementia” occurs when our brain cells are damaged and no longer connect to each other properly. It commonly affects older people, but it is not a normal part of aging.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s. Other than generic advice to eat healthy and exercise, new research suggests that having a high Purpose-in-Life score can actually PROTECT US FROM ALZHEIMER’S!
In one study, after following more than nine hundred older people at risk for dementia for seven years, the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center found that those with a higher Purpose-in-Life score were only half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with a low score
In addition, for people without Alzheimer’s, a higher Purpose-in-Life score was associated with slower rates of age-related cognitive decline.
So Where Can I Find My Purpose-in-Life?
After 26 years of studying the brain; my library has become packed to the ceiling with books on psychology, brain physiology, and self-help. And although I have studied them all, there is one book that has given me more insight into the psychology of man than any other.
THAT BOOK IS THE BIBLE!
And it is interesting. Cognitive psychology, introduced to the world by Dr. Albert Ellis back in 1961 in his seminal book titled A Guide to Rational Living, observes that everything that you can do today…is based on what you say to yourself… about yourself…today.
Proverbs 23:7 says; “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Proverbs was written more than 3,000 years ago
There is another verse in Psalms 118:24 which I latch onto each morning, and that is, “This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”
What a way to start your day and give meaning to your life!!!