Anyone who is faced with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or any other mental health condition for that matter, looks to the future with varying degrees of trepidation. Personality type, psychosocial setting and a multitude of other interacting factors play their part in determining prognosis. In more simple terms though, the way in which we view our condition and the challenges it presents us with can make a huge difference in how our lives develop. The Austrian Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl called this the ‘will to meaning’; where there is meaning in any given situation there is hope and life becomes possible.
Frankl illustrates his point beautifully in an extract of an interview (posted below) in which he talks about two comrades who were contemplating suicide. They both made the point that they expected nothing from life given the grimness of their existence; Frankl posed the question ‘but what if life has something to expect from you?’. Pondering on Frankl’s challenge, both men found meaning in different ways and the question of suicide retreated from their horizons.
Frankl’s ‘will to meaning’ approach was the basis of ‘logotherapy’, a form of existential analysis that has applications in bipolar disorder and other conditions. Finding meaning through suffering and beyond suffering really can make all the difference.