By: Maria Marshall, PhD
Psychotherapist , Author
Co-Founder, Canadian Association of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis
I am told my family on my father’s side comes from Moravia the region of Europe where Viktor Frankl’s ancestors lived. In the XVIII century they migrated from Moravia to Bacska, a territory of Hungary, where they were landowners. On my father’s side, I am told, my Grandfather was Jewish. During WWII he was deported to a work camp. I am told, the rest of his family members, save a few ones who managed to escape, were directly deported to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. About sixty members on that side of the family perished in the Holocaust.
My Grandfather was married to my Grandmother, who was Catholic. He survived the Holocaust, but he never talked about his experiences as I was growing up. There were letters, objects, and relatives. There were stories that my parents told me never to tell outside the family. This is how I grew up, in a sheltered, happy home, the oldest of seven children.
In the early 70s my father completed his doctoral degree in neuro-psychiatry as a student of Dr. Viktor Frankl. I am told that I was introduced to Dr. Frankl when I was a baby, during one of my parents’ visit in his home in Vienna. Although I do not remember it, this is where my friendship with the “Father of Logotherapy” began.
I read “Man’s Search for Meaning” in my teenage years, in German. Actually, that is how I started to learn German. I absorbed every word, pondered every sentence, and I cried over the passages describing the prisoners’ suffering. I embraced logotherapy with all of my being.
Now, growing up, there comes a time in life when we are individually challenged to choose, and to stand for our convictions, or flee. One such occasion happened to me when I was 17 years old.
At that time I was attending the Secondary Medical School in my home town. We had regular lectures at the school, and attended rotations at various departments of the hospital as student nurse attendants.
It was the time when political meetings were organised more and more frequently in the center of our city, and one such meeting was taking place that afternoon. The meetings were nationalistic gatherings, which fueled intolerance and hate, and which were ideologically fueled by those who sought the destruction of peace, unity and solidarity.
The principal came to our class and informed us that our school will attend this meeting. Many greeted the opportunity as a free afternoon. The principal had the doors of the school and the classroom locked, so as none of the students could leave the property, but had to wait to be collectively part-taking in the demonstrations.
I had a dilemma: I did not want to participate in any way in meetings that I judged to be based on wrong ideology. But I did not want any reprisals or punishment for non-conforming either. With a sudden determination I rose from my seat, I opened the window, and I climbed through and jumped down to the soft green grass. I went to the bicycle racks, I got my bike, and carefully went around the block to avoid the school heading home.
On my way, throngs of workers came out of the factories heading toward the center. I had to push myself against the crowd to make my way home. All the way through I was breathing in the fresh air, and I had this wonderful warm feeling in my heart that I did the right thing. I had a keen awareness of my freedom, at least freedom in spirit. My spirit soared above the situation, and led me home, my body obeyed. All my senses were very alert and concentrated on the task. It was the meaningful choice my conscience dictated... I was reaching for freedom, I was choosing freedom, and I was acting in my area of freedom, choosing hope. As I moved, I was aware that I have been protected, wanted, and loved. I was very grateful that I could, in my own small ways be part of a "greater struggle," and secretly, I felt proud of it.
Upon arriving home, I was met with my mother’s puzzled and concerned look: "So early home from school?" "Mom, I think it is time we need to leave..." I gasped for air. --It was my first conscious act of defiance to participate in something that I did not believe in, and which later turned out to be the beginning of the civil war in our country...
Many years have passed since then. My parents and I moved to Canada, where a new life with new challenges awaited us. Viktor Frankl's logotherapy helped to plant a seed in my young soul which proved to be crucial for facing some of those hurdles ahead. I had it solidly anchored in my soul that we have a body, and a mind, and we are spirit. While our body and mind are fragile, and subject to the environment and its limitations, our spirit is free to take a stand toward our circumstances. It is indestructible and lives forever. Even if the access to it may be temporarily blocked, it is there. Nobody and nothing can take away or destroy our spirit, and as a healthy resource it is always there.
This thought helped me immensely when I was a fresh immigrant, when I even had to struggle to express myself in words. I felt my spirit alive, and fresh, guiding me to persist, to show courage, to not despair.
I eventually graduated from University with a Major in psychology. Then, I went on to study Counselling and Human Development with Professor Dr. Robert C. Barnes, who is a proponent of logotherapy in the US. I have been blessed with the opportunity of completing my PhD degree in counselling psychology with Professor Dr. William Hague, who supported my interest in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy. My Doctoral Thesis used a phenomentological-hermeneutic inquiry to explore the philosophical and practical uses of Logotherapy in counselling psychology. It was accepted for fulfillment of the requirements in September, 1997, the year when Dr. Frankl passed away.
Subsequently, I studied logotherapy with the Viktor Frankl Institute in Texas, and the South German Institute of Logotherapy, headed by Dr. Elisabeth Lukas, the foremost recognised student of Dr. Frankl’s. I obtained my Diplomate in Logotherapy credential with both the Institute in the US and Dr. Lukas in Germany. I registered a psychologist, and worked in clinical practice, using logotherapy.
In 2002, I met my dear husband in England, originally from the Canary Islands, Spain. He was a psychiatrist with an interest in logotherapy. We got married and we lived in England together.
In 2004, we immigrated back to Canada continuing our work on logotherapy and practicing as psychotherapists. We founded the Canadian Association of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis (Canadian Institute of Logotherapy), to promote the study and practice of logotherapy. We have five children ages 8, 7, 5, 4, and 2. We currently reside in Ottawa, Ontario, where we established the Ottawa Institute of Logotherapy. This is our private psychotherapy practice where we offer courses on logotherapy. We authored two books together: “Logotherapy Revisited: Review of the Tenets of Viktor E. Frankl’s Logotherapy,” (2012) and “Healing Ministry: Experiences with Viktor E. Frankl’s Logotherapy in Psychiatry, Psychology, Clinical Counselling, and Psychotherapy.” (2013).
Viktor Frankl witnessed that our spirit is the source of our search for meaning, every day, linked to Ultimate Meaning, which shines into our world through everyday events, people, and circumstances. I try to keep this in mind every day, whether I am in my office, serving my clients, or at home, serving my husband and my children.
This is my story in a nutshell. This is my life as it has been this far.
While we all have our own struggles, I feel gratitude for the prophetic words of Viktor Frankl, who reminded me of these truths, and provided some helpful guidelines for the journey ahead.
"True friend is the one who listens to your heart, and reminds you of the melody of it when you have forgotten it" --said Dr. Lukas. Certainly Viktor Frankl is one of those "prophets" and one of those friends who accompanied my life, and who accompanies the lives of all those who seek to know his life-giving and enriching thought and work.
Maria Marshall, PhD, is Registrant of the Canadian College of Professional Counsellors and Psychotherapists. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with Honors at the University of Calgary, Alberta. She obtained her Master of Education Degree in Counselling and Human Development at Hardin-Simmons University, in Abilene, Texas. She completed her PhD in Counselling Psychology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. She completed her Diplomate in Logotherapy credential with Dr. Elisabeth Lukas at the South German Institute of Logotherapy in Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany, and a the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy, TX. She is psychotherapist in private practice at the Ottawa Institute of Logotherapy, an accredited member of the International Association of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, Vienna. She and her husband are founders of the Canadian Association of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, and authors of two books on logotherapy:
Marshal, M, & Marshall, E. (2012). Logotherapy Revisited: Review of the Tenets of Viktor E. Frankl’s Logotherapy. Ottawa Institute of Logotherapy.
Marshall, M. & Marshall, E. (2013). Healing Ministry: Experiences with Viktor E. Frankl’s Logotherapy in Psychiatry, Psychology, Clinical Counselling, and Psychotherapy. Ottawa Institute of Logotherapy.
Both books are available at: www.amazon.com
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