Everything listed under: Guest Blogs

  • "The View From Hong Kong SAR Under China"


    The Application of Logotherapy on Prevention of Suicide in the Youth of Hong Kong

    Cindy Leung

    Hong Kong is located in eastern Asia, on the southeast coast of the People’s Republic of China, facing the South China Sea. With a humble beginning as a small fishing village in 1800s, Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the opium wars in 1841. In a few decades, Hong Kong was transformed from a rocky undeveloped mountainous terrain to a major entry point for global trade and seized the opportunity to become one of the world’s international leading financial centers today. In 1997, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred back to the Chinese government and became one of the special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China. According to the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has a different political system from the Chinese mainland and enjoy independent judiciary functions.

    Under great influence of the British culture during the colonial era, we could precisely describe Hong Kong as having a “East meets West” culture in which food always holds an important place in our culture. The fusion of east and west makes Hong Kong so unique that it has a reputable label of "Gourmet Paradise" and "World's Fair of Food". The choice of international food is abundant. Wherever you go in Hong Kong, you can easily locate a restaurant that prepares Chinese, Japanese, Western and South-Eastern Asian cuisine.

    With the rising concern of suicidal problem among the youth, as a new beginner of logotherapy, I have a vision of applying logotherapy in prevention of suicide among the youth in Hong Kong. In 2006, more than 22% of the suicidal victims aged 25 or below claimed that the cause of their problems were related to family or school. Based on a survey for reasons of suicidal ideation among the adolescents, more than 50% of the respondents indicated that family problem was a major factor that contributed to their feeling of hopelessness. To name a few of these family problems, they include pressure from authoritarian parenting, low parental warmth, improper child-rearing practices and depressing family climate. Hong Kong is a highly competitive society. Most parents and students believe that the best way to earn an identity or recognition in the society is to graduate from a prestigious school with excellent school achievement and work in a big company with promising career development. Therefore, our educational competition starts as early as kindergarten. Nowadays, there is a growing trend of having our young children study in two different kindergartens for Chinese and English language training as well as attending training on music and sports after school in order to enrich their profile for application to study in one of the prestigious primary schools. For students who can not excel in their academic performance, they need to endure a lot of pressure from their family and peer group. Eventually, they become depressed and lose hope in life which resulted in committing suicide.

    According to the suicidal prevention program initiated by Dr. Viktor Frankl in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, we need to save our children and adolescents from committing suicide by helping them to find their meaning of life before they develop a sense of hopelessness in their problem situations. In the camp, Dr. Frankl’s suicide intervention teams were responsible for taking care of the new arrivals by easing their shock against the hostile living environment as well as keeping them up with hope for the future. The core belief of logotherapy is to help individuals to discover for themselves their reason for being. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Frankl quoted Nietzche saying, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how" and wrote “The meaning of life always changes, but it never ceases”.

    After I read an article named “The Application of Logotherapy in Education” from Bianca Hirsch , I am excited to note that logotherapy, as a therapeutic tool, is useful in helping children and adults change behavior and attitudes and thus gain control in their lives. With its action-oriented approach, it allows the participants to assume responsibility for their own behavior. In this article, she has identified few working tools that could be used to strengthen our students in confronting their problem situations. (i) The logochart helps students to focus on specific activities, provides freedom to prioritize and choose, and identifies behaviors that can be incorporated (or eliminated) in order to enhance the individual’s growth and development. (2) Socratic dialogue may be used to help the students to identify their feelings, problems and concerns as well as bringing them into an awareness that they are not helpless victims; (3) For adolescents, the life purpose questionnaire can be used to measure the degree of life-meaning.

    As I build up my knowledge and understanding of logotherapy after attending the training offered by the Logotherapy Institute, I shall exhaust all available opportunities in Hong Kong to promote the application of logotherapy in helping the children to find their meaning of life and teach the parents to help their children to do so. Then, the greater China will be my next target for the promotion of using logotherapy in suicidal prevention.

    Cindy Leung
    "The View From Hong Kong SAR Under China"

  • A View From Mexico

       Maria Teresa Lemus de Vanek

                                                   Licensed Psychologist and Logotherapist

    I love my country, consider myself a true Franklian and was therefore honored to have been asked to share something about Mexico and how Dr. Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy is of influence.  Mexico is a large and great country, covering an area of around two million square kilometers with approximately ten thousand kilometers of beautiful shores. Acapulco and Cancun are famous tourist spots but there are a lot of lesser known halcyon spots.

    Considered the 4th mega diverse country, its biodiversity includes a large variety of flora and fauna with over twelve thousand of them only grown in Mexico. It is a multi-cultural country with thirty-seven thousand archaeological sites and sixty-five native languages with Spanish being the official language. Our country is also the most populated Spanish speaking country with over 100 million inhabitants.

    When you visit Mexico, you are visiting one of the 10 most visited countries in the world. Our people are cheerful and friendly and tourists come from all over looking for color, sun, music, fiesta and joy! Simply walking through our local markets is a feast of color and folklore featuring a variety of fruits and vegetables, hundreds of spicy peppers and locals in embroidered, colorful costumes…Mexican cuisine was recognized last year by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. We have a great variety of delicious dishes.

    Mexico is not an easy country to rule. Our population consists of approximately 20% young people under the age of 21, all looking for the equally important opportunities of education and jobs. There are high level schools and universities yet we have over five million people who cannot read or write. We have great socio-cultural contrasts: the richest men on earth and poverty as seen in the poorest of countries.

    These days, there is a looming, serious crisis: drug trafficking; violence and corruption are but a few of its symptoms…Mexico has transitioned from being a drug transit country to a drug consuming country causing insecurity and hopelessness to linger in the air. Many groups are putting forth their best efforts to deal with this challenge but it is not easy. Our most important unit – family- is the place where our people are struggling to foster unity and health.

    Dr. Frankl’s Logotherapy –healing through meaning-has a lot to offer our Society! Since his first visit in 1978 at Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico has welcomed his concepts and teachings with enthusiasm and hope. Dr. Frankl invited our Youth to build a meaningful way of life and all countries to cement a social commitment in favor of justice and peace.

    We were all encouraged to ponder meaning over fear and violence, consciousness over drugs and self – destruction, responsibility over abuse and laxness and above all to favor a vital attitude to work in favor of life and growth for all.  Viktor & I, An Alexander Vesely Film is already refreshing our will for meaning in all countries. The world is in need of it!

    Maria Teresa Lemus de Vanek
    Licensed Psychologist and Logotherapist
    Founder of www.logoforo.com
    The Spanish speaking site of Logotherapy

  • A View From Croatia

        Tatjana Vucinic, MSc. in Psychology, Zagreb-Croatia

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to write about my country, our people and its wonders. Although I am truly cosmopolitan in the global sense, my only real homeland is the small but lovely country located in the heart of Europe – Croatia. Situated along the Adriatic Sea and its hinterland, Croatia stretches from the slopes of the Alps into the Pannonian Valley to the banks of the Danube and Drava river.

     Geographically, our country is divided into three distinct regions: the Coastal region, the Mountain region and the Pannonian region, offering variety and beauty through the natural “faces” of the landscape. Founded on the ruins of the Roman Empire, Croatia shared many of its battles and insights with other countries in Western Europe. Currently, Croatia operates as one of Europe’s parliamentary democracies, making it a valid candidate for the European Union.

    The population of Croatia consists mainly of Croats (89.6%) but I see people becoming more open to other nationalities as well, especially in the years after the war. The Croatian War of Independence, fought 1991-1995, started to break some deeply held barriers and convictions about our identity as a Nation. As much as the war itself posed a great shock and loss for many as well tremendous hardship, it somehow brought a much deeper sense of self-realization both individually and on the national level. It brought something new and brought us somehow closer to our ultimate meaning--leading me to the subject of Logotherapy and Dr. Viktor Frankl, my one true inspiration.

    Honestly, as an MSc in Psychology, I was interested in the humanistic side of this relatively new science. Psychology offers many things and in Zagreb, capital of Croatia where I live, and in the Netherlands where I completed my Masters program, the primary emphasis was on experimental psychology and its approach to some of the basic phenomena of human behavior and thought. Although I appreciate this view, and find it essential for the further development of psychology, I was searching for something bigger, something greater--something with deeper meaning. I longed for something that would afford me, as a psychologist, not only professional validity but also satisfy my deep, nurtured longings and desires as a person. And I found it in the life and work of Dr. Viktor Frankl.

    Since Croatia doesn’t have opportunities at present for further research in Logotherapy and regrettably is not focused on this field of psychology, I faced some obstacles on my path. With our Faculty, the literature was limited; therefore, I sought out more knowledge on my own. I am very proud of the fact that my B.A. thesis explored the meaning of life –this approach was pretty new in my country in 2003.

    I write the historical facts to explain that in my view, Croatia has a great hunger for more knowledge of Dr. Viktor Frankl’s work and I must say that interest in the area of meaning thought, are huge here. This can be evidenced by the popularity of Frankl’s books, which sell so well among Croatians. Sadly, Logotherapy here, as all over the world, needs more recognition in scientific circles. I think Viktor Frankl and his brilliant contribution to the greatest part of psychology, deserves much more recognition, in fact, it deserves all the recognition it can achieve.

    The movie Viktor & I, An Alexander Vesely Film, is such a good way to spread the word of hope and meaning to us all. In these times of change where people seek higher truths and comfort in their everyday lives, this documentary and all that it represents fits in perfectly. I hope it will bring us all closer together, lower the perceived differences among people and reveal the RIGHT perspective on the differences which may continue to separate us from one another.

    I just hope that as a psychologist and true humanistic person, I will have the opportunity to study further and deepen my own knowledge in Logotherapy. With further knowledge, I believe I will be better able to help those in need and who would benefit from uncovering their own meaningful life. I am sure there are many!

    I salute you all and wish you the very best from the bottom of my heart.

    Tatjana Vucinic, MSC in Psychology, Zagreb-Croatia

    Producers Note: One of the many ways that Tatjana helps the world is through her writings of poetry, some set to music. By creating music for her poetry and singing too, she hopes to respond in a creative and fruitful way to all those everyday requests that life puts upon us all.

    Start to hear the beautiful song which she wrote and performs –“Believe in Me”

  • A View From Argentina

    Sarita Alvarez Sanguedolce, MD, Psychiatrist.

    Member of the research project "Genetic Factors in Human Diseases"

    National University in Tucuman

    Student of Logotherapy

    How daunting and charming is this thrilling challenge of speaking about my beloved Argentina, the Argentineans and Dr. Frankl! At the very beginning of this invitation a struggle began within my mind and my heart, where my memories and wishes clash while reflecting about my Country and countrymen. You see, as life itself, they are full of contrasts, and it’s hard to simplify in words the mixture that brings to life a most unique way of being. It is, however, worth a try.

    Argentina is a country of contrasts, even in its’ landscapes: magnificent waterfalls, breathtaking mountains, wild coastlines, endless pastures, arid deserts, exuberant jungles, Antarctic cold, subtropical heat, ancient glaciers, modern buildings, lonely villages, crowded cities...

    We began to exist as a country about 200 years ago. Actually, we had two births: May 25th, 1810 when the first local government was created, and July 9th, 1816, when we declared our independency from Spain. During the early years, a huge portion of native inhabitants were killed and many immigrants came from Europe -mostly from Spain and Italy- and Middle-Eastern countries. More recently, there was another important immigration trend, where people from other Latin American countries -mainly southern South America as well as some from Africa and Asia. They all arrived searching for better working opportunities - adding new challenges and richness into our melting pot (“crisol de razas”).

    Surely, a deep and thorough sociological description is beyond my limits, but what I do know is that during these two centuries we have had many struggles and we still have a long way to go until we reach our full potential. We’ve been exercising our democratic government without interruption since 1983, and since then we’ve been divided in reviewing our past (often times in a biased way) and struggling with serious economic and corruption difficulties that hinder our present and future.

    Argentineans are very passionate (you can check this undoubtedly at soccer world cups!) and warm people, and we love gathering with family and friends. We even have a national day to celebrate friendship! Moreover, one of our traditional drinks, the mate, is best enjoyed if it’s shared in a circle of friends, whether they are lifelong acquaintances or strangers that just met.

    There are two big different realities in Argentina: that of the big cities -mainly, Buenos Aires-, and that of the “interior”, the rest of the country, especially those smaller towns and villages scattered among endless fields of diverse crops and cattle. I have lived in both.

    The first ones have every challenge a big city faces: individualism, a fast-paced way of living, bewilderment, excess of artificial things and lack of natural ones, tougher hardships in building strong families, plenty of opportunities to grow professionally, abundant recreational offers… you name it. The running that the big city’s rhythm impose to most people, the spread of relativism, hedonism, the lack of silence to find oneself and develop a rich inner self, and many more difficulties often times lead young (and not so young) people to a meaningless life, to an inner vacuum they try to fill with things that leave them even more empty inside. Those people need someone to remind them there’s a light of hope, that the happiness they pursue will be a consequence they’ll get as a certain “side effect” when they begin to transcend themselves to reach others, to bring their gifts to something or somebody beyond themselves. And they need to know it’s a possible task, even though circumstances may seem absolutely adverse, as it happens frequently in Argentina. There are many people that taught us it’s possible with their own life. Viktor Frankl was one of them and his testimony is still valid nowadays.

    Smaller towns have a challenge of their own: to be faithful to their unique cultural identity, despite mass media temptations that often times present foreign values as most desirables. Another challenge is to strengthen their communities, even though many times young people need to move to bigger cities because of better educational opportunities or lack of resources to pursue their dreams. Life in the interior moves at a slower pace; in most of it we even respect the siesta –the early afternoon nap- and have more opportunities to stay in touch with nature, family and friends, which help the well-predisposed person to be more in touch with the inner self. Unfortunately, some people are lacking a guide to help them discover the gifts they have, some have changed their dreams for what is possible here and now, and sometimes, their gossip brings to life the saying “small town, big hell” (“pueblo chico, infierno grande”).

    Still, the interior is the guardian of traditional values, of hard-working people, able to make huge sacrifices for those they love, willing to lend a hand whenever they can. Also, in the interior religious beliefs are very alive, whether they are ancient traditions as the veneration of the Pachamama (Mother Earth) or popular manifestations of religiosity, such as pilgrimages and processions. The major religions are Christian (mainly Roman Catholic and Evangelical), but there are also Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as other cults and even agnostics, though the latter are more apparent in the bigger cities. And here’s another important contribution of Dr. Frankl, one that makes Logotherapy unique among the “Psyche” world: the recognition that every human being has a spiritual dimension, regardless of a particular religion, where the values are always alive and ready to be lived, beginning with the one that “makes the world go round” and makes each one of us feel truly alive: love in its true and deepest meaning.

    Dr. Frankl visited Argentina for the first time in 1954, and it seems he was kindly impressed by Argentineans. He loved tango, which is a very typical music style mainly from Buenos Aires, to be danced and sang with intensity and passion only. The interior has another huge group of traditional music: folklore. Among chamamés, zambas, chacareras, cuecas and many more, these songs reflect and inspire dreams, sadness, hopes and love stories of countrymen and women. Many Argentineans have worked hard and still do in agriculture and cattle raising, making the most of the generous wealth of our soil. Others have reached top-of-the-world levels in sciences, arts and sports, making us all proud. Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, César Milstein, Bernardo Houssay, Luis Federico Leloir, René Favaloro, Carlos Saavedra Lamas, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Evita and Juan Domingo Perón, Julio Bocca, Maximiliano Guerra, Carlos Gardel, Bruno Gelber, Lalo Schiffrin, Daniel Barenboim, Juan Manuel Fangio, Diego Maradona, César Pelli, are only few among many Argentineans that shine for their achievements.

    And there are plenty of those unknown-everyday heroes that make many sacrifices to bring their families what they need, that wake up at dawn to travel miles to reach school, both teachers and students alike, that prefer to lose some unethical wealth rather than their values and good deeds. Unfortunately, there are also some that balance their laziness with a questionable wit (“viveza criolla”) to achieve their selfish goals. Sadly, this is potentiated by the decline of the excellent educational levels we used to have some years ago, which is helped by the mediocrity that has flooded free television and mass media. But, as Dr. Frankl used to say, “if you see somebody as he is, you make him worse, but if you see him as he can be, you make him better”. I strongly believe that my fellow Argentineans have extraordinary richness within that needs to be strengthened, educated and focused. We just need this reminder to raise our eyes and meet the greatness we’re called to reach.

    I believe that Alex Vesely’s diffusion of his grandfather’s teachings – beginning with the movie “Viktor & I” can help all Argentineans to realize they are called to this greatness and give us new inspiration to start marrying our freedom with responsibility, hopefully in the near future. . If we succeed, I hope we all will be able to sing with new meaning those touching words from our National Anthem: “Y los libres del mundo responden: al gran pueblo argentino, ¡salud!”, that is: “And the free ones of the world reply: to the great Argentine people, hail!"

  • A View From South Africa

          Solomon Oupa Makola, PhD

        Licensed Psychologist, Welkom Campus

        Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT)

    South Africa is distinct for diverse cultures and languages. South Africa has the highest number of people of European origin, in Africa; and 79.5% of the South African population is of black African ancestry. For a very long time, the white minority was in control of the vastly larger black majority; they introduced a policy of segregation known as apartheid. After years of internal protests, activism and uprising by black South Africans and their allies, segregation policies were abolished and political movements were unbanned. Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years incarceration on a sabotage sentence. Peaceful negotiations were held; subsequently the first democratic elections took place in 1994, which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority; it has been in power ever since. The country then rejoined the Commonwealth of Nations.

    Despite the 17 years of democracy, the continued consequences of segregation are still clearly visible; consequently, it will take years for the country to reverse the damage done by apartheid. Besides the latter; poverty, crime, aids, and unemployment are some as the major challenges facing the country. Rape is a common problem in South Africa, in a 2009 survey one in four South African men admitted to raping someone. About a quarter of the population is unemployed.

    Irrespective of challenges, to date South Africa has 10 Nobel Prize winners; which include Nelson Mandela. South Africa is a well-liked tourist destination; Dr. Frankl visited the country several times and he was awarded honorary doctoral degrees by a number of South African universities. Dr. Frankl visited this country when people where still divided and, irrespective of that, he preached a message of hope and restoration. The message, preached by Dr. Frankl to South African then, is still relevant today. His message teaches us that we do not suffer in vain and that everything happens for a reason; our responsibility is to find the meaning of the suffering.

    The movie, Viktor and I, is a true testimony about what Dr. Frankl calls self –transcendence; that in life we don’t exist solely for ourselves but for others. Dr. Frankl lived his life for others; thus, in this movie South Africans and other people throughout the world will be able to learn, from the primary and secondary sources, how they can overcome challenges and lead meaningful lives. The movie is a fantastic educational tool for both logotherapists and people who are searching for meaning in their lives.

    Solomon Oupa Makola, PhD Licensed Psychologist and Campus Manager: Central University of Technology, Free State (Welkom Campus).