Viktor E. Frankl Goes to Community College

How Creating Meaning May Save Your Life

by Janet Farrell Leontiou (Author)
©2022 Textbook X, 88 Pages
Series: Health Communication, Volume 18


One of the main causes for the hopelessness that drives some to thoughts of suicide is meaninglessness. This work invites the reader to create a life full of meaning by attending to words. The emphasis here is on the power of the word. When we shift into a different relationship with words, we begin to shift as well.
Viktor E. Frankl created a theory of logotherapy by breathing new life into the thoughts of the ancient Stoics. At the center of that ancient philosophy was the logos or the word and everything behind the word. Bringing an emphasis of logostherapy (attending to the word) to Frankl’s theory of logotherapy (a psychology with an emphasis on meaning) brings something new to Frankl’s work. According to the author’s reading of Frankl, inspiring others to create from his work was always his intention.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Stoics
  • 2. The Logos
  • 3. Logotherapy
  • 4. The Existential Vacuum
  • 5. The Tenses
  • 6. The Uberman
  • 7. The Other
  • 8. Tragic Optimism
  • Conclusion
  • Series Index

←viii | ix→


A student once asked: “When did you begin teaching the course through the lens of logostherapy?” It was so long ago that I do not recall a time when I was not teaching logostherapy. I do know that I constructed the theory with the intention of giving something to my students that was meaningful for them. I never imagined that I would end up teaching at a community college. Looking back, I now see that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I am grateful that I was able to do my work over a span of twenty- seven years and counting. None of it would have been possible without my students’ magnificent receptivity. I have always understood that it was their choice to listen and to learn that made all things possible. I never took that for granted.

The classroom can be an organic, creative, and exciting place. I hope that I was able to capture some of that dynamism on these pages and the reader can imagine how these ancient ideas may be able to shift us to a new place.

←x | 1→


I have spent the last twenty-seven years teaching my adapted version of Frankl’s logotherapy to community college students. Frankl’s theory of logotherapy is a psychotherapy based on meaning. I chose, those many years ago, to develop the course because I agree with Frankl that a life without meaning is not sustainable. Frankl makes the point exceedingly clear that many mental health issues such as depression, aggression, addictions and some suicides can be linked back to the sufferer experiencing a lack of meaning.1 In Frankl’s words: “As to the causation of the feeling of meaninglessness, one may say, albeit in an oversimplifying vein, that people have enough to live by but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning.”2

The topic of suicide was always at the forefront of Frankl’s work. Before he was imprisoned by the Nazis, his psychiatric research focused on trying to understand the increase in suicides among students during report card distribution. We are told that he framed the ←1 | 2→entire psychiatric encounter by asking the patient: “Why do you not commit suicide?”3 He did this because he knew if he could help patients identify their reason for living and to acknowledge what they are living for, they would be less likely to take their own lives. Frankl tells us: “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or an unfinished work, will never be able to throw his life away.”4 Here, Frankl is telling us that it is our love and work (two parts of the trilogy of logotherapy) are what gives our lives meaning. The work we need to do as human beings is to figure out how love and work fit within the context of our own lives. Frankl borrows some of his theoretical framework from the philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who said: “He who has a why to live for can bear with any how.”5

The Existentialists, and the Stoics who preceded them, understood that life does not come with a pre-established meaning and if our lives are meaningless, it is because we have not put the meaning into our lives. We are the ones who need to do the necessary work of constructing meaning. Sometimes people, especially young people, fall into despair and they choose to end their lives before they do the necessary work. If they could have endured the pain a bit longer, they may have been able to arrive at a new place of understanding. Frankl tells us that whenever he was confronted with a person who was prone to suicide, he reports what others have told him in the past.


X, 88
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (April)
Frankl Communication suicide meaning words logotherapy logostherapy Stoicism existentialism Viktor E. Frankl Goes to Community College Janet Farrell Leontiou
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. X, 88 pp.

Biographical notes

Janet Farrell Leontiou (Author)

Janet Farrell Leontiou holds a Ph.D. in speech communication from Penn State University. All of her degrees are in the ancient discipline of rhetoric. She has spent the last twenty-seven years teaching the material found within this book to students at Nassau Community College. She has first-hand experience on just how empowering these ideas can be. All of Dr. Farrell Leontiou’s work is on the power of spoken word and the kinds of worlds we create with our words. Two of her books—The Doctor Still Knows Best: How Medical Culture Is Still Marked by Paternalism (Peter Lang, 2020) and What Do the Doctors Say?: How Doctors Create a World Through Their Words (2010)—are about the world created by medical professionals. Communicating with Integrity (2003) was written as a student guide for the course content.


Title: Viktor E. Frankl Goes to Community College
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