“In life, too, the peaks decide the meaningfulness of life and a single moment can retroactively flood an entire life with meaning.”
—Viktor Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul
The crags and crevices of our storied lives are illuminated by Wisdom.
“Logos is deeper than logic.”
Logos has many definitional iterations, but in the spirit of Viktor Frankl’s observation of its depth, Logos is the manifestation of meaning in each of our personal lives and existence.
From Heraclitus to the Stoics, from Nietzsche to Heidegger, from Rosenzweig to Levinas and on to contemporary musings, it is our own uniqueness and the uniqueness of others that reveals the every-changing, mutable, and illuminating Logos of our being. Each life has its own Logos.
What can we learn of our meanings as we reach into the heights of subjectivity? Peak experiences, alternatively framed as kinds of liminal space in which perspective of one’s being and place in the world suddenly brings feelings of uncanniness or disorienting questions, are all pregnant with Logos. Persevering through such ruptures in the familiar can emerge into awe and beauty.
But the liminal events that might flood one’s life with meaning can just as surely be full of horror and darkness as that of wonder, and on the true peaks of existence, survival — whether metaphorical or actual — is not assured. An encounter with mortality is such a peak, as can be a moment of loss, or violence, or discrimination.
In Dr. Tansey’s work as a psychiatrist, she has over 20 years of holding and healing the body, mind, and spirit from the experiences of trauma, in which a violent or grievous rupture of safety writes itself on a personal story, which ongoing hauntings. The constellation, and even co-occurrence, of horror, despair, wonder, and awe, are the feelings that accompany our individual liminality and the unique embodied stories we form around them.
Utterly personal, often refusing reduction or reasoning or logic, the noetic emergence from these peaks and depths is still being told in the evolution of human wisdom, both individual and communal.
Dr. Tansey’s teaching is intended to support wisdom-discovery, both discovered within and spoken by each person’s body, mind, spirit, and heart.
Dr. Tansey is committed to ongoing collaboration and work in the streams of existential therapy, ethics, phenomenology, and meaning-centered work.
The following include her novel and integrative curricula in Mindfulness and Meaning, open to students and as teacher-training. Also, supervision of psychotherapists and coaches and her work as a member of the Teaching Faculty in the Viktor Frankl Institute for Logotherapy.
Meaning and Existence: The Big Questions
A meaning-seeking approach is the heart of Dr. Tansey’s humanistic teaching and lecturing. A scholar of modern religious thought, she draws from the wisdom traditions of the world and her students’ own Logos-wrestling to challenge the suffering of the existential abyss, lonely fatalism, a tranquilized mindlessness, and various fanaticisms marked by hate, vacuity and emptiness.
Dr. Tansey invites a whole-person experience of knowledge-seeking, including the somatic dimensions of embodiment as truly as the cognitive, conative, dialogical, and noetic capacities. She engages myth and story and metaphor and art and love in the search for meaning.
For if Logos is deeper than logic, our studies cannot be limited to rational grasping alone. And if the revelation of meaning in the present moment flows into our stories in time, we are never static and always Becoming. This is teaching for our own evolution.
Supporting the Will-to-Meaning activities of individual conscience is an approach with origins in the work of Dr. Viktor Frankl, an influential forerunner of existential interventions for human distress. Frankl believed that every individual has a Defiant Power of the Human Spirit, and that this capacity is awakened to find Logos (Meaning) in the uniqueness and dignity of one’s own lived experiences.
As a survivor of National Socialism and the Holocaust, he was particularly attuned to liminal states of inescapable suffering, including the threat of death. But in 21st century existential work, it is clear that liminality is expansive to include any and all spaces in which we are challenged through uncanniness into understanding the depth and height of being human. Life itself unfolds its growth edges, and being responsible means answering to its demands of us.
It is simply the nature of being human that we pass through many liminal spaces inclusive of birth and love and mystery and horror and trauma, not to mention all the little moments in day-to-day existence that surprise us with a rupture of disorientation and questioning.
We can seek such liminal events and hold them in ritual, but they often arise with no intention for their appearance. Mētis allows us to seize survival in liminality, where there is no map. Will-to-Meaning allows us to perceive what is meaningful – or is meaningless and absurd – about that rupture and evolve a weightiness of unique mētis wisdom.
Existential Teaching | Metaphors for the Journey
Frankl’s metaphor of the doctor-logotherapist holding a guide rope is an apt metaphor for teaching and mentoring with an existential framing. Teachers who hold a safety line for the learner on the rock face do not spare the learners from the knowledge-discovery that can only emerge from their own reaching. But the teacher carries a moral responsibility to be diligent to the safety and encouragement of the student in this perilous and life-altering work.
Perhaps unlike the sequential skills-development of a mountain climber in training, however, existential ruptures in life are even less certainly within the curricular preferences of the teacher, and so life itself become a muse to what is born out of struggle. Unquestionably, the nimbleness of mētis is demanded of both learner and teacher in dialogue with each other and with life itself.
“The doctor must model his conduct on the leading mountain-climber, who keeps the rope slack for the man below because otherwise his companion would be spared the effort of climbing independently. But if there is any danger of a fall, he will not hesitate both to secure the rope and to tug on it in order to pull the endangered man up.”
—Viktor Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul