Dr. Alfried Längle is a Psychotherapist, Founder and Past President of the International Society of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis (GLE - I). He lives in Vienna, Austria.
Dr. Längle and I discuss fulfillment, burnout and the components of good leadership, all from an existential analytic perspective. A common element in all three is what Dr. Längle describes as the necessary “…practice of basic existential connecting”: being engaged in the world around us, being fully present in all that we do and the capacity to feel deeply connected to ourselves and our feelings.
My clients frequently express a desire to experience the work they do as fulfilling. Can you elaborate on the experience of fulfillment from an Existential Analytic perspective?
Almost all human beings strive for a good life. They are ready and willing to do quite a lot to experience some happiness and they want their lives to be meaningful and substantial. The existential analytic perspective deals with this very human desire and deep longing. We see a primary motivation for life in this longing. The existential access to life has as a specific hot spot: activating and making use of our individual freedom. This freedom expresses itself in the degree to which we are fully present in our lives. Without my presence, without my personal engagement, in brief: without myself, I cannot become happy.
Life calls out to each of us personally. Only by freely responding, by fully participating and engaging in every moment and situation in my life do I create the basis for becoming happy. Psychologically speaking this is created when we live with inner consent.
Inner consent is defined as an internally felt yes to our actions, decisions or choices. “Yes, I feel in resonance with that”, “Yes, this is good, this is of value and important for me personally”, “I feel drawn to this and agree with my heart that what I am doing is right”. This is the deep connection with our inner freedom. Paying attention to this inner feeling of con-sent is crucial for an engaged and happy life. The result is: when I am fully present in what I do, I am so personally close and connected that I can feel the value of what I am occupied with. Doing so, I can permanently absorb the good in what I am doing. This warms my heart, this fills me with experienced values – this is what gives me ful-fillment.
Experiencing burnout and disengagement in the workplace is very prevalent amongst the clients I work with. Can you comment on how the practice of staying connected to our experiences and the value of our lives helps us to feel engaged and authentic in what we are doing?
The experience of burnout and disengagement is closely linked to my previous response. Doing anything in life without inner consent creates experiences and feelings of emptiness. We are then not personally present in what we are doing but merely “lending ourselves”. We are not authentic. We are alienated from our existence, alienated from ourselves.
The practice of basic existential “connecting” requires an open relationship to one’s feelings! Many people hold rationality or effectiveness as the most important orientation in life. This is true for the functional parts of our lives. But at the existential level, the level of human nurturing and fulfillment, it is not the right orientation. Without feeling and deeply sensing what is right and good in what we do, we cannot stay inwardly connected to all that we are experiencing.
Much is written about what constitutes good leadership and management. How does Existential Analysis define good leadership?
From an existential point of view, a good leader is primarily a well-developed, authentic personality and one who is open both inwardly and outwardly. Let me elaborate. A good leader has the capacity to turn towards the outside – to colleagues, employees, the business or corporation, the clients or customers, the market, developments in business, for example, and is open to the many influences and differing perspectives around them.
A good leader is also inwardly open and has the capacity to turn toward their inner world made up of subjective impressions, experiencing, feelings, creative thoughts, sensing and resonances. A good leader is guided by the constant dialogue between their inner and outer worlds. A good leader has the capacity to navigate this constant exchange while remaining authentically himself/herself.