Autoethnography as Logotherapy: An Existential Analysis of Meaningful Social Science Inquiry

Amber Esping

Abstract


Autoethnographic writing has often been described by its practitioners as being a therapeutic exercise. However, its public nature and ontological status as social science inquiry distinguish it from private forms of therapeutic writing. This paper uses the lens of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy to offer one explanation for its perceived therapeutic impact. Logotherapy is an existential psychotherapy that fo- cuses on an awareness of the meaning of one’s life as an avenue to mental health. This sense of meaning is derived through the realization of three types of “values:†(a) creative values (what the individual gives to the world), (b), experiential values (what the individual receives from the world), and (c) attitudinal values (the ability to change one’s attitude toward unchangeable circumstances). Autoethnographic writing offers abundant opportunities to realize creative, experiential and attitudinal values simultaneously. Specific examples from autoethnographic publications are analyzed from within the logotherapy framework.

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