Your Life Dream: Pleasure vs Deep Meaning (Freud vs Frankl)

  • This post is part of a #write31days series – click here for a list of other posts in the series Dare To Dream: Finding Your Dream (Again)

When people think about their ‘life dreams’, we often think of dreams to make our lives easier, or more enjoyable. When asked, “What is your dream?” (as we did in the previous post), many people answer “Win the lottery” or “Travel the world””Become famous”. There is nothing wrong with those answers. My first thought is that I would want to travel more. I love traveling, and I hope to have the opportunity to do more.

Who wouldn’t want that? It’s natural as humans (we’re all in this boat together), to think that having money or fame or the ability to travel where we want and buy what we want would make us happy. Yet how many stories have we heard about people who win the lottery and are more miserable than ever? Or the movie star with perfect looks and a multi-million dollar contract and a team of people working to meet their every need, yet they are still searching to fill the whole in their heart with a drug or alcohol addiction. Some even take their own lives in despair. Those who seem to ‘have it all’, as society would define it, are often still unhappy. Sometimes even moreso.

You may have all the money in the world, but on the otherhand you may also be plagued by friends and relatives and even strangers who just want a piece of you. That might make it hard to trust people and their motives. You may be able to travel the world, but if you area traveling alone, it might feel empty unless you have someone with whom to share your experiences. There is also value to having a safe place to land, to call home.

When we think of a life dream, it’s an easy go-to to think of things that bring us pleasure. Having a nice home, buying your dream car, winning the lottery, traveling the world, building a successful business or career. These things all might bring one pleasure. Sigmund Freud’s Pleasure Principle theorized that man’s core instinct is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And that makes sense. Don’t we all want to be happy? to feel good? to experience pleasure? And of course we all want to avoid pain.

Recently I read, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, who challenges Freud’s Pleasure Principle. Or maybe I should say that he takes it a step deeper. Frankl believed that man wasn’t seeking pleasure first. He theorized that man’s core search was to find a deep sense of meaning. Frankl believed if a person can’t find meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.

Let that sink in for a minute.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.”    Viktor Frankl

That is a lot to ponder, I know.

So get that paper or notebook or tech device from yesterday. It’s time to think about another question.

The journaling question or meditation for today is this:

What gives your life meaning?

What are you most passionate about?

What sparks your heart to life, or puts a fire in your belly?

If you want to share your answer, please comment below or go to our Facebook page and comment there.




  1. Disclaimer: I am not a scholar of this subject but rather would consider myself as a novice; therefore please see these comments from that viewpoint

    I have been reading about theories related to primary motivational factors of life and philosophies of Freud, Frankl appealed me most. I am wondering if the difference between two is somehow related to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs i.e. bottom 3 needs supports what Freud defines as pleasure vs pain while top 2 needs relate to theory of “searching meaning of life” by Frankl; somewhere between these top and bottom needs is also hidden “will to Power” as defined by Nietzsche

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