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Viktor Frankl: Man’s search for Meaning

I have just finished reading another book recommended by a friend:

Viktor Frankl: Man’s search for Meaning

The message throughout the entire book is based on Nietzsche’s words,

“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,”

During WW2, Vicktor Frankl (no 119,104) spent three years in Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps. He lost his father, mother and wife yet didn’t lose his sense of purpose, responsibility or hope.

To live is to suffer; to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is a purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering and dying. But no man can tell another what this purpose is. Each must find out for himself. Each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes. If he succeeds, he will continue to grow spite of all the indignities.”p9

In the concentration camps everything that was familiar was taken away, the only thing that remained was the ‘last of the human freedoms’ – the ability to “choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances

I found both halves of this book illuminating and challenging for different reasons.

The first part of the book is entitled “Experiences in a concentration camp” and although it is terrible to see what one human can do to another it is interesting to learn about what differentiated those that survived and those that gave up.

“Once an individual’s search for meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering. And what happens if one’s groping for meaning has been in vain? This may well result in a fatal condition”p141

The second half is about the principles of Logotherapy and discusses today’s general societal feeling of meaninglessness and how our value is not based on our usefulness to others or society as a whole.

The meaning of life changes but it never ceases to be According to logotherapy we can discover this meaning of life in three different ways: by creating a work or doing a deed; by experiencing something or encountering someone; and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

p142 “As to the causation of the feeling of meaninglessness, one may say, albeit in a simplifying vein, that people have enough to live by but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning. To be sure, some do not even have the means. In particular I think of the mass of people who are today unemployed

At a first glance, a book about the experiences of a concentration camp might seem depressing, but instead this book is one about courage, hope, potential change, values and freedom and I thoroughly recommend reading it.

Most important, however, is the third avenue to meaning in life: even the hopeless victim of a hopeless situation facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph” p147

Here is another good review of the book:


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