There’s a reason why man’s search for meaning has sold over 10 million copies. It answers an extremely important question. How can one find meaning in one’s life? And I believe it answers that question in a concise yet practical manner. And that’s why I’m doing a review on man’s search for meaning.
This book gives an account of how one man was able to find meaning in one’s life. Throughout the most harrowing circumstances. The circumstances of the holocaust. And it’s helped millions of people find meaning in their own lives.
This books main idea is on something called logotherapy. Which is a meaning centred psychotherapy.
“According to logotherapy this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.”
Where some people fail to find meaning in their lives this can cause them to succumb to the existential vacuum, which can cause in individuals:
Depression, aggression and addiction.
Viktor makes the case that to inoculate yourself against the meaninglessness of life. And the widespread pessimism.
One must find meaning in his/her life. And I agree.
And he observed that in the death camps. Those who saw no meaning or purpose in their existence. Were the first to die.
To quote Frankl,
“Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.”
Who Is Viktor Frankl?
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychotherapist & psychiatrist. Who was born on March 26th, 1905 and died September 2nd 1997.
He devoted his life’s work around logotherapy. Before and after the biggest injustice of all time. The holocaust.
During world war 2 Viktor was sent to the concentration camps Auschwitz and Dachau. He spent 3 years in total in these camps. From the year 1942- 1945.
In such harrowing circumstances. Viktor could have easily seen life as meaningless and worthless.
But instead, he used his own logotherapy. And found meaning in the suffering of the dreaded concentration camps.
If Viktor can find meaning in such horrible circumstances. There’s hope for us all.
How Viktor Found Meaning In The Suffering
Viktor found meaning in many ways.
He states that you can find meaning in 3 specific ways.
- In your profession, talent or work.
- Through a loved one.
- You can find meaning in your memories and in your future.
Firstly, when Viktor got enlisted in a concentration camp. He was in the middle of writing a manuscript for what was going to be this book.
But the SS guards confiscated it. And just like that Viktor’s life’s work vanished into thin air. But this didn’t dismay him from writing another manuscript.
He then used his experiences to strengthen his argument for his theory on logotherapy.
In this sense Victor’s purpose of publishing his book on logotherapy. Helped him withstand the dreaded torments of the concentration camp.
Dovetski Once Said ” There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings. “
Viktor also found meaning in the memories of his time with his wife. Who he loved so dearly.
As Viktor was working in the freezing cold outside in the death camps. In these terrible circumstances, Viktor would retreat within himself. And think of the memories with his wife that he adored so much.
This would be enough to help him withstand his dreaded existence. Unfortunately, Viktor’s wife, mother and father were killed in the concentration camps.
To Quote Frankl:
” What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you. Not only our experiences, but all we have done, whatever great thoughts we may have had, and all we have suffered, all this is not lost, though it is past; we have brought it into being. Having been is also a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind.”
Eternal hope that Frankl would someday get out of the death camps and publish his book provided a why and a meaning. To bear the circumstances in which he needed to endure.
And because Frankl was a doctor he also helped typhus patients in the camp.
Because unselfish action and helping others provided a why for his miserable existence.
To Quote Frankl:
” I decided to volunteer. I knew that in a working party I would die in a short time. But if I had to die there might at least be some sense in my death. ”
My 5 Take-Aways From Man’s Search For Meaning: Man’s Search For Meaning Review
1. ” Why Do You Not Commit Suicide? “
Viktors patients came to him with a myriad of problems. But Viktor asked them one question. “Why do you not commit suicide?” And this one question would instantly make the patients aware of what they find meaningful in life.
Because Frankl truly believed that he who has a why can bear almost any how.
This question to ask yourself, may at first glance seem pessimistic. But if you think about it, it’s actually liberating.
Because it gets you to look around and become grateful for what you do have and what you enjoy. And what provides meaning for your own life.
To Quote Frankl
” Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfilment.”
2. ” Live As If You Were Living Already For The Second Time And As If You Had Acted The First Time As Wrongly As You Are About To Act Now! “
Are you living the life you really want to live? The life that deep down you long for?
This is something that I believe we should all ponder. For example with your health, it can be so easy to go off track. And get out of shape.
Staying in shape is a lifelong process. But when you look at life in this new lens you can maximise your chances of flourishing.
Marcus Aurelius the philosopher king once said:
“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter”
So make sure that you’re living the life that you really want to live and don’t settle for anything less. In your health, work, relationships and all other aspects of your life.
3. “Don’t Aim At Success The More You Aim At It And Make It A Target, The More You Are Going To Miss It.”
Its good to have goals. Although most people get caught up in the results and forget about the process. The most important part. You only achieve success when you dedicate yourself to the process. Because the process is what yields results.
I’ll use getting in shape as an example. Say you have a weight loss target of 30 pounds. And you try fad diets, detox teas and other ridiculous diet protocols.
So what happens? You burn out. Because these diets aren’t sustainable.
And you’re back at square one. Unhealthy and not happy with your current physique.
But if instead. You take an interest in the process learn the correct ways to diet & train instead of focusing on quick fixes.
And then start to focus on the process rather than the result.
You’ll eventually reach your goal.
This example just relates to fitness. But it’s true for anything. If you love the process rather than the result. You’re much more likely to reach your goal.
4. “Between Stimulus And Response There Is A Space. In That Space Is Our Power To Choose Our Response. In Our Response Lies Our Growth And Our Freedom.”
No matter the circumstances you find yourself in. You get to choose your response. Whether that’s in a death camp. Where your freedoms are all but taken away.
Or in any other aspect of life. One always has the ability to choose their response and take responsibility for one’s life.
The way I like to think of responsibility is response-ability or the ability to respond. We all have the freedom to choose our response no matter how dire our circumstances are.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight. Yet you see some biscuits in your pantry. Part of you wants to devour the whole packet.
Although you don’t have to. Between stimulus ( seeing those biscuits) and response lies your ability to choose your response.
You can choose not to eat them if that’s not aligned with your goal.
5. ” Whenever There Was An Opportunity One Had To Give Them A Why – An Aim- For Their Lives, In Order To Strengthen Them To Bear The Terrible How Of Their Existence. “
Frankl quotes Friedrich Nietzsche on numerous occasions. And this is his take on Nietzsche’s:
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Frankl had many whys and reasons to get through the horrible conditions he was subjected to.
And this allowed him to bear the dreaded circumstances he found himself in.
But this can be used in all areas of your life.
For example when someone wants to get in shape. I find that it maximises the chances that they’ll stick to their diet if they have a why they can draw upon. When they feel like going off track.
This is the same with any goal. If you have a set of reasons for doing something. You’re much more likely to see the process through.
What I like About This Book: Man’s Search For Meaning Review
You can’t deny what Frankl is saying in this book. If logotherapy can help Frankl live a meaningful life in and out of a death camp. We can find meaning in our own lives.
We just need to look for it.
To quote Frankl
” Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he should recognise that it is he who is asked in a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering to his own life; To life, he can only respond by being responsible. Thus logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.”
Not only has Frankl proven that logotherapy works in his own experiences. He used logotherapy with his patients and helped them live more meaningful lives.
Logotherapy is still used today. And the book argues that every therapy must in some way, no matter how restricted, also be logotherapy.
So I highly recommend that you read this book. You won’t be disappointed. And it’ll definitely broaden your horizons and look at life differently.
No matter who you are this book will benefit you.
Thanks for reading.
And if you need help with anything send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
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