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Who Should Read “Man’s Search for Meaning”? And Why?
Man’s Search for Meaning Summary gives you a hint – why this book has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Author Viktor Frankl, the founder of Logotherapy, shows how his experience in pursuit of the meaning of life in a Nazi concentration camp changed his perspective of the world and people. Frankl states that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to deal with it and find meaning in it.
Frankl’s theory disputes the ideas of Freud, who believed the meaning of life was to pursue pleasure.
Frankl believed that the purpose of life not only separates the human being from animals but also allows us to live through difficult times.
The purpose of life is not related to the pursuit of pleasure, but to finding what you love and living with meaning. Do you want to learn how to face difficult situations and find meaning in life?
Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy
After Viktor Frankl left the concentration camp, he began to pursue sense-based therapy – his own theory of psychology based on what he had learned while imprisoned.
Sense-based therapy helps people discover what’s really important to them and what motivates them to live intensely.
Logotherapy is different from regular psychotherapy because its focus is on what will happen in the future, while psychotherapy works more in terms of hindsight and insight.
While the psychotherapist will listen to the patient discuss painful experiences from his past and the impacts these experiences have had on the present, the therapist will confront the patient and reorient him regarding his sense of life.
Frankl argues that by focusing on the past, psychotherapy can generate internal neuroses; while logotherapy can help clients overcome them.
Frankl’s therapy was focused on the meaning of human existence, as was the search for that meaning itself. The search for the purpose of life is considered the primary motivational force of a person.
Logotherapy is an attempt to help someone make sense and use it to make necessary changes and go through difficult circumstances in their life.
Life In Nazi Concentration Camp
The greatest atrocities in the history of humankind were the Nazi concentration camps. During Hitler’s reign of terror, men, women, and children were expelled from their homes, thrown in trains and sent to concentration camps.
Prisoners were not considered individuals with identities, families or feelings. Any identity they had, documents or possessions were thrown away. They were left with only a uniform and an ID number tattooed on their skins. The authorities were not interested in people; They were only interested in numbers.
Life in the concentration camp was very difficult. The men were taken out of their normal lives.
Concerns about what they would gain, who they would marry, and how many children they would have no longer existed, but instead focused only on surviving each day.
In addition to this immediate concern, the prisoners also lived with a constant fear of being transported to another camp, which usually meant being taken to a camp with gas chambers and crematoriums.
Viktor Frankl, his family and those who were stuck with him, were ordinary people. They did not have superpowers;
They were not celebrities or martyrs fighting for a cause, and they had done nothing wrong.
They were simply ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances. It was from these people that Frankl took his comfort and the basis for his theory of logotherapy – a new type of psychotherapy that challenged Freud’s theories and showed how a human being could be resilient when they find the true meaning of life.
Life Lessons Are Learned With The Circumstances
Every experience we live, such as the terror of war, for example, gives us an opportunity to learn. Data from before, during and after the war were evaluated by all kinds of experts, from medical researchers to scientists.
Even the psychoanalysts learned from the war. In fact, the two World Wars contributed greatly to the study of the psychology of prison life.
The most notable contribution of World War II to psychology was the study of the mental health of soldiers and survivors of concentration camps.
Viktor Frankl, who was a Jewish prisoner, had an interesting perspective because he was also a psychiatrist.
He could study not only his own reactions and behavior in this situation but also those of his fellow prisoners.
What he discovered, changed psychoanalysis forever.
Being in a Nazi concentration camp was a brutal experience.
It sums up the worst possible environment a human being can find themselves in.
Some struggled to find a sufficient reason to push forward and simply could not handle it and gave up.
Others, despite the horrors found a reason to live, even under these circumstances. Some even becoming focused on finding loved ones again and wondered how they would feel if they saw them again.
Others clung to the determination to survive so they could return to their lives. And still, others focused on future goals they dreamed of achieving when they were freed from the fields.
Because they had a purpose, their lives had a meaning, and they refused to give up unless their bodies gave up on them.
Freud developed a theory to explain man’s pursuit of purpose.
He believed that man was not very different from animals, and that both were motivated by the pursuit of pleasure and were guided by their instincts.
Before Frankl’s arrest, this was the theory in force at the time.
Although Frankl had studied Freud’s theory, what he discovered in the concentration camps surprised him.
He had valuable evidence, which showed that what guided men was not simply their desires.
When a man has a real reason to live, he will fight for it. This experience eventually became the basis for Frankl’s psychotherapy: the Logotherapy.
Looking For a Reason To Live
The search for the meaning of life can generate tension and internal turbulence.
While trying to determine its purpose, a person may feel uneasy and uncomfortable. So, where does this discomfort come from? Are we to battle it or simple observe it?
It comes from an existential crisis; Not knowing why you live or what you should do with your life.
Feeling aimless and unguided can cause a lot of internal turmoil until you discover the true meaning of your life.
Going through this discomfort can disrupt people to discover their true purpose.
Some prefer not to feel anything rather than to feel uncomfortable. But this search for purpose or meaning can save them from the stresses and tragedies of life.
This kind of thinking did not begin with Frankl.
In fact, Frankl gives credit to Friedrich Nietzsche, a wise German philosopher of the 1800s. Nietzsche stated that: “He who has a ‘why’ to live can support almost any ‘how’.”
This means that when a person has a reason to live, no matter if he is focusing on the love he has for another person or a goal he wants to achieve, he can face almost any ordeal.
We associate the feeling of discomfort with something we do not want, but we should do – such as getting vaccinated, it may be necessary, but it certainly is not comfortable.
Inner growth is somewhat similar as it can muster every ounce of energy left even when everything seems hopeless and lost.
Leaving our comfort zone and discovering our life purpose will not be pleasant at first. Although there is a certain degree of tension, these feelings are essentially beneficial.
They show that we are on the way to discovering our true meaning, which can save our lives.
Man’s Search for Meaning
Therefore, despite any discomfort you feel, work hard to find out what will give you that sense of accomplishment and true meaning.
What Humanity Is Able To Do
This discomfort a person feels when striving for an objective is an essential part of life. It is through this struggle that we discover our true meaning – our purpose. Finding our true purpose can help us stay healthy and alive.
The world we live in is constantly bombarding us and distracting us from our true sense. We are being induced into a state of numbness so that when difficulties come, it will be increasingly difficult to find a reason to survive and stay focused.
And it happens in our lives every day. How would we react if we experienced an atrocity like the people who lived in Nazi concentration camps?
If World War II taught us anything, it is that many people have no limits when it comes to destroying another human being. For many, the lives of some have little or no value. Tragically, there are many in the world today who have no scruples and hurt others, as the Nazis did.
In Dr. Frankl’s eyes, decent people are the minority, and this will continue to be the case unless the human being is willing to become the best version of himself.
Otherwise, history may repeat itself with other tragedies such as what we witnessed during World War II.
It is unquestionable that the rest of us must work hard to find our purposes, so that we can survive the ill-treatment of immoral people and that we strive to make the world better than it is.
Frankl did not lose hope even after all that happened. He saw the worst of humanity and saw that things would continue to worsen. But he also saw that people willing to find their true sense of life could change not only their own level of achievement but also improve the world around them.
We all want to be considered good and decent people, and we want to live a full and happy life. While the path to the true meaning of life may not always be comfortable, it is essential for our future happiness and for the greater good of humanity.
The Existential Vacuum Within Us
Whenever we consider the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps, we wonder how normal people could have been part of it. The attitudes of the Nazis were barbaric and unjustifiable. But how many people participated in these atrocities?
The answer lies in an inner emptiness known as existential emptiness. This emptiness produces the desire to, or do what others want (a form of totalitarianism), or do what others are doing (also known as conformism).
According to psychiatrists, a sense of emptiness is one of the major factors leading to suicide, aggression, depression, and addictions to drugs, alcohol, and sex – and all of these things have increased considerably in the last century.
We can see how a lack of purpose or meaning may have contributed to the aggression in the Nazi regime. Many people in Germany thought they had no meaning in life until Hitler appeared. They were led to believe that if they followed him, they would have changes that would make Germany and its people great again.
Many people turn to political leaders for a sense of purpose. It is therefore easy for them to be manipulated (as was the case with people in Nazi Germany), to believe everything that is said, and to do everything that is asked of them.
Because of Hitler’s charisma and promises, those around him were heavily influenced and were capable of committing the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind.
Many who were originally on Hitler’s side were not evil; They simply mirrored themselves in another human being, who was perverse and flawed, to fill the emptiness they felt.
Instead of looking for their true meaning of life, many seek meaning in others people; they believe it will free them from their emptiness. In fact, the only thing that can fill this void is to find your own purpose.
Your true sense can reward you with a sense of happiness and fulfillment without interfering with the life or rights of others. No one can say that Hitler should be forgiven for his actions because they were the result of his life purpose.
The true purpose is never so selfish as to be considered more important than the life of another human being.
Assuming Responsibilities And Discovering Your Mission in Life
When we are not sure of the meaning of life, we begin to ask others. That is a common question asked of therapists, including logotherapists. It’s a difficult question to answer because it varies from person to person. Each has his own mission in life, and only you can discover it and fulfill it.
How can anyone figure this out? It all revolves around taking responsibility for your own life. A common expression used by logotherapeutic is: “Live as if it were your second chance and as if you had acted the wrong way before.”
This advice can stimulate a person’s sense of responsibility by encouraging them to imagine that the present has already happened, thus gaining the benefit of an instant retrospective.
By doing so, it can make positive changes in many ways. Seeing things this way shows people the purpose of their decisions: the impact they will have on their lives.
The logotherapist can help a person find a way to their life purpose, but he will not judge you or impose your opinion.
Logotherapists recognize that each person must decide how to live their life and must respond to their own conscience. When trying to look for your sense of life, look at each situation and how you feel.
Do you feel anxious or fulfilled?
Do you feel tempted to follow the crowd or are you determined to go your own way? Think about your future and what you want to achieve in life.
How should you achieve these things? Looking at your future will help you to create your own path and to feel fulfilled in the present moment.
Finding Meaning Through Love
One way to find meaning in your life is to love others. Sincere and deep love can sustain a person in the worst situations. Therefore, the concept that one’s love may be one’s sense of life works well with the theory of logotherapy, which states that man does not find his purpose within himself, but outside.
Throughout history, poets and composers proclaimed that love was the greatest goal of the human being.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University conducted a poll of about 8,000 people and asked what they considered very important.
78% of participants said that finding meaning and purpose in life was their main goal. Frankl conducted similar surveys, which showed results very close to that.
We can note in these studies that finding the meaning of life, which often happens when meeting someone to love, is usually the highest goal of a person.
Finding meaning and finding love cannot only mean the happiness of a person, but they can also mean the salvation of humanity.
Consider Frankl’s personal experience. When arrested, his focus was on his wife Tilly – the love of his life – and the thought of seeing her again.
At one point he thought he would be transported to one of the death camps, and then asked his friend Otto to tell Tilly that he talked about her for hours, that he loved her more than anyone and that although they were married for a short time, his love for his wife overcame all suffering.
Viktor’s love for his wife gave him meaning and sustained him until he was released from the concentration camp. A man who has nothing left to lose – no identity, possessions or money – can still have a reason to live and experience happiness if he thinks of someone he loves.
Contemplating the loved one during difficult times can help a person to avoid the existential emptiness, giving meaning and fulfillment, even when it seems to have nothing. We will all face difficult times in our lives.
Concentrating on the love we have for someone else can help us stay focused and keep us from losing hope in ourselves, in our lives and humanity.
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“Man’s Search For Meaning” QuotesWhen we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Click To Tweet When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Click To Tweet So 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! Click To Tweet I do not forget any good deed done to me & I do not carry a grudge for a bad one. Click To Tweet It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
The atrocities that men and women have experienced throughout history, especially the experiences of torture in the Nazi concentration camps, have led many to wonder why there is so much suffering in the world, and how is it possible to find meaning in life even though they are subjected to so much misery.
Through Frankl’s personal experience that of other Holocaust survivors, we can see that the true meaning of life is largely connected to the way in which a person sees his or her experiences.
Human beings can always bear suffering, either by natural causes or by the hands of others. The way we respond to situations defines whether we will have the strength to overcome them.
Each of us can find meaning, but we must actively seek it. We must take responsibility for ourselves and our decisions.
Only then can we create a life full of meaning, which will give us the purpose and the willpower to deal with anything that appears in our way.
Emir is the Head of Marketing at 12min. In his spare time, he loves to meditate and play soccer.