I couldn’t pass up reading a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning,” knowing it was written by a holocaust survivor. Viktor Frankl went into the concentration camps as a psychiarist with a book in the works. When he came out, having lost his wife and parents, as well as his book manuscript, he went on to found logotherapy, a school of psychotherpy, that focuses on finding meaning in one’s life.
While in the concentration camps, he noted the importance of finding something to live for. Those who believed family members were alive and waiting for them found hope in the midst of dispair. Frankl believes that he didn’t succomb to typhus because of having a personal mission of finishing the book he had started before entering the camps.
Frankl notes the importance of freedom and responsibility and believes that each man is free in his inner most being — free to choose his attitude. He also notes the importance of the responsibility that comes with personal/physical freedom. Responsibilites help us find meaning in our individual lives.
Frankl believes we can find meaning in 3 different ways:
- by creating or doing — being productive
- by experiencing something or encourtering someone (love)
- by our attitude toward suffering – by “turning personal tragedy into triumph” by learning and growing from our suffering
Certainly the last is the highest and surest way to find and maintain meaning in life.
Frankl was writing and researching during a time when lying on the psychologist’s couch, trying to trace all problems back to something in one’s childhood, and taking medications for psychological problems was the new norm. His school of logotherapy is able to, in many cases, get to the heart of the matter, without having to wade through past baggage or administer medication to find a solution.
Frankl quotes Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, an American collegue, as expressing the hope that logotherapy “may help counteract certain unhealthy trends in the present-day culture of the US, where the incurable sufferer is given very little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and to consider it ennobling rather than degrading” so that “he is not only unhappy, but also ashamed of being unhappy.”