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Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
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Man's Search For Meaning (original 1946; edition 1997)

by Viktor E. Frankl

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8,055139399 (4.25)164
Member:robotheart
Title:Man's Search For Meaning
Authors:Viktor E. Frankl
Info:Pocket (1997), Edition: Rev&Updtd, Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library
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Tags:meaning, history, philosophy

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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl (1946)

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English (131)  Spanish (5)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All (139)
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WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

This is not an easy book to read, but I can see why it has been required reading since 1959. It especially resonates today when there are so many people who deny the Holocaust actually happened. But there is another reason why, in my opinion, it is important for us to read MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING today. The events depicted in this book could happen again. Indeed, they are happening right now in many places around the world--North Korea, Iran, Myanmar--not to mention in the so-called Islamic State--and something like the Holocaust could happen here in the United States. Even if it doesn't, we will all suffer trauma at some point in our lives. There will be wars and natural disasters and diseases and accidents, and when they happen, Frankl's book will be a primer on how to deal with those calamities.

If you have not read this book and are trying to decide whether it is worth your time, I have compiled a few of the life lessons that I took from this book. I hope you find them an encouragement to delve deeper yourself:

1) When it came to the prisoners in the camps, those who lived in the past, died, while those who believed in a future, lived. Those who survived looked for opportunities to help others, and reveled in even the smallest accomplishment. I believe this is why the author, Frankl, survived while so many others succumbed. He took each day one at a time, not focusing on what he didn't have, but on what he could do for others (he was a doctor). He also had a long-term goal--to write a book.

2) He objectified his suffering. It took awhile for him to learn this, but he eventually learned to accept the beatings and mistreatment from the guards as if it wasn't personal. Instead, he turned all of this suffering into a learning experience, as if he was doing a giant psychological lab experiment. He even viewed himself as part of that experiment, referring to himself in the third person.

3) Liberation from the camp brought it's own challenges, or as Frankl put it, "With the end of uncertainty came the uncertainty of the end." Initial joy turned into bitterness when he (and his fellow prisoners) returned home and found their past lives erased, their loved ones dead, and their former neighbors unrepentant. Faced with this, many of Frankl's fellow prisoners wanted revenge, but he was still seeing himself as part of a grand experiment in which this new challenge was only the next stage. I found it interesting that even his writing about all of this was dispassionate and analytical; and I think it was this approach that not only saved his life in the camps, it allowed him to forgive and move on. It was a supreme act of will, and very admirable.

4) Frankl said mankind's search for meaning is the primary motivation for us all. He quoted Nietzsche, "He who has a why to live can survive almost any how." This meaning--this "why"--is unique to each of us. With some of us we find meaning in a spouse or our children. For others this meaning might come from serving God or their fellow man. According to Frankl, no matter what your purpose is, you must avoid the "existential vacuum", where you feel your life has no meaning. And he suggests the way to avoid that vacuum is by filling your life with a task. For him, that task was serving others. Someone once asked him what was the meaning of his life, and he replied, "To help others find the meaning of theirs."

This brings to mind a story of my own. Back in the nineties I wrote and directed a TV movie called FORGET ME NOT: THE ANNE FRANK STORY. I shot it at Universal/Hollywood, then later did a benefit premier for the Simon Wiesenthal Center at the Television Academy, with Jerry Molen (who had won the Academy Award for producing SCHINDLER'S LIST) serving as chairman of the event.

In researching the script for ANNE FRANK, I worked with the Wiesenthal Center, as well as the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam, and it was the Foundation who put me in touch with Miep Gies. Miep and I became great friends, and I even asked her to introduce the film. For those of you who don't know who Miep was (she's gone now), she was the one who hid Anne's diary from the Nazis. She also cared for Anne and the others in the annex that served as their hiding place, providing them with food, news, etc., along with the scraps of paper Anne used for her diary long after she had filled up the initial diary her father had given her. During this time, Miep and her husband (who secretly worked for the underground) also hid a Jewish boy in the basement of their home, even though she and her husband weren't Jewish.

When food in Amsterdam became scarce, Miep began riding her bicycle to the farms outside of town to acquire provisions for her large "family". Then one day the Nazis confiscated all of the bikes in Amsterdam. This forced Miep to walk, and with food becoming scarce even in the countryside, she had to go further and further away from Amsterdam to find food. Then the Nazis instigated a midnight curfew, and anyone found outside after midnight would be shot on sight. This didn't stop Miep. She kept going, often sneaking back into town just before dawn, and barely avoiding death on numerous occasions. When I asked Miep how she found the courage to do this, she shrugged, "I only did my human duty."

After Anne and the others had been captured by the Nazis, Miep found Anne's diary (now made up of her original diary, plus dozens of those scraps of paper Miep had given her) scattered about the floor of the annex. She hid them in her desk, and after the war, when Otto Frank (the only one to survive) returned to Amsterdam, Miep gave Anne's diary to him and convinced him to publish it.

But the story doesn't end there. Many of those prisoners who returned to Amsterdam wanted retribution, not just against the Nazis, but against their fellow countrymen who had collaborated with the Nazis. By then Anne's diary had become an international best seller, so the Dutch government began an investigation into who had turned Anne and the others in to the Nazis. Things quickly got out of control, with dozens of people accusing each other. Someone even accused Miep! This outraged Otto, and he told the investigators, "If you suspect Miep, you suspect me. I want this investigation to stop, and I want it to stop right now." And so it did. Which is why to this very day we do not know who turned Anne in.

The moral of this story is, in my opinion, the moral of Viktor Frankl's book: We achieve the greatest meaning in life by letting go of the past and focusing on doing something good for others. ( )
  FredLHolmes | Apr 20, 2017 |
A psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, Frankl's reflections on his experiences are more scientific then most Holocaust memoirs. His ability to act as observer probably helped to keep him sane during his experiences and the prose reflects his determination to not let himself sink into a sense of meaninglessness. A fascinating read.
  Gayle_C._Bull | Mar 29, 2017 |
The first part of this book takes us through Frankl's experience in the concentration camps and his struggle to continue to exist. As a psychiatrist he looked back to try and understand how some people fared better (marginally) than others. He used his experience and survival to continue to form hypotheses and treat those with mental problems.

The second half of the book was way over my lay head. I hesitate to use the term psycho-babble but that was what most of it was to me. ( )
  mamzel | Feb 27, 2017 |
When comparing the three great Viennese pioneers in the field of psychiatry, Freud, Adler, and Frankl, I find Viktor Frankl's hypotheses the most compelling. While Freudian psychology emphasized the "will to pleasure" as the basis of all human motivation, and Alfred Adler's Individual Psychology offered a "will to power", Viktor Frankl's Logotherapy proposed a "will to meaning"---that human beings have the capacity to transform suffering into self-transcendence.
Human beings have the capacity to think about meanings and values, to take a creative approach to life's conditions, and to be conscious of the responsibility to fulfill a unique purpose in life.
Frankl believed that we are motivated by a desire for purpose in our lives: to evaluate, judge, and seek out the meaning of an event, of the here-and-now moment. ( )
  maryhollis | Feb 20, 2017 |
The advice communicated in this book is simple and profound. The story wrapped around it is heartbreaking as well as uplifting. This was my first reading, but I think it will be a book I'll pick up many times in the future. ( )
  tandah | Jan 31, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
The advice communicated in this book is simple and profound. The story wrapped around it is heartbreaking as well as uplifting. This was my first reading, but I think it will be a book I'll pick up many times in the future.
 

» Add other authors (111 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Viktor E. Franklprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kushner, Harold S.Forewordmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lasch, IlseTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winslade, William J.Afterwordmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Allport, Gordon WPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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To the memory of my mother
First words
This book does not claim to be an account of facts and events but of personal experiences, experiences which millions of prisoners have suffered time and again.
Quotations
He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How
Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.
Man's inner strangth may raise him about his outward fate
Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you feel and do about what happens to you.
Life is meaningful and that we must learn to see life as meaningful despite our circumstances.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 080701429X, Mass Market Paperback)

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud. The book begins with a lengthy, austere, and deeply moving personal essay about Frankl's imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years, and his struggle during this time to find reasons to live. The second part of the book, called "Logotherapy in a Nutshell," describes the psychotherapeutic method that Frankl pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps. Freud believed that sexual instincts and urges were the driving force of humanity's life; Frankl, by contrast, believes that man's deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. Frankl's logotherapy, therefore, is much more compatible with Western religions than Freudian psychotherapy. This is a fascinating, sophisticated, and very human book. At times, Frankl's personal and professional discourses merge into a style of tremendous power. "Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is," Frankl writes. "After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Based on his own experience and the stories of his patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward. At the heart of his theory, known as logotherapy, is a conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure but the pursuit of what we find meaningful. Man's Search for Meaning has become one of the most influential books in America; it continues to inspire us all to find significance in the very act of living. Book jacket.… (more)

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