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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning (1946)

by Viktor E. Frankl

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
Great book about the meaning of life and what it takes to survive under dire circumstances.

Absolutely deserves a re-read. ( )
  shakazul | Jul 3, 2017 |
I've read a lot about Germany during World War II from various perspectives. Frankl's experience was unique in that at the time of his imprisonment in a succession of concentration camps, he was a practicing psychiatrist who had pioneered a method of therapy ("logotherapy") that focused on changing our attitudes surrounding unavoidable negative situations in order to make them bearable, from a psychological standpoint. The ideas he presents are simple but paradigm shifting for me. This is a book I would like to read over again, probably several times, in order to get out of it all of the depth that I can. ( )
1 vote ImperfectCJ | Jun 27, 2017 |
This is a short book with some extremely powerful messages in it, mostly that there is still hope even if you are in the furthest depths of hell, either literally or within your own mind. This is a book that I would give to a high-school graduate instead of "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" book by Dr. Seuss, it has a far greater scope of wisdom. Granted, not as colorful and positive, but I think better in the long run.

I think that this should be required reading for, well, mostly everyone. Just a quick overview, Victor Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist who went through multiple concentration camps during World War 2 and survived. After the war, he wrote about his experiences and the experiences he witnessed of other prisoners from a psychological, almost third-person point-of-view.

Frankl was an amazing man who went though a terrible atrocity, losing his friends and family, and went on living without all the bottled-up hatred and PTSD like so many did. ( )
2 vote Kronomlo | Jun 13, 2017 |
I was never able to grasp HOW a human being faced with a debilitating illness, or physical limitations, or tremendous loss could carry on, live a positive, productive life, AND be grateful for each day to do so. Nor could I fathom how a person who as a prisoner had been regularly tortured, starved and beaten could survive physically, mentally and emotionally.

Frankl suffered incredible loss and spent about 4 years in a number of concentration camps but was able to utilize his education, confidence and resolve to turn evil into good. He made a bold decision to use the horror of his environment, the constant hunger, back-breaking labor, cold, and deprivation as an opportunity… to learn, to teach, to strengthen himself and others.

He saw that the Nazis deliberately chose sadistic Jews as Kapos to torment and force the prisoners to work harder and faster. He witnessed some ‘kind’ SS guards slipping prisoners extra food. He saw prisoners behave like animals because they thought their lives and others’ lives were worthless, others who gave up, and others who did everything in their power to help a relative or friend.

One night Frankl was asked to talk to fellow prisoners in his hut. He taught them how to positively manage their minds. He suggested they think about their pasts, the good memories, and what they had accomplished. He then said they should consider their future lives; the work, study, living, and loving they still needed to do. How does a prisoner in a concentration camp have the nerve to tell people to think about the future? Frankl did because he sincerely felt (based on his observations) that those who believed in the importance of their future would find meaning in all the parts of their lives including their current suffering, and would find the mental power to choose to live.

Thankfully, he survived and wrote the extraordinary Man’s Search for Meaning as a highly intelligent and motivational response to the chaos and madness of that time (or any time in our lives). Based on the concept that man is self-determined, he develops 3 categories of creating and finding meaning in our lives, each one is dynamic, powerful and breathtaking. He teaches that each of us needs to choose how to react to any situation, and regulate our attitude based on our very unique set of skills, capabilities, and thoughts at specific times and places. This can make all the difference.

Read this book as soon as you can. ( )
2 vote Bookish59 | May 4, 2017 |

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. ( )
1 vote FredLHolmes | Apr 20, 2017 |
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» 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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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.
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)

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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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Beacon Press

3 editions of this book were published by Beacon Press.

Editions: 080701429X, 0807014265, 0807014273

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