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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 (Author)

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11,792238400 (4.25)195
In this work, a Viennese psychiatrist tells his grim experiences in a German concentration camp which led him to logotherapy, an existential method of psychiatry. This work has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 the author, a psychiatrist labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the stories of his many patients, he argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. His theory, known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (meaning), holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.… (more)
Member:dcvance
Title:Man's Search For Meaning
Authors:Viktor E. Frankl (Author)
Info:Pocket Books (1997), Edition: Revised and Updated Edition, 224 pages
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Work details

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

  1. 60
    Night by Elie Wiesel (bnbookgirl)
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    The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi (ShaneTierney)
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    WendyRobyn: Both personal accounts by Holocaust survivors. I feel the tone is similar. Frankl's book goes on to explore psychological implications of his experiences.
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Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)
To be honest, I didn't get much out of the book after the first part. The latter parts were full of technical terms and phrases that would be more understood and appreciated by psychiatrists and psychologists or students of such subjects. The parts I did understand, well, were a bit meh. Except for the first part. The first part was solid. ( )
  deguzmanmvl | May 13, 2021 |
This is one of those "everyone has read this" classics that contains a lot of hard-won wisdom, and whose insights are worth reiterating even if you've read similar books about therapy or happiness. It's two books in one, and the relationship between the two is interesting even above and beyond their contents. The first half is an extremely moving portrait of the horrors of his time in several WW2 concentration camps, and like a non-fiction equivalent to Varlam Shalamov's fictional Kolyma Tales, Frankl's near-death experiences are made even more powerful by his calm, detached narration. His dry descriptions of the camp, the guards, and the lives of the prisoners are set against the grim absurdities of his near-helplessness at the chance events which determined whether someone lived or died, and those physical struggles are contrasted with his emotional striving to find something to live for, the spiritual sustenance that is almost more important than physical sustenance for a human being to survive the worst that his fellow humans can subject him to. The second half is a brief description of Frankl's chosen psychological discipline of logotherapy, a type of therapy which seems to descend from Stoicism and have left a legacy in modern cognitive-behavioral therapy. It was not nearly as affecting as the first half, but as Frankl himself considers it the more important part, the two haves together are more valuable than either alone.

Outside of questionably authentic thriller novels like Papillon, prison literature tends to be on the grim side. It's just really hard to avoid emphasizing how brutal prison is, and that goes more so for anything about gulags or concentration camps, where death is typically the only way out. The short fiction of the Kolyma Tales remains my gold standard for depictions of bureaucratized horror, but the added realism of Frankl's experiences is not any less harrowing. This section is full of ethical dilemmas, inhuman atrocities, nightmarish gambles (should you volunteer for an extra shift of duty, which could bring you some extra favor but also carries the risk of a quick death?), and cruelty that is not any less cruel for being done out of impersonal duty rather than personalized malice. The only way to remain sane is to concentrate on the good, to find something to live for beyond yourself, yet with the knowledge that fate has its own ideas (Frankl mentions the fable "Death in Tehran", which I'd previously read as "Appointment in Samarra", wherein a man's efforts to avoid his scheduled death only hasten it). The peculiar mixture of constant background risk of death and unbearable tedium reminds him of a Bismarck quote: "Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already." To find your purpose won't save you from death, but without something to live for you're dead even before your body grows cold.

Though it's those narrative parts that will be most likely to stick with readers, in the Preface to my 1992 edition Frankl mentions that the first half of the book is really just an explication of the second half about logotherapy, which is very important to him: his precious manuscript which he lost on his first day in camp was about logotherapy, so it's interesting to see how his drive to see it through to publication helped him survive four different concentration camps before he even published it. I won't pretend to fully understand it - there are too many terms like "noögenic neuroses" and "the existential vacuum" for me to be really comfortable - but it's striking how the purpose of publishing the manuscript helped Frankl popularize a discipline that's intended to help people find purpose. There is much of his real life experience in that quotation from Nietzsche: "He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW." As he says:

"Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essential transitoriness of human existence, is not pessimistic but rather activistic. To express this point figuratively we might say: The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest."

There's a great Kafka aphorism that I wish Frankl had referenced, because it bears directly on that insistence that logotherapy be attuned to action: "You can hold back from the suffering of the world, you have free permission to do so, and it is in accordance with your nature. But perhaps the holding back is the one suffering you could have avoided." We know that not nearly all psychological issues can be solved by calm discussion with a therapist, no matter how well trained, and that sometimes suffering isn't ennobling but merely enervating. Frankl is a powerful example of someone who used his suffering to find meaning and achieve good things in the world, and he acknowledges that there were many others who tried no less hard who never made it out of Auschwitz. But while suffering is not a necessary or sufficient condition for finding a purpose, Frankl is absolutely correct in asserting that finding meaning is possible even in the face of seemingly unendurable suffering, which should cheer up people who are in circumstances less dire than Auschwitz (i.e. just about all of us). Perhaps meaning is where you find it, and the clear corollary - that almost any road could lead there - means that logotherapy is no shortcut to psychic satisfaction, but if "the journey can be the destination", and "the real meaning is the friends we made along the way", and so forth through those clichés, then merely by encouraging people to actively find meaning in their lives Frankl has done the world a valuable service, and proved his own point in the process. Not bad! ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
A required text for all humans. I started the book on a plane in Charlotte, NC and read it straight through, with only the breaks necessary to refresh my eyes, finishing it an hour outside Munich. My edition has three parts: the autobiographical account of Frankl's WWII concentration camp experience; an explication of his theory of logotherapy; and an essay on tragic optimism. In sum, Frankl's story and observations support his position that "... everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way" (53). I especially like that his theory denies neither the past nor the future, in favor of some forceful clinging to the present. As he says of the future, "...any attempt to restore a man's inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal" (62). And of the past: "Having been is also a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind" (67). ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Man’s Search for Meaning is a memoir written by Viktor Frankl who was a psychiatrist that survived several concentration camps during the Holocaust. Before being arrested and sent off, he was working on a new type of psychological thinking which he called “Logotherapy”. The word “logo”, which in Greek stands for “meaning”, is the basis of his work. Asking not what the meaning of life is, but rather what is life asking of you is the thesis of his work.

The book is broken into two chapters. In the first half of the book Frankl goes into detail about his horrible experiences in 4 different camps that he was shuffled around in. He elucidates the cramped and terrible conditions inside the trains, the horrendous events that unfolded inside the gates of Auschwitz and finally life after being freed from the clutches of unspeakable evil.

The second chapter gets a bit clinical. Here Frankl explains what Logotherapy is and gives examples of how he has treated and helped different patients with this type of teaching. I found that a lot of the information went over my head however if you’re a student of psychology or philosophy then you will have a better understanding of the terminology and examples he gives within these pages.

Overall I enjoyed the book. The vocabulary is intermediate in the first chapter but the second chapter introduces clinical jargon which can make it a challenge to read. His story is meant to evoke thought and to help inspire those who feel like they are lost and don’t have a meaning in life. I found it to be an inspirational story and it did shift my outlook on life. The people in my life and the hobbies I adore are my meaning for life. The meaning of life differs for everyone. It can be the love of someone or something. It can be the goal to finish reading 100 books. It can be to attain a Master’s Degree. According to Frankl even in suffering and wretched conditions a person can survive if they have a will to live and keep a goal to strive for. I give this piece of literature 3 out of 4 stars! ( )
  ProfessorEX | Apr 15, 2021 |
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize 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 for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. ( )
  drbrand | Mar 31, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (80 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Viktor E. Franklprimary authorall editionscalculated
Allport, Gordon WPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aveline, Carlos C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Šuvajevs, IgorsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Åkerberg, Hans, professorPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bacon, Clifford J.Traductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benigno Freire, JoséEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drolet, LouiseTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edgardh, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eitinger, LeoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herrera, GabrielTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herrero-Velarde, Gabriel InsaustiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hygen, Johan B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Insausti Herrero-Velarde, GabrielTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalmar, JanosPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kopplhuber, ChristineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kushner, Harold S.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lasch, IlseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcel, GabrielForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martínez, FrancescaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDonald, Alonzo L.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Metspalu, PiretTÕlkija.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearson, BrigidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pisano, HelenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stegmaier, Anna-MariaPostfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winslade, William J.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the memory of my mother
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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.
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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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In this work, a Viennese psychiatrist tells his grim experiences in a German concentration camp which led him to logotherapy, an existential method of psychiatry. This work has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 the author, a psychiatrist labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the stories of his many patients, he argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. His theory, known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (meaning), holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

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Beacon Press

3 editions of this book were published by Beacon Press.

Editions: 080701429X, 0807014265, 0807014273

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