Melinda's Reviews > Man's Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
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Nov 16, 08

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography, wwii, philosophy
Read in November, 2008

Wow. If I could rate this book higher, I would. This is truly a fantastic book.

Viktor Frankl was a Jewish medical physician from Austria who survived 4 different Nazi concentration camps during WWII. Frankl survived, but he saw his father and mother perish, as well as his older brother. Being trained as an MD and a psychiatrist, Frankl analyzed all that happened to him -- treatment by the guards, treatment by fellow prisoners, suffering, death, despair, hope. In the midst of this crucible of suffering and pain, Frankl developed an approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy. The core of this approach was that man's primary motivational force is his search for meaning.

An amazing section in the book deals with questions he got after being liberated from the camps, "How could people do things like this to other human beings?". Frankl answers that some people are evil, some people are basically decent. He saw decent human beings among the German guards and evil human beings among his fellow prisoners. "Capos" where fellow prisoners, but were toadies of the Germans. Frankl describes how they would beat their fellow prisoners harder and with more malice than the German guards. How could this be? Because all Germans are not bad, all Jews are not good.... some people are basically decent and others are basically evil.

Another section that is stunning in its poignancy is the moment of "joy and beauty" Frankl experienced while thinking and contemplating on the love he had for his wife. This section outlines the freedom of the mind and the ability to rise above even the most inhuman and degrading circumstances.

My favorite quote from the book is this:
"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. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? 'No, thank you,' he will think. 'Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy."
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Quotes Melinda Liked

Viktor E. Frankl
“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. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

No, thank you,' he will think. 'Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.' "

From "Logotherapy in a Nutshell", an essay”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning


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