Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

MSfMBook #20.

I didn't expect to like this book because self-help stuffs don't usually appeal to me but this one's good.

Man's Search for Meaning is divided into two parts.

The first part speaks of the extreme suffering the author himself, Viktor E. Frankl and his inmates, endured in Nazi concentration camps. He survived no less than four camps and described various stages and situations he and his fellow prisoners have been through and turned his experiences and observations of how they respond in times of adversity into a psychological study. He didn't at all consider the importance of chance or even luck to his survival.

The second part is basically an introduction to logotherapy. Using his observations and experiences while in the camps, he lays out his ideas/theories. The very core of it is a will to meaning, contrary to that of Freud which is will to pleasure or that of Adler which is will to power. He tells us that there are a lot of possible meaning of life and that it can change from day to day, from time to time, from one individual to another — a task we must frequently undertake.

According to logotherapy, we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

Moreover,

Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. 

It's a short and engaging book, it may even make you see things or life differently. Life ought to have meaning and I admire Frankl's view of it as well as his view on what joy we can derive through acceptance of our sufferings. I think it's pretty extraordinary that he was able to explore and study what must have been the darkest period of his life, he seemed like a heck of a man to do so without bitterness.

Recommended to everyone. Solid choice for anyone facing adversity or anyone who simply wants to reflect on the content and direction of the life they're leading.

Rating : 4/5 stars

Quotable Quotes :

"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."

"Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true."

"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."

"No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same."

"A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the why for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any how."

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Quote of the Week

In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.

-Viktor E. Frankl