Man’s search for meaning is a book by Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor. Victor Frankl developed the concept of Logotherapy, in which neurosis(mental disorder involving stress) is treated by helping patient to find a meaning in his/her life, to live by. The first half of the book contains Author’s experiences and events in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The author being a doctor, gives a psychological take on the events. Among these lines, there are many valuable and interesting ideas, and I wish to write a subset of them below.
- The definition of man is the one who can get used to anything: In Auschwitz, people got habituated to minimal food and sleep despite of medical facts claim it is impossible for a man to live in such conditions
- The only thing I fear is not being worthy of deeds: Suffering is inevitable, it is in the phase of suffering that one must use it as an opportunity for inner achievement.
Last of Human’s Freedom
The last of human’s freedom - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way
People in camps, were given very low food, had improper sleep, unhygienic living conditions. Despite all these sufferings, there were “saints”, who chose to not become victim of conditions around. There were people, who would still give up their last piece of bread to others to save them.
Logotherapist is a ophthalmologist, not a painter: In other type of therapies, the therapist guides the world as he sees it as and asks the patient to change his point of view. But a logotherapist on the other hand attempts to broaden the visual field of the patient helping him/her to find the meaning by himself. There is one answer to “What is the meaning of Life?”, the question is equivalent to asking a Chess Grandmaster “What is the best move in a Chess game?”
Meaning can be achieved in 3 ways
- Creative work or good deeds
- Encountering something or someone you love
- Facing Unavoidable suffering and rising above it
When there is a lack of meaning, sexual libido becomes rampant…
there are various masks and guises under which the existential vacuum appears. Sometimes the frustrated will to meaning is vicariously compensated for by a will to power, including the most primitive form of the will to power, the will to money. In other cases, the place of frustrated will to meaning is taken by the will to pleasure. That is why existential frustration often eventuates in sexual compensation. We can observe in such cases that the sexual libido becomes rampant in the existential vacuum.
As per Schopenhauer, Man oscillates between Distress and Boredom, one has to find a meaning in life to overcome these.
Last lines of the book:
Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.
Death in Tehran Story: This is an interesting story mentioned in the book, which goes this way…
Once a Rich guy was taking a walk in his garden leisurely. One of his servant comes panicking and tells that he has encountered death and was threatened by him. He asks his master for the fastest horse, so that he can flee to Tehran tonight. The master being a kind guy, gives his servant the fastest horse. Later that day, the death meets master himself and the master asks death why he had threatened his servant. The death replies that he had no intention to threaten the servant, he just expressed his astonishment to the servant. The king asked death why he was astonished. The death says he was astonished to find the servant here, and wanted to know what he was doing here, because he had a appointment with the death that night in Tehran!
There are different interpretations of this story. One simple interpretation which I like is; things like pain, suffering and death are inevitable events. There is no pointing in trying to run away from them. One has to face them, understand the reality and use them as an opportunity for inner achievement.