Man's Search for Meaning

If you polled psychologists and asked them to name the best book in the discipline I'd wager Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning would top the list. If you haven't read it you really should.

Two weeks ago we gave a copy of Man's Search for Meaning to all our graduating seniors, each copy signed by the faculty.

In the first part of the book Frankl, who was Jewish, recounts his experiences as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps. In the second half of the book Frankl takes those observations and creates a psychotherapy based upon the role of meaning in human existence. Some selections from the book:

We all had once been or had fancied ourselves to be ‘somebody.’ Now were treated like complete nonentities. The consciousness of one’s inner value must be anchored in higher, more spiritual things, so it cannot be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?
Does a man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances? We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: To choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn and teach the despairing men that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.
Any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal. As Nietzsche said, ‘He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.'
This evening I came across this clip at The Daily Dish, a clip of a lecture Frankl gave to some American students on idealism and meaning in life:

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

One thought on “Man's Search for Meaning”

  1. One of my favorite books, read in grade 11. Another book that influenced me a great deal is Spinoza's Ethics, and the concept that "Everything is God"

Leave a Reply