Title: Man’s Search for Meaning.
Writer(s): Viktor E. Frankl.
Translator(s): Ilse Lasch.
Release Date: 2008 (originally published in 1946).
My Overall Rating:
Despair. Agony. Misery. Once plunged into the terrors akin to such psychological torment, the mind can only withstand so much before it crumbles under the weight of the darkness. It is why we fight. We fight for someone, for something. We fight for a future that we fancy, a future that we want to hold onto, like an angel’s lifebuoy in the midst of an angered sea. That is what we end up fighting for: Hope. Originally released in 1946, psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor E. Frankl survived several Nazi concentration camps during World War II and published one of the most influential books where he reflects and proposes an explanation of humankind’s ability to survive the cruelest of ordeals despite all odds being against him.
What is Man’s Search for Meaning about? The book recounts Viktor E. Frankl’s experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Despite being at the heart of one of the most dehumanizing events in history, he thrives from this terrifying time to further expand our knowledge on existentialism and the finer emotional fabric that envelops humanity. Split into two parts, the first presents his analysis of his struggle for survival while the second offers a succinct explanation of logotherapy. Through his own experience and the stories of his patients, Viktor E. Frankl argues and defends his theory of logotherapy by exposing, not power nor pleasure, but the pursuit of what we find meaningful, as the ultimate human drive.
“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.”— Viktor E. Frankl
The first part that recounts his experience in Nazi camps is accomplished with tact yet hammers the reader into the ground through his visceral and vivid description of events. He effortlessly presents anecdotes that allow the reader to grasp the brutal and impersonal context in which he was thrown, all the while dissecting these instances to better fathom an individual’s ability to adapt and cope with excruciating and remorseless circumstances. His description of the individual’s body first crumbling to the pressures of these tortures, through untamable outcries for food and sleep, and then the mind being suffocated by the confusion, incomprehension, and disorientation, allow readers to better discern the inhumanity of these times.
The second part is a revised and updated summary of Viktor E. Frankl’s theory of logotherapy. Written with an academic approach in mind, it deconstructs his theory and explains the components of logotherapy vis-à-vis the à-la-mode psychoanalysis pioneered by Sigmund Freud. Throughout this segment, readers seize the subtle nuances that contribute to the basic principles of logotherapy and are invited to venture into the source of humanity’s willpower and explore their persistence to search for meaning. At the root of his explanations, he focuses on the idea of freedom of choice and the choice of hope, which efficiently conveys humanity’s psychological conundrum in the midst of existential trauma. This second part is ultimately an excellent contribution to the field of psychology but shouldn’t be devised as the key to all forms of trauma.
Man’s Search for Meaning is a powerful, thought-provoking, and intimate book presenting Viktor E. Frankl’s experience in WWII concentration camps and his belief that the pursuit of what we find meaningful is humanity’s primary human drive.