Man's Search for Meaning

by Victor Frankl

Non-Fiction
Philosophy
Mindset

Navigation

Book in 1 paragraph

Victor Frankl, a psychologist and survivor of the Holocaust, delves into the psychology and emotional awakening required to survive Trauma and Suffering, using the backdrop of his time at the Auschwitz concentration camp.


My Thoughts

A powerful book that is both somber and introspective (almost “out of body”).

The central theme of Suffering is explored in detail, as a way toward personal growth, and a deep psychology assessment of both perpetrators and sufferers.

I found the harrowing descriptions of camp life difficult to turn away from, but necessary to provide perspective on the human potential to Bear all.

There are strong semblances of Stoic approaches in Frankl’s writing, e.g: managing ego, Acceptance, controlling one’s emotions & Reaction.


Life Lessons from Suffering

  • The great meaning for any person is to find meaning in his or her life
  • The only thing we have control of is our reaction to events.
  • Purpose of suffering - suffering by itself is meaningless. But suffering in the great service of others, or for the pursuit of meaning makes it worthwhile
  • Surrender into happiness & fulfilment - Success like happiness, fulfilment cannot be a target. They are the “unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
  • Will to survive - Cling onto the will to survive, the comfort that we can do something about our situation. Once lost, it’s impossible to recover
  • Take care of ourselves even during the darkest times - shave, shower, dress for work (even when unemployed). The sense of self respect will carry us through our greatest challenges. Plus the routine prepares us for the day
  • Humour - is essential to survival
  • Judgement - withhold our judgement of others. Because who knows what we’ll do under the same dire situation
  • Acceptance - Instead of ignoring the present or pretending it doesn't exist. Find solace and acceptance in the priorities it presents to us. Ignore false hope of cling to a deadline when suffering will end. Simply accept.
  • Visualise - the life we want. The way out. It will keep us alive and moving forward
  • Celebrate small wins - no matter how small. It’ll remind the human spirit
  • Meaning in Suffering - no one can take away what we’ve experienced or felt. "human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death.
  • Good and evil exists - sometimes there are no explanation for man’s capacity for evil. Accept this as realty and move on.
  • Let go of false hope - especially ones that give hope of an end to the suffering. We need to have / build methods of Enduring. Indefinitely - "A man who for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now found that suffering has no limits, and that he could suffer still more, and still more intensely."


Memorable Quotes

  • You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
  • we are never left with nothing as long as we retain the freedom to choose how we will respond.
  • For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
  • once lost, the will to live seldom returned.
  • If you want to stay alive, there is only one way: look fit for work.
  • The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.
  • There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.
  • 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: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
  • If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.
  • The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning
  • What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you
  • human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death.