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At the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.
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About the Author
Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. He was the founder of logotherapy and existential analysis. He published more than thirty books, lectured and taught seminars all over the world, and received twenty-nine honorary doctorate degrees.
Simon Vance is an award-winning actor and an AudioFile Golden Voice with over forty Earphones Awards. He has won thirteen prestigious Audie Awards and was Booklist's very first Voice of Choice in 2008. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
From the Back Cover
Cited in Dr. Frankl's New York Times obituary in 1997 as "an enduring work of survival literature," Man's Search for Meaning is more than the story of Viktor E. Frankl's triumph: it is a remarkable blend of science and humanism and "an introduction to the most significant psychological movement of our day" (Gordon W. Allport).--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B009U9S6FI
- Publisher : Beacon Press; 1st edition (June 1 2006)
- Language : English
- File size : 3273 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 188 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,342 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Reviewed in Canada on August 5, 2020
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book was sad yet inspirational
The book is not just about finding meaning it also helps one deal with emotions associated with the aftermath of tough situations.
Some have criticized the book for including too much about concentration camps which takes up more than half the book, but without the details it would be tough to understand the authors perspective as this was his personal experience. There are many other atrocities in the world, I think this book will help with any circumstance.
Top reviews from other countries
La quête de sens, d’une mission à accomplir, est d’après Viktor, le facteur qui a déterminé la survie, ou la mort des prisonniers. L’homme qui n’a rien pour vivre, rien pour le porter à travers son existence, non seulement, se traîne à travers les journées, mais se dirige lentement vers sa mort.
Viktor parle de « vide existentiel » — lorsqu’une personne souffre d’un manque terrible de sens à sa vie. Et l’homme qui n’a alors rien pour le guider dans la vie, navigue le monde à la peur. Ainsi, vient le conformisme : l’individu préfère suivre la masse (car ne sachant pas ce qu’il veut), ou le totalitarisme : l’individu suit ce qu’on lui ordonne de faire (car ne sachant pas ce qu’il veut).
Ces personnes alors en proie à leur vide existentiel n’ont pour seul réconfort que les plaisirs, la gratification immédiate. Dans les camps de concentration, ceux ayant abandonné, sortaient de leur poche une cigarette durement protégée pour commencer à la fumée. Les autres autour savaient que les cendres tombant des lèvres de ces hommes, représentaient leurs dernières lueurs de vie.
Seulement, les cigarettes étaient le seul plaisir immédiat dans la vie infernale des camps. Dans la vie de tous les jours, notamment en ce qui concerne les jeunes, les choix se font plus nombreux.
C’est ainsi, que Viktor explique la débauche de la jeunesse — créée par un vide existentiel — qui pour alors se conforter dans leur existence creuse, se jette sur drogues, alcools, et activités sexuelles. Le livre va même plus loin : agressions et suicides.
Ceux n’ayant pas un sens à leur vie, ne peuvent vivre pour le futur. Alors, ils sont naturellement en proie aux émotions de l’instant, et qu’importent les effets sur le lendemain, car celui-ci n’a pas de sens.
Bien sûr, le but de ce livre n’est pas d’extrapoler sur le manque de sens de la vie de certains, et les problèmes que cela engendre. Mais bien, d’offrir aux gens, l’opportunité de créer du sens de leur souffrance. D’arriver à trouver un sens à leur existence — car il y en a bien un.
Viktor parle de retourner la question. Ne pas chercher ce que l’on veut de la vie, mais plutôt, chercher ce que la vie veut de nous. Chacun est unique et irremplaçable. Chacun à sa pierre à apporter à l’édifice. Chacun est venu ici pour une raison. Chacun est mis au défi chaque jour par la vie.
Ainsi, aussi unique et irremplaçable que nous sommes. Nous avons chacun, une ou des uniques choses, que nous seuls pouvons accomplir. Des choses merveilleuses qui sans nous, ne verraient pas le jour.
Et comme chacun est unique, il n’existe pas de réponse globale au « sens de la vie ». Mais plutôt, un sens à la vie de chacun — en fonction du moment et de la situation. Ainsi, la destinée n’est que les choses auxquels, un, doit faire face, avec courage et surtout dignité.
Viktor veut donc qu’on prenne la responsabilité de notre vie, et de nos actes. Il veut aussi que l’on comprenne que la vie n’est pas à vivre sans effort. Mais plutôt sous tension, dans la réalisation d’une quête librement choisie.
La souffrance est quelque chose qui fait pleinement partie de la vie. Ainsi lorsqu’elle ne peut être évitée, l’homme peut toujours exercer son bien le plus puissant : son attitude face à l’évènement. Si tu ne peux pas contrôler ce qui arrive, tu peux toujours contrôler comment tu y réagis, comment tu y fais face.
La souffrance peut ainsi être transformée. Tu peux trouver un sens à ta souffrance. Que ce soit une préparation pour des évènements à venir, ou quelque chose de nécessaire à ton évolution. La souffrance doit être remise en perspective — pour en comprendre l’objectif. En bref, ce qui t’arrive à une raison d’être, et si tu arrives à la trouver, tu te hisseras au-dessus de la souffrance.
Néanmoins, Viktor insiste bien que la souffrance n’est pas nécessaire à la quête de sens. Mais, bien que la quête de sens soit possible en dépit. Ainsi, quand la souffrance est inutile et évitable, il faut l’éviter. Dans le cas contraire, cela serait du pur masochisme et non, comme l’auteur le dit, de l’héroïsme.
Pour finir, Viktor dit que l’homme n’est ni guidé par (et vers) la puissance, l’argent, ou le plaisir. Mais bien, par (et vers) un sens, une signification, à ses actes et à sa vie.
« Celui qui a un "pourquoi" qui lui tient lieu de but, peut vivre n'importe quel "comment". »
Et ce livre a la volonté de te montrer comment tu peux trouver ton pourquoi. Pour que tu puisses endurer n’importe quel comment. Pour que ta vie semble riche de sens, et destinée à accomplir quelque chose de plus grand que toi-même.
Le sens est la plus grande force de motivation. Sans elle, nous sommes vides et mourants. Avec elle, nous fleurissons.
« Man’s Search for Meaning » est bel-et-bien une lecture indispensable à notre époque, où trop souvent nous pensons à tort, que tout est perdu, quand tout encore est à faire.
However, some readers might find the book repetitive or overly philosophical, as Frankl’s existential theories are woven throughout his personal narrative. Additionally, the book’s focus on suffering and the Holocaust may not resonate with everyone, potentially limiting its universal appeal.
Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on June 1, 2023
However, some readers might find the book repetitive or overly philosophical, as Frankl’s existential theories are woven throughout his personal narrative. Additionally, the book’s focus on suffering and the Holocaust may not resonate with everyone, potentially limiting its universal appeal.
So, here is the summary & take away from this thrilling story.
The author was a neurologist and psychiatrist. So, by education he knew technical brain anatomy (being neurologist) as well as logical and emotional aspects of human behavior with respect to the brain functioning (being psychiatrist). He spent 3 years in various concentration camps which were basically prisons where Nazis (hitter’s army) used to keep potential threat like prisoner of wars and Jewish during holocaust in 1940 (somewhat during second world war).
The book is a journey of the author’s surviving in various camps during his 3 years tenure where he went through immense physical torture, hyper anxiety, inhumane living conditions, insufficient food and unhealthy environment of deadly diseases. The details on tortures were so horrifying that they will give you goosebumps by imagining how humanely it was impossible to bear such pain. The life of prisoner was only a number (a number was printed on everyone’s body) for guards and they looked for every possible opportunity to torture and kill prisoners.
At various instances he explained the two aspects of feeling in one scenario where a person is feeling horrified and blessed at the same time. For instance, once few people along with him were standing bare feet in snow for 8 hours straight in one of the camp they were recently transferred and due to frostbite on their foot there was immense pain but at the same time they were happy as standing outside in snow they observed that there was no chimney in the camp (chimney showed that there were gas chambers in camp where prisoners were burned alive). Another instance he talked is that one day they were getting transferred in a train and everyone was anxious that they were getting shifted to a death camp where all of them will be killed yet they happy to see outside scenery after a long time from small holes in train.
Author explained that there are various mental stages a person goes through in such camp and at the last stage he becomes numb to death. Imagine that a person is so much scared for a long time that he doesn’t feel scared anymore. His emotional imbalance causes various types of behavioral changes which ultimately makes him inhumane emotionally, after all emotions are something which makes a man different from other living creatures.
Now, here to avoid going into the last mental stage where the person gives up the hope to live and dies author explains the ways or tips using which he survived and as well as he help few among himself survive. The first tip is, let me quote exactly what he mentioned in the book is “He who has ‘WHY’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘HOW’. So basically, he explained that if a person has a reason and hope to survive and sees a logical ending to these sufferings will be able to survive. Let me try to explain the reason he has referred here, there were two people in the camp who gave up the hope and wanted to commit suicide author asked few questions to them which made them realize that what reason they must live for. One person had a small kid which would be waiting for him in some other country, so he realized that one day he might have chance to go and live with his kid. Another person had an unfinished script which only he could complete on which he was working from a very long time before he was captured and sent this camp, so he realized that one day he will get freedom and will complete his pending script.
Another point to note in above mentioned instance is the reason or hope to live can be anything, it may be a personal matter to you, another human in your life or a thing also. He said “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards other human who affectionately waits for him or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw his life as he knows the WHY for this life & existence and hence will be able to bear with almost any HOW”.
He also talked about stimulus and response control which I think was better explained by Steven covey in his book. But one of the quote he put in the book was worth mentioning that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing, and that is one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”.
Lastly, he talked about happiness where he says that “happiness cannot be pursued but ensued”. The happiness is internal, and its means changes time to time, situation to situation, to person to person and like there cannot be a standardize rule to happiness like next movement in a game of chess as movement will be specifically based on current position of other players chess components (hope you understand what I mean). Happiness comes in alignment with your core values in life and which is why it changes time to time, person to person.
What I did not like about the book is that there were disconnection in the story he narrated and the journey in camp is not in proper sequence, he only explained some random days and instances which sometime become irritating and disappointing. I understand that the prime purpose of the book was not to take the reader through the day by day, event by event his tenure in camp, but it is to only to use such events of the camp as context to explain the point he is trying to make about human behavior. But I felt that it would have been a very great story of his survival to go through day by day in detail.
4 out of 5. So, what’s your meaning of life at this moment in this phase of your life…...? Think about it.
Firstly, there is no denying that Frankl's experiences in Auschwitz have marked him deeply. It is also clear that he has come out of them with a much greater appreciation of his own inner resources. But there is a danger in thinking such experiences, however deep or catalytic, serve as a guide to the psychological make-up mankind as whole. It is very likely it fits with uncanny accuracy the situation in which Frankl found himself and it is quite possible his ideas might apply to a group of people caught in similar kinds of circumstances. It is a very different position however to suggest it applies to mankind in general. And therein lies the first problem with Viktor Frankl and his logotherapy. To whom and in what circumstances does logotherapy apply? From the title of the book Frankl would have us believe it is mankind as a whole, but as will be seen I can't find any way to support the position that the title suggests.
Frankl's recollections of Auschwitz whilst deeply moving actual do little more than add another person's experiences to the many we already have. His means of mental survival are also similar to the accounts of others in that his imagination produced a recollection from happier time of something to hold on to. For Frankl it was an image of his wife.
...my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise. Pg. 56-7
This image of his wife is the thing which keeps Frankl going for he equates it with truth and love.
The truth - that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. Pg. 57
It is central to Frankl's argument that man's purpose is to look for meaning in his life. To show this Frankl will have to explain what he intends to convey by meaning, but this he does not do. Also if he is to show meaning underpins our existence he will have to show how it and not the mere wish to live underpins our thoughts. Meaning has a variety of definitions and so far Frankl has not as such presented any reason why meaning should be at the core of man's being. To a reader or listener, Frankl's vision does not explain the meaning of anything outside the immediate comprehension of the words used. If it were to be different from that it would require Frankl to redefine his use of common everyday words. This Frankl does not do so we are left with no option but to conclude we are to understand it as words in everyday usage.
It would be harder still to justify in non-linguistic terms for here the only medium carrying the message are the words. [McLuhan: the medium is the message] If looked at in ontological terms, the question `what exists' comes to the fore and immediately we are faced with a dichotomy; Frankl's vision may have appeared real to him, but for the rest of us it does not exist except as a verbal or written account. The word, truth, does not help matters either for whilst it can mean in agreement with reality or fact, we only have Frankl's word his vision exists. There is no way it can be verified, so for that reason it can't be accepted as an empirical truth. The only thing which I can find which somehow relates to meaning is interpretation. But interpretation depends upon understanding what is there to start with. However before going further with this analysis of meaning, let us consider how Frankl continues.
I was struggling to find the reason for my sufferings, my slow dying. In a last violent protest against the hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopelessness, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious "Yes" in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. Pg. 60
What this ultimate purpose is Frankl does not say although Frankl keeps bringing back his `ultimate purpose' from time to time. Also, and it has to be pointed out, purpose is very different from meaning yet Frankl again makes no distinction between the two. Purpose requires action of a physical or mental kind to move towards what is perceived as the purpose. Meaning does not. More pertinent is his statement he could not find a reason for his presence in Auschwitz. This of course is an entirely different position to saying, what is the meaning of this?, and does nothing to strengthen Frankl's thesis.
In spite of Frankl's claim of an `ultimate purpose' it emerges that things are relative, even his view of happiness. After the war he is shown photographs of prisoners lying on their crowded bunks accompanied by the comment, "Isn't it terrible, the dreadful staring faces - everything about it?" He recalled the camp when he was sick and did not have to leave the camp for work, nor go on parade. "We could lie all day in our little corner in the hut and doze and wait for the daily distribution of bread, which of course was reduced for the sick...but how content we were; happy in spite of everything...When I explained, my listeners understood why I did not find the photograph so terrible: the people shown on it might not have been so unhappy after all. Pg. 68-9.
The second section of the book deals with what Frankl terms, logotherapy in a nutshell. The next issue is that Frankl has no consistent definition of logotherapy, so it is impossible to determine what, if anything, he wishes to convey by his dwelling on meaning.
Pg. 120 yet in logotherapy the patient is actually confronted with and orientated towards the meaning of his life.
Pg. 121 Logotherapy...focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man's search for such a meaning.
Pg. 123 Logotherapy strives to find a concrete meaning in personal existence, that is to say, the will to meaning.
Pg. 125 Inasmuch as logotherapy makes him aware of the hidden logos of his existence, it is an analytical process.
Any analysis tries to make the patient aware of what he actually longs for in the depths of his being.
Pg. 126 There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worse conditions as the knowledge that there is meaning in one's life.
Pg. 127 We should not be hesitant about challenging man with a potential meaning for him to fulfill.
Pg. 128 so many patients complain today of the total and ultimate meaninglessness of their lives. They lack the awareness of a meaning worth living for.
Eight different approaches in as many pages is not an ideal way to explain your concept. It is not even as if all these different definitions were closely linked for there are significant differences between them. Whilst one or two appear to suggest the need to focus a patient towards giving their life some meaning, others indulge in metaphysical twaddle suggesting there is some kind of reason for our existence. A further problem is that Frankl does not really develop a single one of these approaches into any type of coherent stream of thought. A few extra words here and there hardly makes an impact on an idea that keeps changing as the page turns. Instead each is left stranded alongside the next.
Things don't get any better either. The next section entitled The Meaning of Life goes in completely the opposite direction.
Pg. 130 What matters is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment
Pg. 130 One should not search for an abstract meaning of life.
Pg. 130 As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed
And so on and so forth. It would be possible to gather many more quotes in the same vein but it should be clear by now that logotherapy is anything the author wishes it to be. It can be all things to all people at any point in time. At no point does Frankl make it clear whether he is writing about meaning or purpose or in what specific terms he is writing about them. It is for these reasons that I find the book more Frankl's search for an acceptable interpretation of what he has experienced as opposed to a search for finding meaning within it. The two things are quite different. Interpretation is different to meaning in that it is dependent upon things that already have some meaning in terms of comprehension. In 1984 Frankl added to third part entitled The Case for a Tragic Optimism. It is much its predecessor in that it is often highly contradictory and flits from one interpretation to another as the pages go by. For this reason I can see little point in reiterating further the points I have already made.
Frankl also makes several sweeping assertions through the course of his book, all totally unsupported. This one is typical and concerns those of a more artistic disposition:
"sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution) but the damage to their inner selves was less. There were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom." Pg. 55
Whether Frankl knew of the existence, even after the war, of some of the works of art, particularly music, that emerged from the camps is unclear. Foremost amongst these are pieces like Quartet for the End of Time by Oliver Messiaen and Der Kaiser von Atlantis by Viktor Ullmann. There are a number of other composers, as well as the orchestras that could be found in Theresienstadt and led by musicians such as the violinist Alma Rose. It might possibly have helped his case had he known about them, but as can be seen as soon as you read the accounts of these peoples' lives in the death camps, the wish to survive is much stronger and resonant than the wish to find meaning in their surroundings or to find meaning in their life.
This is a book which appears symptomatic of its time. Written in the late 1950s as Europe was still struggling with the legacy of the war, existentialism was becoming at least a well known mode of thought amongst the fashionable left-bank circle. At the time it appeared to fill, so to speak, a large hole in the collective physic. Of course it was no such thing and its influence waned quickly after the collapse of the communist block in 1989. This book is sadly much the same sort of thing; more a personal attempt to come to terms with the most horrific circumstances imaginable rather than a coherent work for the benefit of mental health.
Which brings me to my finally point. Since Frankl is trying to get us to accept his logotherapy is scientific it would be at least prudent to judge it by some reasonable scientific standard. For these purposes Karl Popper's position that a theory should be considered scientific if and only if it is falsifiable should be born in mind. It would be difficult to find a way to test logotherapy due to its fluctuating definitions and lack of clarity on its central concepts such as meaning. Popper for instance dismisses the claims of psychoanalysis to scientific status because they are not falsifiable. In the same way I dismiss the claims of logotherapy.
Is this book a search for meaning? Answer, no. Does Frankl make an adequate explanation of logotherapy? Again, no. Does logotherapy have any bearing on meaning? No, because Frankl never establishes what it is he intends the reader to comprehend by meaning. Is logotherapy scientific? No because the constantly shifting definition does not allow it to be falsified. Does logotherapy offer any clue as to dichotomy that was Germany up to 1945. Once again, no. Whilst it might well describe more of the cruelties, Frankl's book offers no insight or answer to the dichotomy that the country which produced Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein also produced the gas chambers and honoured low-life such as Himmler. Nor does it explain how this dichotomy could be found in the regime's leaders such as Heydrich: a pervert who enjoyed playing chamber music and killing humans, and he excelled at both. Consequently I am bound to feel this book is more of an attempt by Frankl to come to terms with what happened to him as a sort of self-help course, and in the process he has found a way of providing interpretations that allow him to live his life that at least renders the past more acceptable and manageable as a memory than it might otherwise have been. That is not to say it won't be useful to some, but it is unlikely to be useful to many.
Well writing a review for this kind of extraordinary book is a big audacity for me. however here I’m, trying to give some brief review of the book.
The book is basically divided into three parts, the first one describes the way the Jews prisoners were treated in the Nazi Concentration Camps and how their lifestyle was. In the second part, the author described the basics of Logotherapy, a way of treatment of the Psychotherapeutic Patients. And finally, in the third part, he described what he actually meant by Man’s Search for meaning.
Being a Jew, the author was transferred to the Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps during the Nazi occupation in Austria. Here, in the first part of the book, the author described his days in those concentration camps, where is were no chance of seeing the morning sun in the next day. And this happened every day. He described the way the SS guards used to treat the prisoners, the corruption prevailed in the camps, the malnutrition, the lifestyle of the camp Jews etc. The way he described the tortures the prisoners suffered, would surely bring tears to your eyes. During his description, he also pointed out the psychological condition of the other comrades in those camps. When most of the prisoners lost all hope of his life, some of them still kept the faith, that good days were coming.
In the second part, the author basically described the Logotherapy Techniques. And the most interesting part of the book is the third part. Here the author describes “Man’s search for meaning”. We, the human beings on this planet are living for a purpose. Until & unless we can’t find the purpose of our life, there is no reason for us to be here alive. Most of the prisoners in the camps lost all of their hopes and then died because they lost their purpose, as per the author. It is a must-read book for all I think.
The book also consists of few life-changing quotes which I liked in the book and would like to share:
1. For success, like happiness, can’t 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.
2. There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose.
3. Suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great of little. Therefore the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.
4. No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
5. The human being is completely and unavoidably influenced by his surroundings.
6. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life can’t be completed
7. Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.
8. There is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.
9. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human 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”.
10. The body has fewer inhibitions than the mind.
11. No one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.