Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning

Viktor_Frankl2Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl is a must-read.

Here’s Amazon’s description of what has become a modern day classic:

     Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is… the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

Frankl chronicles his experiences, which leads him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living. His theory of logotherapy is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard’s “will to meaning” as opposed to the Nietzschean doctrine of “will to power” of Freud’s arguments relating to “will to pleasure.” Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.

It’s an account that make you pause and put down that $5 double-creamed cappuccino latte.

Here are 15 memorable quotes from Man’s Search for Meaning

  • 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.
  • When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
  • Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
  • Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.
  • So live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!
  • For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.
  • For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and 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.
  • Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.
  • 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. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
  • Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.
  • Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.
  • Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.
  • It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.
  • Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.
  • Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.

(ed. Photo credit: file is licensed under the Creative Commons Atrribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely)

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