Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

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

As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, I wanted my 2021 to be a year about self-care and me-time. I looked for books people say that greatly changed their lives, and even their perspectives on life and I stumbled on Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s a memoir of Mr E.Franklin, a psychiatrist, who writes about his experience in the concentration camps from 1933 to 1945. However, unlike the books I read about that period, Mr E.Franklin’s version is more of what I consider a psychological textbook.

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The first part of the book is a recount of his time as a prisoner in Auschwitz and his observations and hypothesis about the psychology dynamic of the prisoner. And from that moment, he explains how he comes up with his new approach : the logotherapy. He clearly outlines the three phases of the prisoner, as well comments in the behaviors of the guards.

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In the second part of the book is a whole section dedicated to the theories of his approach and why he thinks logotherapy is based on the search for meaning. I actually really like how he clearly states the differences between his approach to others like psychoanalysis. One interesting take from his logotherapy is that life offers us purpose and meaning. It does not owe us a sense of fulfillment. That means each one of us has a role to play in life, a specific task.

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The main force of this book is his ability to vulgarize and put into words that everyone can understand and reflect on. It’s direct and doesn’t go on fancy syntax or vocabulary to feel superior. It also amazes me how he predicted our societal depression and anxiety during those years.

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I definitely recommend this book, especially in this lockdown time where one can feel voided of meaning and lost because no one really knows when it’s going to end, when one can be unmotivated or even questioned about their meanings in life. This book will make you aware of those questions and also answers them.

The most depressing influence of all was that a prisoner could not know how long his term of imprisonment would be

– VIKTOR E. FRANKL

What do you think? Would you give this book a try? If you did, how was it?

rating: 4.2/5

REVIEW BY TRANG TRAN

5 comments

  • This is a book I’ve been meaning to read. Like you I’ve read about folks who really got something out of it. That first quote is a great one, similar to the idea we can’t control others, all we can control is our reaction to others. It’s not others who piss us off, it’s us who allow ourselves to get pissed off. I’m glad to see you enjoyed this one and got something from it, and I hope I do the same. I have a certain open-mindedness to anyone who survived a place like Auschwitz. When in Germany we had the opportunity to visit Dachau, another concentration camp, and the experience has always stuck with me. Very sobering to walk around seeing the multi-layered barbed wire fencing surrounding it, to walk into the gas chambers many others never walked out of. Thanks much for this review, Trang.

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