Man's Search for Meaning is more than a 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.
©1959, 1962, 1984 Viktor E. Frankl; (P)1995 Blackstone Audiobooks
"An enduring work of survival literature." (The New York Times)
As stated in my title, this is not the easiest book to read. First time I picked it up (paper version), I found myself unable to read it prior to bedtime, because of the vivid horror deplicted.
But, if you want to get insight into to man's ability to survive the unsurvivable, endure the unendurable, listen to this book.
Also, it gives first hand insight into the horrors of Germany's concentration camps during the 2nd WW.
Viktor Frankl's book has two main parts: a) very moving description of his experiences in different concentration camps and how he dealt with suffering and pain; b) an introduction of his school of psychotherapy ("logotherapy")partly derived from these experiences.
Really inspiring, even if today you are not suffering. Great help to remember in difficult times.
Frankel's account of his concentration experience is not as moving as those of Elie Wiesel, but the second half of the book on logotherapy draws together the threads of that experience into a structure for treating patients struggling with the existential crisis of life's meaning. Frankel, the founder of logotherapy (meaning therapy), is with Freud and Adler one of the primary Viennese psychiatrists of the 20th century. For Freud sexual conflicts were key to understanding mental turmoil. For Adler it was the struggle for personal power and superiority. Frankel thought that mental conflicts arose from a desire to know the why of existence. He thought that if we know the why we can live with any what. He said the why is clear if we can love someone and if we can work at something we enjoy.
The concentration camp experience also taught Frankel that he had control over his thoughts and feelings. No SS soldier could change his thoughts. He could always go somewhere in his mind. Frankel foreshadowed the present day's psychology of "think it and you will feel it."
Great book for anyone dealing with existential issues or anyone who wants an introduction into a sound anthropological psycho-therapy method. Frankl chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and from the viewpoint of his psycho-therapeutic / phenomenological method of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. Through his experience, he developed a method of psycho-therapeutic method that he called logotherapy. His analysis focuses on a "will to meaning" as opposed to Adler's Nietzschean doctrine of "will to power" or Freud's "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. According to Frankl, "We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering" and 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". For Frankl, it was his love for his wife that enabled him to survive Auschwitz and three other camps, not to mention many moments of "luck" or grace. Love, for Frankle, became the highest experience that a human can have. I appreciated the back story of Frankl's experience that lead to his method and agree with his conclusions, but I think some of his premises fall into a naturalistic fallacy. Nevertheless, he has a great ability to put into words the psychological and existential reality that one deals with when suffering or striving to understand a purpose in life.
If I had to choose a must-read-list this one would be a sure candidate. It has the ability to touch you in so many levels. There is not only the insights into and behind the scenes from "the horrors of concentration camps", but a personal story of struggle and contemplation. All of this in the light of his own theories about us humans, what drives us and how we may search for happiness. I would like to recommend this book to you with my deepest conviction it holds true wisdom!
For the thinker, philosopher and nurturer of souls...
This is my first review. I felt compelled to write something about this book...
I bought the book about half a year ago... and listened to it three times, back to back. Since then I have found myself still ruminating on what I listened to. What a great book... I highly recommend it to those who are seeking to "walk alongside" others.
I was riveted by this book. It is a fascinating insight into the human psyche under extreme circumstances. It also provides a brief introduction to Frankl's Logo-therapy method of psychotherapy. The psychotherapy section of the book is just the right length. It explains just enough so that you can decide if you want to look further into the subject, but is not long winded or tedious.
I felt the performance was well executed and easy to listen to.
Although the Holocaust was a terrible event, I am not apt to read about it more than I already have. For one, the focus is most often on the Jews rather than the other several million non-Jews who died in it and two, 'our side of it' never touches on the millions of Russians who lost their lives fighting the Germans. But this book is different. It touches everyone of those people and more. The focus is not necessarily on the "Jewish" side of the Holocaust or the "victor's side"; rather it delves into the minds of all those who suffered there, and all those who suffer anywhere. One thought that has stuck with me is this: Sometimes grown men would cry in their sleep from the nightmares they were having but I never woke them because no matter how bad their dream was, it was still better than the reality they would wake up to. Sometimes we think we have it bad, but bad is just as relative as good can be.
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being 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".”
- Viktor E Frankl
I read an interesting article in the NYTImes a couple weeks ago that lead me to finally pick this book up. Actually, a couple good articles. The first was titled 'Love People, Not Pleasure' and it was about how "this search for fame, the lust for material things and the objectification of others — that is, the cycle of grasping and craving — follows a formula that is elegant, simple and deadly: Love things, use people." The author uses an inversion of this formula that DOES lead to happiness: Use things, Love People (also quoted by Spencer W. Kimball). This article + another recent one from the Atlantic titled 'There's More to Life Than Being Happy' made it clearly evident to me that I needed to finally dust of my yellowed, Goodwill copy of Man's Search for Meaning, plug in my earbuds and experience this book that the Universe clearly wanted me to read this week.
So, imagine a renowned Jewish therapist writes in 1946 (in 9 days) about his experiences at and survival in Auschwitz, and then adds his own psychotherapeutic method (Logotherapy), finding happiness by finding a meaning, a responsibility, a love, and ultimately self-determining. Perhaps it is a consequence of Frankl's work surrounding me in other writings, in popular psychotherapy, in various internet Memes and articles OR perhaps it is just a consequence of my own resilience to my own suffering that this book wasn't much of a revelation. I was like ... yup, makes a lot of sense. Good job. I think it is a great book for what it is. I just don't always get super-excited by self-help psychology books. This one is on the better end of the bell curve for this type, but I guess my problem is with the type. Other than that (minus 1-star for my type bias) it was a great book.
Have of course heard references to this book for ages, had always been curious
Amazingly even handed, dispassionate about things would expect to be written about sensationally, well written, overall positive spin on a very negative experience, great approach to treatment in last section of book, compelling hypothesis well supported.
Narrator amazingly well matched to emotional tone of content, significantly improved experience of the book
"Throw out your self-help books!"
This is an utterly remarkable book for so many reasons. What strikes me most about it is how it really gives meaning to the idea that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. What I mean by this is the following: the book is not great psychology, nor great philosophy nor even great narrative. And yet, as a whole I would call it a great book. Why? Because it makes a definitive impact. I cannot say that I walked away from this book unchanged. I suppose it is Viktor Frankl himself who makes all the difference -- in him you find a truly humane, humble and ultimately wise human being. I was truly impressed to hear him quoting Nietzsche while in a concentration camp; this at a time when Nietzsche's work had been distorted and used to promote anti-semitism by the Nazis. One warning though -- his existentialist philosophy is outdated and really needs to be complemented by a contemporary understanding of human nature.
"Potentially life changing..."
So, we all know about the Holocaust, yet this book is a bit different - told with such "tragic optimism" that the message is not moral outrage or repulsion, but of meaning in the midst of unimaginable degradation. The "why" that makes the "how" of suffering bearable. Frankle quotes Nietzsche throughout.
The most moving passages for me were his imagined conversations with his wife, (who probably by that time was dead), which nonetheless gave him the purpose for continuing to live, and the glimpses of Nature, such as sunsets, raw in beauty, beyond the barbed wire.
His message is simple - it is in loving the people we love and in the struggle that our lives demand of us, that we find meaning that transcends the mere pleasure principle. Our own "ontic logos" is individually uncovered, not found through intellectual introspection on "THE meaning of life" (which is a nonsense and which usually just leads to neurosis).
Frankle highlights the contemporary consumerist "tyranny of happiness", which is endemic in the West, so that many patients feel not just unhappy, but deeply ashamed of their unhappiness.
Existentialism is not popular in the zeitgeist, but I think we can learn much from that generation who lived through the War, and the Holocaust, and developed such philosophies of coping with terrible hardship and suffering. By contrast, we can be very superficial, and self centred, and it left me considering what issues I cared about enough to take action on. Would I regret not doing so otherwise? Yes, probably - as an opportunity wasted!
This is a humane, inspiring, potentially life changing book; well narrated, subtle, profound and unpretentious. It deserves the highest rating.
"very wise movie"
loved the book. it is amazing and humbling to listen about such extreme life experiences, above all puts one's problems into context and gives an impulse to say yes to life!
"Grippong story and an in depth review at the end"
The story of Victors hardships was compelling and I found myself unable to stop listening until the end.
The analysis at the end is a little hard to get you're head around but still worth hearing
"Very good. Interesting, moving and well produced"
This is a very good audio book. The story is very interesting, moving and thought provoking and the narration matches it perfectly.
I recommend this. The only change I would make is that the narrator when reading dialogue assumes a mock Jewish / German accent which isn't a big deal but to my ear sounded strange.
I'll definitely be listening to this multiple times.
Highly recommended. Great depth, sincerity and intelligence. Well read. I found this quite life changing.
"The great book!"
The great book! It cannot be listened to without comprehensive attention and understanding each word. Every single word, every phrase is meaningful and gives a new way of living!
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. Both parts, the autobiography, and the introduction to Frankl's logotherapy, gave me much to think about. I will be buying this in print also, having now listened to the audio. It's that good.
"A book that should be on prescription"
Simon Vance is an excellent narrator, I have enjoyed his readings before. If you have anxiety or depression, I think this should be on the NHS prescription list. It is uplifting and helps you challenge your thoughts (not in the sense of 'oh it could be worse' but it in a much more positive way of finding ways to value what you have in its own right and to see the beauty in things.)
I thought the most moving part was the comments on the death of loved ones and how to cope.
I most enjoyed Frankl's musings on how prisoners coped after they were liberated. My only criticism of the entire book is that I would have liked it if this was more in depth.
I listened to this over two days, I personally found it a bit much to listen to in one day, I had to take a break but it is very addictive.
Super enjoyable, a privilege to listen to his story.
The simple, yet profound thoughts of the Holocaust prisoner in his prison describe so well the feelings and emotions of anyone who suffers a trauma and becomes a prisoner of circumstance.
The book progresses into an education in self help and a brief instruction in how to deal with life with a mere change in perception.
There is not enough that I could say about the book. I will read it again.
I would recommend this to anyone who is experiencing difficulty in life as well as those who have no current problems but it will arm them for future conflict.
This book requires total attention without interruption in order to absorb the wisdom of Frankl's words.
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