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)
The beginning of this book deals with the author's time in concentration camps, and the descriptions are all to the purpose of tracing his observations, which he later builds his theory of logotherapy on. Thus, the descriptions are not horrifying for horrors sake, but serve to educate one regarding the way these experiences were able to be withstood.
There were a few surprises in this book as well. He mentions logotherapy, and paradoxical intention, in relation to its use in treatment for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, among other things.
Most importantly, to myself, were the ways he showed how he had developed his ideas on man's search for meaning. These are ideas that he himself used to save his life while enduring four concentration camps. They are not ideals plucked out of the ether and argued with only intellect.
The narrator has a European accent, which I cannot place, but which added greatly to my listening experience. Sometimes the ideas flow thick and fast and it is a challenge to keep up while also taking in completely the ideas you just heard.
This is a book I will listen to repeatedly and learn from on each occassion.
"Man's Search for Meaning" is the great summary of Frankl's view on life. Sold in 10 million copies - the book has two distinct parts - the first is a kind of memoir of the horrible time Frankl spent in at least four concentration camps during II World War, including Auschwitz. From all written stories about the life in camp - Frankl's relation is astonishing - there are no gruesome scenes, no ghastly relations - but through some cold description of prisoners shock, apathy, bitterness and finally deformation of morals - Frankl's account is one of the most fearful stories I have ever read. Yet, there is still a small light of humanness, still a germ of meaning in all these atrocities. Let's read: "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."
The second part of the book deals with his LOGOTHERAPY - the fundamental theory Frankl promoted in XX century. Logotherapy seeks the cure for neurosis and existential emptiness in the search for meaning in life. There are passages in the book, also those about love and its importance that make one shiver....
Let's read two citations from this great book:
"An incurable psychotic individual may lose his usefulness but yet retain the dignity of a human being. This is my psychiatric credo."
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
All the other people that have reviewed this book have captured the content of the book very well. The only thing I have to add is that this is a book about an extraordinary man, with all of the horror he was subjected to he still remained a wonderful human. He is not bitter and does not hate the people who subjected him to these unspeakable acts, instead he tries to find the good or humor in their acts.
This book humbled me; I used to get upset when someone took my parking spot, or cut into my queue but now I smile as I have never had to endure real horror or injustice.
I got this book after Dr. Phil said he has read and re-read it several times in his life. While I'm not always a Dr. Phil fan, I think he has it right with this one. It's one of the few books I consistently recommend to anyone. Very insightful, unbiased, and amazing the he has actually lived what he learned and vice versa.
Atty/CPA, The South
Maybe others in the self-help guru "industry" have said similar things but NONE has come close to saying it with the authority and credibility of Dr. Viktor Frankl given what he endured and who he became and what he has meant, and continues to mean, to so many.
My 2 favorite quotes from this book:
"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...."
"Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how.'"
This book is not some deep philosophical rambling on the meaning of life. It's about a person's search for meaning, or more particularly about the search of Dr. Viktor Frankl, an eminent psychiatrist with a mountain of personal experience in coping with adversity, and how it can make a difference in the practical ways you view your life and handle your trials and tribulations.
Dr. Frankl was imprisoned in 4 Nazi death camps, including the infamous Auschwitz, between 1942 and 1945. He survived, while his pregnant wife, parents and brother all died. He differed with Freud who thought our primary drive in life is pleasure, in arguing that we are driven to pursue and find something meaningful in our lives. So, while we cannot, obviously, avoid suffering, Dr. Frankl says, we can choose how to cope with the hurt, find meaning in our suffering and move on with a sense of renewed purpose.
A wonderful, practical and highly recommended book.
It's difficult to describe the darkest moments of your life. It's even harder to find meaning in them. Frankl shows courage and great resilience by having created this work of art, which will help others find purpose in their struggles as well.
I had not heard of Dr. Frankle, but listening to his story and the lessons learned about human nature provided profound insight, and created a sense of this man's permanent prominence in the field of Psychiatry. The practical examples of filling man's "existential vacuum" with meaning were extremely useful. Some of the stuff toward the end is a bit difficult to follow, but overall, I found this book to be serendipitously foundational to my next read which was Covey's "Seven Habits." Perhaps it should be a pre-requisite to the study of Covey.
Since Frankl published Man's Search for Meaning there have been 4 revisions on the DSM; (I began working in the field during the DSMIII). Our understanding, diagnostic tools, and treatment therapies broaden, but there is still so much that needs to be done and known to treat *mental illnesses* --especially the stigma people have to deal with, and the issue of parity. Through all the enlightenment, I still find this book invaluable and profound. For myself, I include a reading in my list of annual maintenance. You don't need another review...I'm offering a REMINDER...read again.
Frankl captures the world of the concentration camp with stunning vividness. As a psychiatrist he describes the madness of Auschwitz that could bring one to tears. He puts to shame the evil that is of the human condition. One is left in awe and disgust at what we have become and what we have the potential to become. This book is a must read for those who really want an insight into real suffering. After this book one is fortified, confident in the knowledge that no hell is worsse than what Frankl and others endured. One is awakened by coming to face with the potential evil that lives in us all - that which may be released in the set up of the concentration camp. This is about what Guantanamo Bay may have bordered on. As a fellow psychiatrist myself, I was able to walk with Frankl and be with him. I almost smelt and touched the scenes he described. His book is also a survival manual for the hopeless. Don't kill yourself - read this!!
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.
"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.
"Philosophy at its best"
This is not an easy read, not because of language - Frankl is clear, concise and easy to follow, but because he is exploring meaning from the most extreme angles. Using his experience as a survivor of Nazi concentration camps in the most honest and frank fashion I have ever heard/read anybody describing such experiences, Frankl finds profound truths in regard of meaning and the human condition.
His conclusions are very sobering and profound and exactly because of his experience very insightful and inspiring. (As I have seen people referencing this book as indication that Frankl was religious, I would like to mention that in my reading, he dismantles religion as a means of self deception, even if maybe helpful to remain sane under extreme circumstances. I.e. I understand this book as clear statement against the validity of any truths or meaning for our lives coming from religion.)
"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.
Fascinating insight into the phycological strains experienced first hand. Great read. Prepare to delve deep.
"Valuable insight into mindworks"
Very insightful book that is a great addition to anyone interested in what makes any persons struggle worth persevering with. The driving forces that can help someone overcome grief, adversity, when all seems pointless.
So good I ordered the book for someone I know, and as a reference point for some volunteer work I do. Top notch book.
"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.
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