Analysis Of A Man’s Search For Meaning By Viktor Frankl
A man’s Search for Meaning is a book written by the German author in 1946, while being entrapped in Auschwitz the Nazi concentration camp. Frankl’s Mans Search for Meaning is a book about suffering, pain and anguish, but the message portrayed in the book extends much deeper than that. In the book he describes his use of a psychotherapeutic technique called logotherapy, a technique he developed to help protect his mental sanity. Logotherapy is defined as a technique that helps the patient find meaning. In the story, Frankl never really gives the reader a linear narrative of his experiences within the camps, instead he focuses the book on how the daily struggles within the camp affected his mental stability. The only time he gives details about his experiences in the concentration camp is when the details can be used as evidence for his psychological ideas. The first part of the story details the many problems that the prisoners had to face at the hands of the German Nazis and how they were constantly struggling to avoid death. He describes avoiding being sent to the gas chamber and trying to withstand the ungodly heat. Essentially, Frankl used to first aspect of the book detailing the harsh conditions the prisoners were forced to face. The second part of the book, Frankl spends his time explaining what the prisoners had to do in order to survive. Many view this part of the book as the more inspirational part of the story, as it demonstrated just how resilient and strong humans can be when the situation requires it.
It is ubiquitously known that the German concentration camps were a place of great torture and suffering. Though many suffered great physical torture and suffering, the pain extended much past physical it was also extremely mentally exerting. The survival rates within the concentration camps were extremely low, and according to frank on 1 in 28 people made it out of the concentration camps alive. Frank observes three different mental stages that the average prisoner withgoes while being in the camp. The three stages are shock, apathy and “emotional death” as he describes it. The first stage, shock, Frankl describes it as an initial loss of identity and a false understanding of the severity of the situation. Often times when the victim is experiencing shock the begin thinking that it wont be as bad as it actually is. Frankl describes apathy as a disengagement from the situation. He states that because hope is so rare within these camps, as a way to cope with the circumstances, people begin to detach themselves from the current situation. Frankl describes emotional death as the inability to realize what one has gone through as well as not being able to reconnect with normal life after the experience. One must completely disconnect ones self from what has happened to them in order to return to “normal” life. By doing this he said that it changed his views on what had happened within the camp from a memory into more so of a nightmare in a way.
Frankl bases his entire philosophy on the simple idea that human’s deepest desire is to find meaning within their life. Frankl believes that if humans find what they believe is the meaning of life, then they can survive almost anything regardless of how horrendous the circumstances may be. During the holocaust, Frankl consciously decided to use his suffering as way to make himself grow into a better person. Instead of becoming apathetic like most prisoners, he decided to embrace and utilize his suffering. In the book, Frankl writes “while a man’s destiny in life is certainly affected by the circumstances in which he finds himself, he is ultimately free to choose his own path in life. Even in the worst situation possible, man always has the freedom to choose his attitude towards life. ”. This quote serves as a good representation of his overall mentality while being in Auschwitz. Frankl then goes on to explain the three ways we can find meaning within our lives, which are through one’s work, through love and through ones suffering. Frankl believes work can give us meaning because if you find something in which you are truly passionate about, it is easy for it to absorb your life and when ever you spend your time doing that specific thing you feel as if you are contributing to a much greater cause. Love and connections to other people can give us meaning, because when you love someone you begin prioritizing their needs over yours and that can develop into ones meaning. Frankl argues that suffering can cause meaning in life because when your sole purpose is survival and that is all that you are focused on it can become a sort of meaning and help develop mental strength. Frankl accredits these three reasons for what helped people to preserve through the holocaust and survive. Frankl also touches on the definition of despair and how he defines it as a feeling of a loss of significance. He believes that despair is the primary factor that causes people to lose faith while in the holocaust.
The second part of the book explains Frankl’s ideas about logotherapy more indepthly. He explains that mans will to meaning can become existentially frustrating. In other words, Frankl explains that if one cannot find the meaning or purpose in life, they can develop severe mental problems in life and have problems finding satisfaction within their life. Frankl argues that everyone should strive to be in a state of noö-dynamics, in which there is a tension between what one has already done and what one hopes to accomplish. Frankl believes that this balance between past and present is critical to human existence and mental health. Ultimately, the most significant purpose of logotherapy is to help the patients using it to help develop goals and aspirations.
Many believe that therefore that therefore the ideas portrayed in the book are so relatable to the readers. He describes the struggles he is faced with while being in the Nazi concentration camps. People reading the book absorb the atrocities that the people within the concentration camp faced and had to go through and they compare it to the comparatively trivial problems that plague them in their common lives. It helps the readers realize just how minute and minor their own problems are compared to the problems that Frankl faces within the book. All in all, I think that the story is very comparable to many of the readings we read during the story, as it provides a sense of morality for the reader. It provides a sense of motivation and inspirational for the reader.
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