Victor Frankl, ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’

This is the follow up to Frankl thus far , which I wrote about halfway through my reading of the book.

Personally, I see two preeminent themes. One, is the idea that man can get used to anything, which I covered in that earlier post. That is an important notion because it suggests that there is not much limit to what an ordinary human can become or endure, good or bad. Two, is the idea that a man with a ‘why’ can bear any ‘how’. That idea comes from a quote by Nietzsche, which Frankl cites in the book. In fact, that might be the biggest overarching theme in the book, from Frankl telling about how periods of intense reflection about his wife… the way he described it sounded like a profoundly transcendental experience of love… about which he said, “nothing could touch the strength of my love”, helped sustain him; from those stories in the camps, to his psychological theory in the latter half of the book called “Logotherapy,” which could essentially be paraphrased as “meaning-therapy”. The name comes from the Greek ‘Logos’, which, as Frankl says, denotes ‘meaning’.

Keeping this review and reflection simple, here are a few points that stood out to me:

– Frankl made the counter-intuitive observation that people of richer mind, even with a less hardy constitution often survived better than people who were physically stronger. Brains tended to out-survive braun. He said that this was because the people who were highly intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually developed had had rich inner-lives to retreat to. That inner life was all a person had.

– The context here is the day of liberation:

“Then we ventured a few steps out of the camp. This time, no orders were shouted at us… This time the guards offered us cigarettes! We hardly recognized them at first; they had hurriedly changed into civilian clothes.”

Maybe this was an act of self-preservation on the guards’ part, knowing that the tables had turned, which I think was a comment Frankl made at one point, but what this quote does is, it causes me to think about human beings as actors on a stage. What disturbs me is how real the human actions and consequences are, in contrast to how fabricated the constructs are. One man takes the life of another simply because he’s playing a role.

– The author, concerning the meaning of life:

“Life does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are very real and concrete.”

– Concerning Logotherapy:

“Logotherapy tries to make the patient fully aware of his own responsibleness; therefore, it must leave him the option for what, to what, or to whom he understands himself to be responsible. That is why a logotherapist is the least tempted of all psychotherapists to impose value judgments on his patients, for he will never permit the patient to pass to the doctor the responsibility of judging.”

Frankl says the role of the therapist is less like a painter, creating a picture for the patient, and more like an eye doctor, helping the patient to see the world as it actually is.

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