Book Review – Man’s Search for Meaning – Dr Viktor E. Frankl


Life is a wonderful journey of ups and downs, happy and sad moments, good and bad experience etc. The meaning of life is found when one identifies his purpose which is of course, subjective. How to find that meaning? The classic book written by Dr Viktor E. Frankl gives the answer. This book provides a different way to life and has the power to change the perspective towards life. Before going to the review, it is important to understand the background of this book.

The Background: This book revolves around the three years’ experience of Viktor Frankl during World War II. During World War II, he had to spent three years in various concentration camps like Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps. As the book says, it is the classic tribute to “hope” from the Holocaust. Holocaust was the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II. Around six million Jews were murdered or killed by the Nazi Germany in the German occupied Europe during those years. Auschwitz camp was the dominant symbol of holocaust. As a holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl wrote memoirs of his experiences in this book. Surviving from the holocaust and developing the “logotherapy” technique, Viktor Frankl journey is commendable. The book contains a dedicated chapter on logotherapy.

In order to understand why the book is a tribute to “hope”, one can understand the experience of a man who spent three years in various concentration camps wherein death was common punishment for prisoners. There are several incidents mentioned in the book how people were carried to gas chambers and killed. Prisoners in concentration camps were having no hope whether they will see the outside world or not. This book is about survival and a man can survive when he had some reasons to survive. If there is no reason to survive, there is no reason for existence which creates what is known as “apathy”. Every prisoner suffered a lot, and these sufferings were the motives for many to commit suicides apart from normal killings. Suicides happened due to lack of hope.

It is important to note that this book was written in 9 successive days, as mentioned in the Preface.  

About the Author

Dr Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997), born in Vienna (Austria) was the founder of logotherapy. He was the author, psychiatrist, neurologist and a holocaust survivor.  He was Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School. He was the founder of what has come to be called the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy.

Viktor Frankl, PC: Google

He had written 32 books that have been translated into 26 languages. Man’s Search for Meaning is a classic book with millions of copies sold.

About the Book

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”. This quote from Nietzsche is mentioned several times in this book. The meaning is clear, one should know the “why” to live. That why comes when one knows the meaning and purpose of his life.

The great task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life, as stressed by the author in this book. The author describes poignantly the prisoners who gave up on life, who had lost all hope for a future and were inevitably the first to die. They died less from lack of food or medicine than from lack of hope, lack of something to live for. Author kept his hope alive, and that hope kept him alive.  

This book is an inside story of a concentration camp said by one of its survivors. The prisoners in concentration camp went through several atrocities and “one five-ounce piece of bread was their only food in four days”. The thought of suicide was entertained by nearly everyone, if only for a brief time. The readers might be surprised to know how prisoners committed suicides. They committed suicides through “run into the wire”. This was a phrase used in camp to describe the most popular method of suicide – touching the electrically barbed-wire fence. Ever wondered there can be most popular method of suicide? There was a time when prisoners did not fear death. Even gas chambers lost their horrors. The author had described these experiences of concentration camp.

The author had described the experiences in concentration camp in three phases, based on the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life. These three phases are: the period following admission, the period when he is well entrenched in camp routine, and the period following his release and liberation.  The last phase was only a dream till it happened. Hope was the force behind survival including the author. In one of the incidents, a prisoner was firm and hopeful that he will be free on 31st March and he did become free but through death. The author had described this incident how and what kept him alive till 31st March.

PC: Google

The book had a very important incidents when prisoners started to have “apathy” feeling, the blunting of the emotions and the feelings that one could not care any more.  This made them insensitive to daily and hourly beatings. The author calls this “apathy” feeling a very necessary protective shell for survival as it became the necessary mechanism of self-defense.

The author had brilliantly explained the meaning and the role of sufferings in life. Life is incomplete without sufferings. According to author, suffering is similar to behaviour of gas, which can be understood by the below extract from the book

It is possible to practice art of living in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behaviour of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.

Suffering is omnipresent and absolutely relative. It fills the human soul completely. If analysed and thought peacefully, it is true. The author had beautifully explained what is known as “provisional existence” which prisoners in concentration camp was having. Their existence was provisional as the sufferings had no end. A man who could not see the end of his “provisional existence” was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. This is the reason why a day in camp lasted longer than a week. The author sees such suffering in other way as such sufferings sometimes opens the gateway of opportunity to grow spiritually. This is the test of inner strength.

The author sees life in different perspective. What we expect from life does not matter, it matters what life expects from us. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for us. This is really inspirational way to look towards life as life is not “vague”. Human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes sufferings and dying, privation and death.

The book has such kind of eye-opening extracts which has the power to change the mind the perspective towards life. There is a dedicated chapter on logotherapy as well wherein the author who itself had developed this technique, had explained this concept in simple and understandable manner. Logotherapy focusses on meaning of human existence. This meaning is unique and specific and must be fulfilled by him alone. Man needs “something” for the sake to live or else it will be a “provisional existence”.

This book is an inspirational read. The journey of survivor from holocaust and finding the meaning of life is well described in the book. There are many who have always complains towards life because of the sufferings and obstacles they face. This book is a must read for them.

Lastly, I would like to conclude the review post by sharing a sentence from the book itself which is self explanatory.

Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.

After reading the review post, share your views and what you think is the “meaning” of life, in general.

Ashish Kumar

Hunch


Opened eyes with some hope.
With sign of having a positive course.
Looking inside for a while,
Do I have a remorse?
Culprit of common criticism.
It is a cynicism.
Fake suggestions and cacophony surrounded.
Forbidding them as they were counterfeited.
Took a pause and moved on.
My inner light was on.
No one can snatch my own self.
Being made of rock stone shed.
But one thought always taunts.
Barking people surrounded everywhere.
People are becoming “vulture”?
Is it real or a hunch? 

- Ashish Kumar

3.2.1 Quote Me – Hope


My blogger friend Manoj Mehra nominated for this quote challenge. Manoj writes in various topics like Life, Relationships, My Feelings etc and it is worth to read his posts. In fact, his blog title is “Believe Strong” which indicates the depth of his writing skills. Please visit his blog for some good literary pieces.  I am taking up any challenge after many years and hence little bit excited while I am writing this post.

Rules
1. Thank the Selector
2. Post 2 quotes for the dedicated Topic of the Day
3. Select 3 bloggers to take part in ‘3.2.1 Quote Me!’

I am sharing the following two quotes which is very inspiring and gives a sense of optimism. The author of the first quote is unknown and I share this quote whenever motivation is required to me or others.

If life gives you hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have thousands of reasons to smile.

– Unknown

The next quote I would like to share is related to our deeds and our thoughts and I really admire this quote of Swami Vivekananda.

We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.

– Swami Vivekanada

I would like to nominate following bloggers for this challenge.

  1. Samyak Singh
  2. Tarushi Parashar
  3. Krittica bh

Feel free to participate and enjoy… 🙂

– Ashish Kumar

Dream night


I slept one night with positive vibes.

Dream came with negative vibes.

My entire structure collapsed.

It was difficult to find way to survive.

I saw myself struggling a lot.

Trying to build a new plot.

Construction started with full effort.

That also vanished due to a sudden storm.

There was nothing left to gain.

I was suffering with severe pain.

Crying from inside and outside.

I was fighting in my dream night.

Left alone in the curse of life.

I was finding some ray of light.

Barking words coming from everywhere.

Nothing is left anywhere.

Humanity killed and humans are alive.

That’s the real world I must realize.

People won’t be sympathetic.

Better I should become pragmatic.

Suddenly I woke up from my dream.

Surprised to know what I saw in the dream.

Dream gave me one lesson.

Don’t give up but fight with your passion.

What I learnt is what I shared.

Dream taught me which I should care.

It was a nice morning looking at the rising sun.

Learning to move ahead with hope of none.

Humans have forgotten humanity.

Sorry to say but that’s the reality.

I saw that dream long ago.

It gave me courage to go and get go.

The dream which I saw that night,

where I was fighting in my dream night.

It became my dream night which gave me courage to fight.

Ashish Kumar

All is not well…


Left in the uncertain condition.
There was no hope of desirable situation.
Thrashed by a sudden thunderstorm.
I have no strength to fight the storm.
Body collapsed and mind became rest.
I was left behind with the bloody fest.
Soul cried and heart broke.
Everything vanished at a sudden stroke.
I cried but tears didn’t fell.
Made me realize, all is not well.

Mind stopped to think and perform.
Started moving in the path of thorn.
Collecting the pieces of my hopes and desire.
Buried all those in a burning fire.
Life may not go the way I want.
I need to start from the scratch to grow a new plant.
Bleeding from inside and outside.
There was no reason to live any life.
I cried but tears didn’t fell.
Made me realize, all is not well.
I smiled and smiled.
Leaving behind the darkened nights.
Left searching for any hope.
Now its time to create a new hope.
Building from the base one more time.
Let the life play with my time.
I won’t give up.
Remembering those moments gives me sensational feeling.
As that time…
I cried but tears didn’t fell.
Made me realize, all is not well.
All is not well.

 – Ashish Kumar