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Man's Search for Meaning Mass Market Paperback – 1 Dec 1997
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DIFFERENT OFFER (this item listed here is DIFFERENT from the title and/or picture above. Please see description & pictures by BookGems before placing an order): Edition Rider Publisher (an imprint of Ebury Publishing Co.), 2004. ISBN: 978-1844132393. PAPERBACK. The new and unread book remains in excellent condition throughout: Soft cover intact; text all clean, neat and tight. Dispatch from UK.
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After recounting the horrors of everyday life in a work camp - the initial selection process in which 90% were sent to the gas chambers while 10% were kept to extract the last ounce of work as slaves for construction firms; the Capos selected from the most brutal who had lost all scruples in order to save their life; how everything was subservient to keeping oneself and one's closest friends alive - Viktor Frankl tells of the psychological problems they met.
The most important seems to be the hope of release as shown by the very high death rate in his camp in the week between Christmas 1944 and new year 1945 which had no explanation in food, treatment, weather, disease or working conditions; it was that the majority had lived in the naive hope that they would be home again by Christmas. In the absence of encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage; disappointment overcame them and their powers of resistance dropped. Frankl noticed that it was the men who comforted others, who gave away their last piece of bread who survived longest and who offered proof that everything can be taken but one thing - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances.
In the camp every decision determined whether or not you would submit to loss of inner freedom. The sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not of camp influences alone. It is this spiritual freedom which cannot be taken away which makes life meaningful and purposeful. Only those who allowed their inner hold on their moral and spiritual selves to subside eventually fell victim to the camp's degenerating influences. Most inmates believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. In reality, however, one could make a victory of those experiences, turning them into an inner triumph.
Frankl saw himself giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp, living Spinoza's observation that "Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it." Armed with the insight that any attempt to restore man's inner strength had first to succeed in showing him some future goal he tried to help would-be suicides to realize that life was still expecting something from them - a loving son awaiting his return, an unfinished work to complete. When the impossibility of replacing you is realized it is impossible to throw your life away. When you know the why of your existence you will be able to bear almost any how.
Frankl had to learn and then teach that it really did not matter what we expect from life but rather what life expects from us. The answer lies in right action and in right conduct; life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill tasks that it constantly sets for each individual. These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man and from moment to moment, making it impossible to define in general terms or in sweeping statements. No man and no destiny can be compared to any other man or destiny. It may require a man to shape his own fate, contemplate or accept his fate. There is only one right answer to the situation at hand.
When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his single, unique task. His unique opportunity lies in the way he bears his burden. Once the meaning of suffering has been revealed, suffering has hidden opportunities for achievement. When he had the opportunity to address a group of prisoners his purpose was to help each man to find a full meaning to their life in that practically hopeless situation by pointing out the joys each had experienced in the past and that no one had suffered irreplaceable losses. Whoever was still alive had reason for hope; health, family, happiness, professional abilities, fortune, position in society, could all be restored. Life never ceases to have meaning and this infinite meaning includes suffering and dying, privation and death. God or someone alive or dead would hope to find them suffering proudly.
After the war, Frankl introduced Logotherapy, which focuses on the meanings of life to be fulfilled by the patient in the future. The patient is confronted with the meaning of his life. The meaning of human existence as well as man's search for such a meaning is unique and specific and can be fulfilled by him alone. He is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values. The more that you forget yourself by giving to a cause or serving in love, the more you actualize yourself. We can discover meaning in three ways - creating a work or doing a deed; by experiencing something or encountering someone; and by the attitude we take to unavoidable suffering.
When we are no longer able to change a situation such as inoperable cancer we have to change our attitude. He asks his patients to project themselves forward to their deathbed and look back on the meaningful things in their lives. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be; he has control over what he will become in the next moment.
This book has certainly provided much food for thought!
The central analytical concept seems to be that the majority of people in distress, or who seek counselling, are not ill, and therefore should not be medicalised, as Freudian therapy often does. Instead, they are in a position to examine their lives and discover the causes for their own distress. However, they are only truly healed once they find the thing that is important enough to them to continue.
Farnkl also makes a very interesting study of the mind of concentration camp victims, who are often overlooked in favour of their portrayal as heroes. Instead, the analysis usually focuses on the camp staff. However, these people are an under-researched group, and his work is interesting philosophically as well as psychologically. In addition, some of his tales made me cry, and there are very few books which do that.
This guy is clearly a wonderful man... not so for his mere survival, but the fact that he drew from it so effectively in rebuilding his own life and those of others around him. Very impressive.
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