Man's Search for Meaning Viktor E. Frankl, 1946, Beacon Press publishers
(From the publisher) Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory—known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")—holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
At the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America
Viktor E. Frankl was a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School until his death in 1997. His 29 books have been translated into 21 languages. During World War II, he spent three years as Auschwitz, Dachau, and other concentration camps.
• Birth—March 26, 1905, Vienna, Austria
• Death—September 2, 1997, Austria
• Education—M.D., Ph.D., Univ of Vienna
(From Wikipedia.) Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of Existential Analysis. His book Man's Search for Meaning (first published in 1946) chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and describes his psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. He was one of the key figures in existential therapy.
Frankl was born in Vienna into a Jewish family of civil servants. His interest in psychology surfaced early. For the final exam in Gymnasium (secondary school), he wrote a paper on the psychology of philosophical thinking. After graduating from Gymnasium in 1923, he studied medicine at the University of Vienna and later specialized in neurology and psychiatry, concentrating on the topics of depression and suicide. He had personal contact with Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler.
1924 he became the president of the Sozialistische Mittelschüler Österreich. In this position he offered a special program to counsel students during the time they were to receive their grades. During his tenure, not a single Viennese student committed suicide. The success of this program grabbed the attention of the likes of Wilhelm Reich who invited him to Berlin.
From 1933 to 1937 he headed the so-called Selbstmörderpavillon, or "suicide pavilion", of the General Hospital in Vienna. Here, he treated over 30,000 women prone to suicide. Yet, starting in 1938, he was prohibited from treating Aryan patients due to his Jewish ethnicity.
He moved into private practice until starting work in 1940 at the Rothschild Hospital, where he headed its neurological department, and practiced as a brain surgeon. This hospital, at the time, was the only one in Vienna in which Jews were still admitted. Several times, his medical opinions saved patients from being euthanised via the Nazi euthanasia program. In December 1941 he married Tilly Grosser.
On September 25, 1942 he, along with his wife and his parents were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Though assigned to ordinary labor details until the last few weeks of the war, Frankl (assisted by Dr. Leo Baeck and Regina Jonas among others) tried to cure fellow prisoners from despondency and prevent suicide.
He worked in the psychiatric care ward, headed the neurological clinic in block B IV, established and maintained a camp service of psychic hygiene and mental care for sick and those who were weary of life. Frankl also gave lectures on topics like Sleep and Its Disturbances, Body and Soul, and Medical Care of Soul.
On April 27, 1945, Frankl was liberated by the Americans. Among his immediate relatives, the only survivor was his sister, who had escaped by emigrating to Australia.
It was due to his and others' suffering in these camps that he came to his hallmark conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that therefore even suffering is meaningful. This conclusion served as a strong basis for Frankl's logotherapy. Another important conclusion of Frankl was
- If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life—an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS were unable to destroy. Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival.
In 1946 he was appointed to run the Vienna Poliklinik of Neurology. He remained there until 1971. In 1947 he married his second wife Eleonore Katharina Schwindt. She gave birth to one daughter, Gabriele. In 1955 he was awarded a professorship of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna, and as visiting professor, he resided at Harvard University.
In the post-war years, Frankl published more than 32 books (many were translated into 10 to 20 languages) and is most notable as the founder of logotherapy. (Logos, λόγος, is Greek for word, reason, principle; therapy, Θεραπεύω, means I heal.) He lectured and taught seminars all over the world and received 29 honorary doctorate degrees. Frankl died September 2, 1997, in Vienna.
Barnes & Noble customer reviews
Patty Duffy, project manager, 8/14/03 To have lived is to have read this book at least once:
- We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that 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, to choose one's own way.
His detailed recollection of his internment is just about 100 pages, but it contains some of the most insightful quotes about humanness that I have ever read. The second half of this book concentrates on Frankl’s "logotherapy." It is through his innermost soul searching during his internment that Dr. Frankl began to develop a psychological treatment method called logotherapy.
According to Frankl, logotherapy is striving to find a meaning in one's life as the primary force. Frankl would help patients improve their mental health by helping them to discover meaning in their lives. Dr. Frankl said it best:
- We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation—just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer—we are challenged to change ourselves.
RGV, 11/16/01, Exquisitely Written, Vividly Told: Out of all the books I read in high school and college, this one stays with me even today, more than 20 years later. The brutal images of war are told with sensitivity and compassion, yet the shear horror of the holocaust cannot be softened. I've read this book twice more since 1978 and it still moves me. Finding the will to live in such horrific and deplorable conditions inspires us all to overcome the trials and tribulations of our lives.
Chicky456, high school student, Texas, 9/11/2000 ,Great Introductgion to Logotherapy: Man's search for meaning truly conveys that war is man's ultimate inhumanity to man. With everything lost, and seemingly no future hope, how does one survive? As Frankl himself had to survive he tells us that meaning in life is not found anywhere else but within yourself. This also serves a great introduction to logotherapy.
Book Club Discussion Questions (from http://www.litlovers.com/)
1. What do you think Frankl’s views of religion are and how are these reflected through his experiences and/or theories?
2. Throughout the book, particularly Part One, Frankl does not identify himself as Jewish. Why do you think this is?
3. Explain Frankl’s theory of success. Do you agree or disagree with him?
4. What is "barbed wire sickness" (p. 7)?
5. What is the significance of Frankl’s reasons for staying in Austria?
6. Identify some "‘Frankl-isms"that you find inspirational or with which you identify.
7. According to Frankl, “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal.” What is does he mean by this paradox? How can you relate it to a time in your own life?
8. What is the "ultimate freedom" according to Frankl?
9. Frankl says that to be alive in the camp meant that one had lost his scruples: "The best of us did not return." What does he mean by this? How does the statement reflect life in the concentration camps during the Holocaust?
10. Why do you think that cigarettes and smoking were the last pleasures enjoyed before death? Why or how would they signal imminent death to other prisoners?
11. What were the "phase 1" reactions following entry into the concentration camp scene? What were the "“phase 2" reactions to being well-entrenched in the concentration camp routine?
12. What were the "phase 3" reactions to being released and liberated from a concentration camp? Explain your understanding of the gradual shift in reactions.
13. What do you think Frankl’s definition of love is? Does it fit into Frankl’s philosophy of existentialism?
14. How does Frankl’s wife give his life meaning?
15. Read pp. 37–41 passage about Frankl’s wife. How do these passages explain or exemplify the separation of the mind from the body? Read p. 29 passage. Compare and contrast to this famous passage from Elie Wiesel’s Night:
- Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
16. Talk about the passage on pp. 86–87 that questions the over-simplification of decent vs. indecent or good vs. evil among human beings in the Holocaust.
17. According to Frankl, how do suffering and death complete life and give it meaning?
18. Twice Frankl mentions the fear that "we were heading to Mauthausen." What does he mean?
19. What is Frankl’s advice to the hut/block for staying alive?
20. Explain how responsibility is a crucial component of logotherapy?
21. How does Frankl explain survival in the camps with regard to logotherapy?
22. Do you agree or disagree with Frankl that "mass neurotic syndrome" is pervasive in the young generation of today? How can it be combated through logotherapy then?
23. Regarding the movie analogy on p. 143: Discuss the relevance/analogy of this passage to your own life. Do you think that the movie analogy is a good example for Frankl’s view of existentialism?
24. How do you know if or when any single situation or event in your life has been actualized? How does this movie analogy force you to reflect upon your own life?
25. According to Frankl, what are the three main avenues for reaching meaning in life?