Postechian’s Pick: Man’s Search for Meaning
Postechian’s Pick: Man’s Search for Meaning
  • Reporter Won John
  • 승인 2022.06.19 23:40
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▲Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (Beacon Press, 2006)
▲Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (Beacon Press, 2006)


Man’s Search for Meaning (1946), written by Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, is a vivid account of his harrowing experiences in a Nazi concentration camp and the psychotherapeutic methods that enabled him to retain control of himself and find meaning in life despite precarious circumstances.
One may find themselves in the deepest pits of despair, but the scale of hopelessness and fear will probably be overwhelmed by the horrific realities of the Auschwitz camp in which Frankl was detained. Frankl was thrust into a world in which he was probably justified in giving up hope, but he pushed himself meticulously to find a sliver of hope and meaning in life, managing to escape from the deadly trap of apathy that had captured so many inmates.
The book starts with the experiences Frankl endured during his captive years. While one may expect an innocent prisoner to be bitter towards their captors, there is no hint of such adversarial sentiment in this book, only silent observation of the events. Frankl observed that prisoners typically went through three stages, the initial shock of being locked up, followed by an apathetic stage and a differential phase on release from captivity where reactions varied. 
Meanwhile, Frankl had been developing his method of Logotherapy, or meaning therapy, before his incarceration and used this method to help himself and his fellow inmates in a struggle to regain control of themselves. Frankl argues that a human’s deepest desire in life is to find meaning, and if one can find such meaning, one can survive anything. Three sources for meaning in life are suggested: doing significant and fulfilling work, having selfless love for your beloved, and showing courage during difficult and trying times. The author himself said he found meaning through his love of his wife and the prospect of reuniting with her once again.
One may think that the message of finding meaning in life seems to be a predictable cliché. But Frankl’s idea of meaning is not an all-unifying grandiose concept like religion or ethics. Instead, it is characterized as a subjective, almost fleeting idea of focusing on the present and contemplating on what may drive us forward. This concept is aligned with Frankl’s thoughts that if life must be full of suffering, we must embrace the goals and meanings that are worth the suffering. And through this inherent difficulty in life, we may find the meaning we seek. Frankl elaborates on this idea by saying that humans do not actually need a tensionless state but rather striving and struggling for some goal worthy of them.
Overall, the book gives a hopeful outlook for even the direst of situations. The second part of the book reads like a psychology textbook, delving deep into the intricacies of logotherapy, which may be boring to some readers. However, there is much to take away from the book, mainly in the point that forces beyond your control can take away everything from you, except your fundamental freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. This freedom is the essence that allows us to find meaning and survive. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”