Friday, April 12, 2013

A Review of 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor Frankl

"'Man's Search for Meaning' has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival.  Between 1942 and 1945 psychiatrist Viktor Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished.  Based on his own experience and the stories of many of his patients, 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.  In the decades since its first publication, 'Man's Search for Meaning' has become one of the most influential books in America; it continues to inspire us all to find significance in the very act of living."

On the back cover, this is labeled as a book about psychology, which is true, but I've been using it as a philosophy text book!  When I started this book, we were discussing suffering-- what it is, what it means, etc.  The Holocaust, as we all probably know, was full of suffering, which makes this, paired with Night by Elie Wiesel, a great combination for a dynamic discussion.

This was a unique book about the Holocaust because it felt so... positive, I guess, is the closest word I can find, though it's not quite right.  In 'Night,' the main focus is suffering and how awful it was to 'live' in the camps and how much of a struggle it was just to live.  But while reading Viktor Frankl, I was surprised by the number of good things he could bring out of this tragedy despite all of the horrible things that happened to him and to his family.  The camps were completely unsanitary, gray, deathly, and horrible, but when he and the other inmates could see a sunset, it was a very big deal, because it was a beautiful thing that the Kapos could not take away from them.  Frankl also had some control over his life path.  When he was given opportunities by the Kapos, he was free to take them or leave them.  They were difficult decisions to make though, because no matter what he chose, there was no guarantee that he was going to live to see his next opportunity and make his next choice.

I try not to get too excited about the books I read for class, just because they can be so dry and I'm probably not even supposed to like what I'm reading.  But I love that my professor chose this book for us because she really wants us to be engaged with what we're talking about.  This is such an engaging read.  What's nice is that if you're not terribly interested in psychology, this book can still work for you.  Like I said, this was one of my philosophy text books.  This is a very multi-purposed book.

If you're looking for a unique outlook on the events of the Holocaust, definitely give this book a try!

I give 'Man's Search for Meaning':
Thanks for Reading!



  1. I'll put this in my list. It sounds fascinating.

    1. Oh wonderful!

      Yes, if you're interested in psychology or the Holocaust, you'll definitely be glad that you read this book.


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