The decision to read this book was entirely spontaneous.
About two weeks ago, I watched an interview of Tony Robbins and he was asked to name the top three books he would recommend to anyone to read before dying.
Tony mentioned three book – The Bible, Man’s Search for Meaning and As a Man Thinketh.
Man’s Search For Meaning was written by Victor E Frankl, an Austrian Nuerologist, Psychiatrist and a well known survivor of the Holocaust.
Frankl founded logo-therapy which is a form of existential analysis in Psychotherapy. In his book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’, Victor talks about the benefits of logo-therapy and why it is the preferred technique when dealing with neurosis.
The beginning of this book talks about Frankl’s life before the Nazi concentration camps and how he ended up there even though he had the means of escaping the horrors of Auschwitz concentration camp during The Second World War.
Through out this book, he often quotes Nietzsche…
He who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW’.
He goes on narrating about the prisoners who died from starvation, lack of hope and lack of something to live for.
More than the death-stories of his fellow prisoners, the rest of the book deals with his(Frankl’s) coping mechanisms. How he managed to stay alive and keep his hope alive from the thoughts of seeing his wife again and the dreams of lecturing the psychological lessons he learned from the concentration camp experience.
He did not really focus on why most of the prisoners died, because it is quite easy to guess what would kill a man living under such dehumanizing conditions as described in this book, but focused on the reason behind anyone’s chances of survival and how they survived.
Frankl wrote this book, not just as a prisoner who was faced with all the intensity of the cruel camp life but from an objective view point. I can imagine how difficult it must have been for him to write this book and tell his story but managed not to make this book about himself. This book comes off as if it were written by an observer from outside the camp life. This alone makes you read it, not from a pitiful perspective but from a perspective where you can learn from the experiences of those prisoners.
All the lessons mentioned in this book, is well applicable to our everyday living and Frankl made sure to include real life experiences of real patients and how he used his holocaust lessons to help them overcome their emotional conflicts.
He believed that the greatest task for any person is finding meaning in his life. He wrote about how man is able to die for the sake of his values and ideals and how to deal with existential frustrations, which can often lead to neurosis.
Man’s Search For Meaning is truly a book for every mind, young and old. It addresses the meaning of life. Not the general meaning of life which honestly is very abstract and vague but the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. You have a specific career, mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. You can either lead your life knowing that you have a purpose which only you can fulfill or you can live a life of reacting to the meaning of other people’s lives. Either way, you decide.
Another powerful quote from this book is when Frankl wrote about “The Essence of Existence”
Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted wrongly the first time around.
Nothing will make you more conscious of your responsibleness to your life as that quote.
Frankl explains how self-actualization is only but a side effect of self-transcendence. I learned a lot from this part.
Victor Frankl deduced that according to logo-therapy, creating work or doing deed, experiencing something or encountering someone and our attitude towards unavoidable suffering are the three ways a man can find meaning in his life.
He made sure to remind the readers of Man’s Search For Meaning, that if you can avoid suffering, it’s the sensible thing to do but when suffering is unavoidable, it is possible to rise above it and find meaning for that suffering so as to endure it.
I truly hope you decide to read this book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ … of all the books I have read so far, this is one of the books I would recommend to anyone. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are or value system is, you can learn something useful from the experience of a man who lived through one of the worst nightmares the world has ever known.
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