Untitled Essay, Research Paper
Man’s Search for Meaning; Victor Frankl
Eric D. Clower
Man?s Search for Meaning: Viktor E. Frankl
?He who has a why to live for can bear any how.? The words of Nietzsche begin to explain Frankl?s tone throughout his book. Dr. Frankl uses his experiences in different Nazi concentration camps to explain his discovery of logotherapy. This discovery take us back to World War II and the extreme suffering that took place in the Nazi concentration camps and outlines a detailed analysis of the prisoners psyche. An experience we gain from the first-hand memoirs of Dr. Frankl.
In the first half of this book, Dr. Frankl explains his theory of logotherapy through his concentration camp experiences. He explains how his worldly possessions were striped from him literally in the sense that his family was put to death and he himself was striped naked and assigned to a number. Furthermore, he was made to endure endless hourly suffering for several years. It is though the experiences that Dr. Frankl explains that suffering is life and that to survive suffering one must find a means for the suffering. Therefor, finding a means for ones suffering will aid that individual to survive life. This brings us back to Nietzsche?s quote ?He who has a why to live for can bear any how.?
Dr. Frankl explains, though his psychiatric analysis of himself and other prisoners in the concentration camps, how this theory works. “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those being questioned by life – daily and hourly.” With this, Dr Frankl shows how when one losses the means to look to the future and see the possibilities that it holds, one losses the capacity to survive, because, that individual no longer understands the meaning of his suffering. In other words, the individual losses hope or gives up. Dr. Frankl also explains that the means for the suffering or the hope must be one worthy of the suffering required. “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to through away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear any “how.” With the same theory in mind as above, one can see how easy it would be to lose hope or give up if the means of the suffering was not worthy of the suffering.
Man’s Search for Meaning also contains a message on choosing one’s attitude. “Everything can be taken from man but ?the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” In this, Frankl discusses how different men chose different attitudes. Some remained descent, while others chose to become sadistic. He explains that it is the condition or the atmosphere that forces man to make this decision but that the condition or atmosphere does not make the decision. Each person has to decide what attitude to adopt. As Frankl further explains “there is also purpose in life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man’s attitude to his existence restricted by external forces.”
Dr. Frankl also explains his theory on neurosis and how it is tied to the meaning of life. Frankl differs from the ideas of Freud. Freud believed that the basis of neurosis is in unconscious motives. Frankl believes that the basis for neurosis is man’s search for his own meaning. Furthermore he explains that ones own meaning is constantly changing; therefor, the means for our suffering is constantly changing. Frankl explains, “What matters, therefor, is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” Frankl describes we discover our specific meaning at a given moment. “We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by doing a deed; (2) by experiencing a value; and (3) by suffering.” This theory is further supported by Frankl’s analysis of unemployed workers that had fall into a depressed state of neurosis. Frankl found that the unemployed were in need of meaning in their life. The lack of work made them feel as if they were useless. Once Frankl convinced the unemployed workers to volunteer their time the neurosis halted. The significance here is that the financial strain of the individuals did not change but their self worth or meaning did.
The second part of the book, called “Logotherapy in a Nutshell,” describes the psychotherapeutic method that Frankl develooped as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps. Freud believed that sexual instinct and urges were the driving force of humanity’s life; Frankl, however, believes that man’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. “Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is,” Frankl writes. “After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”
This part of the book transferred from an easy reading autobiography to a complex psychiatric journal describing, in detail, the theory behind logotherapy. This section gets heavy into psychiatric jargon making it hard to understand at times. However, even with out totally understanding every work written, the reader is still able to draw the meaning of Dr. Frankl’s work.
This book definitely opens the eyesof the reader to the values we hold dear and the privileges we think we all deserve. It makes one reconsider the depth of our suffering and realize the depth that it could reach. This piece of work would definitely help anyone who is feeling down and out to realize that there is a meaning for their suffering and that once one realizes what the means are, the suffering becomes more bearable. Even in my life in the here and now, I can apply this to college. The suffering I have endured to write this report has been eased by the knowledge that this suffering will lead to the completion of a Bachelors Degree.