Viktor Frankl (1902-1997) was an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, and is notable as the founder of logotherapy, a form of psychotherapy which focuses on the achievement of meaning in life. He was also witness to one of the most terrible genocides in world history, and it is his experiences and his takeaways from the concentration camps that form the basis of his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. The book is separated into two parts: the first part details his experience in the camps, and the second part discusses his theories on the meaning of life.
The writing style of the book tends to be both narrative and expository: Frankl told of incidences and happenings in the camp, while at the same time giving a deeper explanation of the scenarios and emotions of the moment, which would have gone unobserved in a simply narrative text. He began by dissuading the reader from conceiving the affairs of camp life with pity, and asserted that it was, in fact, a fierce daily struggle for survival.
He emphasized that point by telling of the transport (probably to the gas chambers and crematoriums), and how every man’s primary concern became to get he and his friends’ names of the list of those to be transported, no matter how. Frankl dissected the thoughts and feelings of a new arrival to the camp. The first reaction was shock and disbelief. This most likely occurred as a result in the drastic change of circumstances, as well as the aggravated brutality meted out by the SS officials and Capos.
What Would You Say is the Meaning of Life It has been noticed that Stoicism, as philosophical doctrine, and Logotherapy, as psychotherapeutic method, share many metaphysical premises, which also define the essence of both, Stoicism and Logotherapy. We can say that it the notion of responsiblesness that both philosophical approaches to ones existence are firmly based upon. According to Stoic ...
The prisoners could not accept what their lives had become because it was too different and too painful. They also suffered from what Frankl identified as “delusion of reprieve”. Their situation had not yet fully sunk in, so each prisoner (at least on some level) thought he would be pardoned and released. That delusion was quickly broken when they were faced with intense suffering and the death of people around them. After the shock had worn off, the prisoners began to feel nostalgia, disgust, and general unhappiness, which they automatically began to suppress.
Such emotions would not solve things for them and would only serve to make their lives more miserable than they already were, so they were stifled. However, this led to apathy in the prisoners. They no longer felt things like empathy, pity and indignation, and devalued anything that would not help them survive in the camp. Frankl recounts an incident where he was in a hut for typhus sufferers, and when an individual passed away, the other prisoners gathered around and robbed the corpse of all that was considered valuable.
There were no tears or prayers for the deceased and in a sense, his belongings and effects had become of more substance that he was, even while still alive. Finally, Frankl spoke of the final stage in concentration camp psychology: the psychology one felt after release. He paused at that point to note that there were no black and white descriptions with regard to the guards and prisoners. In other words, there were kind guards as well as despicable prisoners. He went on to say that there are only two races: the decent and indecent.
He then described how the prisoners got their first taste of freedom and could not enjoy it. They were undergoing “depersonalization”, a sensation where everything feels unreal. They would have to learn to enjoy life again, though it would take time as they had become accustomed to suffering. The prisoners also went through a phase where they thought wrongdoing on their part was justified because of all they had been through, as though they had “earned” the right to break the rules.
They also felt disillusioned with the world because of the apathy they met with regarding their ordeals, and the fact that a lot of them had lost the very reasons for which they had stayed alive (family, friends, and property).
It is said that all life does indeed involve suffering but it is what we make of this suffering that will determine whether or not we find meaning in our life. One must look within and around himself to create meaning in her life; one can finding meaning by creating works or doing deeds, experiencing things or encountering people, and choosing one’s attitude towards the suffering in her life. ...
We move into the second part of the book, where Frankl introduced Logotherapy, and stressed that man only truly searches for meaning in life, and other pursuits such as pleasure and power, are merely manifestations of that search. He stated that there are three ways to find meaning in life: through work or the creative process, by love or relationship, or through suffering.
He then clarified that by suffering he did not mean unnecessary suffering, which is not heroic but masochistic. He explained that suffering should be avoided or alleviated, but where that was impossible (as in the case of bereavement or terminal illness), there was great honor to be found in bearing one’s suffering with grace, rather than becoming subject to it. All a person needs is meaning in his suffering, or at least a reason to endure it, in order to bear his burden admirably. Frankl talked about practical uses for logotherapy, such as its uses in the cure of neuroses.
He stressed that for neurotic patients and people in general, it was self-transcendence and not hyper-reflection that would bring relief. He talked about a mass neurosis, in the form of nihilism, and how psychotherapy could not be of help because it was rooted in the same philosophy that created the neurosis. He stresses that the only way to cure the neurosis was to realize or acknowledge that man is not totally subject to his circumstances, but has the ability to choose his path and decide his destiny.
I agreed with almost all Frankl’s ideas, but I do not think that neuroses, especially the very severe, would be as easily cured as he suggests. I think he underestimated the seriousness of some neuroses, but I agreed with his point that the cure for a person’s neurosis might not always lie with its cause. I don’t think one has to probe one’s entire history, all in the attempt to alleviate a nervous tick, especially since in that branch of psychology it is very easy to make diagnostic mistakes.