Internationally renowned psychiatrist, Viktor E. Frankl, endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps. During, and partly because of, his suffering, Dr Frankl developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy. At the core of his theory is the belief that man’s primary motivational force is his search for meaning. Man’s Search for Meaning is more than a story of Viktor E. Frankl’s triumph: it is a remarkable blend of science and humanism and an introduction to the most significant psychological movement of our day.
This is a book of two halves. The first part is an autobiographical account of Frankl’s experience in the concentration camps, weaving his psychotherapy insights and discoveries into the narrative. The second part of the book is a synopsis of logotherapy psychotherapy.
Personally, I found the second half of the book somewhat dry and the periodic references to other works (including page numbers), while inarguably complete in terms of scientific papers, lost something in the narrative of an audiobook. Also, there is specialised (and long) terminology which might be better read so you have time to re-read the words and gain a fuller understanding. This is why I dropped a star, not because the actual content was not great.
The ideas and psychotherapeutic approach to man’s state and the logical and insightful conclusions Frankl draws from his experiences in the concentration camps, and their subsequent application to life and work thereafter, give you a grounding in both logotherapy and insight into your own life and the “meaning” you should be looking for.
I found the first half of the book very interesting, both anthropologically as well as the psychologically. This part alone is worth picking the book up for. A couple of takeaways I had from this part were:
- How our personal value is eroded through sustained abuse, and how finding our own “why” (our meaning) in the midst of it all becomes the light that carries us through. In Frankl’s case, this is the most extreme form that it can take, but I see how this applies to our own lives (e.g. narcissistic abuse).
- Suffering fills our being like gas does a room – equally and fully – no matter how large or small the suffering may be. You cannot devalue another’s suffering because it does not match your scalar reference point, and the suffering permeates our being and erodes us from within.
- We have a real problem with hate as a species.
- Unavoidable suffering is the most powerful force which shapes your personal meaning.
Overall the book inspires deep reflection on man’s state, as well as our own individual life and is both poignant and touching. Well worth taking the time to read.
I would also recommend “The Courage to be Disliked” which is based around Adler’s psychotherapy which follows an illuminating conversation between a philosopher and a young man.