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“Man’s Search for Meaning” is a great book that I came across. This book is written by Victor K. Frankl who was a prisoner for three years in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Viktor K. Frankl, a founder of Logotherapy, believes that man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life.
The first part of this book presents his survival experience in concentration camp & how his approach helped him to survive and the second part of this book is about how logotherapy can help in man’s search for meaning.
The core thought of this book is finding meaning in your life despite any situation you are currently in. So, let’s begin the man’s search for meaning summary.
Every prisoner experienced three phases in the concentration camp. The first phase was arrival at the camp, the second phase was the period when he well routined and the third phase was after his liberation.
The mental reaction to the first period was shock. When he brought to the Auschwitz camp by the train with other 1500 prisoners their first reaction was shock, horror. They were horrified by listening to the shouted commands and whistles.
People who looked sick and incapable of doing work immediately sorted out and sent to gas chambers and those who were looking fit sent to the camp.
When they entered the camp all the clothes, watch, shoes were taken from them. During this checking, the author lost the manuscript of his writing. The first night they literally slept for few hours and within few inches of space, putting their naked bodies on each other.
There was the only way to survive in camp i.e to look capable of doing work. In the morning one old prisoner advised that they should shave daily to look smarter.
All prisoners were given the work such as putting railway lines, digging in the snow. In exchange for this work, they were given a few pieces of bread and thin soup. Apart from this physical stress, prisoners went through the insult, mental stress from commanders and officers.
In this phase thought of suicide came to every prisoner. Most of them started taking this action. In camp, the most popular way of suicide was touching the open wire. The reason for suicide was a lack of food as well as a lack of hope. The author has reason( deep will to restructure his lost manuscript ) to not suicide.
Further dying becomes a normal thing. There were no emotions for a died person, instead, others used to see this as an opportunity to exchange their shoes and clothes with better ones.
While facing this harsh reality, in the 2nd phase, the mental reaction to this was self-defense. Now, every prisoner’s focus was only one thing to save their own life. At this time passing things becoming more worse. They were getting less bread than previous. lack of food and undernourishment caused their bodies to eat their own mass.
People were started dying because of typhus, delirium, and lack of hope and emptiness in their life. The author got the opportunity to serve typhus patients as he was a doctor, which led to gave him extra facilities like rest and cigarettes. He exchanges that cigarettes with few ounces of bread.
Prisoners were unable to get the idea that they will be sent to the rest camps or death camps at point of moving from one camp to another camp. The author managed to live till the end of the war with the help of fate and sometimes by taking fate in his own hands.
Finally, the day came when the battlefield came nearer to their camp. The white flag raised on the gates of the camp. Prisoners in the camp released. The guards who were often rude to them now offering cigarettes with a smile.
Here comes the third phase in the prisoner’s life i.e period after liberation. Everything was seeming an unreal dream and they were happy. Some prisoners behaving ruthlessly to other people. Apart from this moral deformity, there were two states every prisoner experiencing, bitterness and disillusionment.
Bitterness seemed to when they comparing themselves with people who go through less pain.
They experiencing disillusionment when they found different conditions than what they imagined in camp.
One prisoner lived in the hope that his wife is there to wait for him but after liberation, there were other women to open the door and he was not prepared for this unhappiness and discouragement.
As the author was a psychiatrist, his theory helped patients to solve their problems such as finding meaning in their life as well as overcoming the feeling of boredom and emptiness.
Logotherapy- logos-denotes “meaning” and it focuses on the meaning of human existence and helps to find such meaning.
The meaning of life changes from day to day, moment to moment. No psychologist can tell you the exact meaning of your life.
Actually, a man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, instead he must recognize that it is he who is asked. Your life is asking this question and you have to answer. This question can be answered by being responsible for life. Responsibleness comes from three things.
When Frankl liberated he found that his wife died due to sickness in a concentration camp. Despite his loss, he focused on his work. He resumed his career as a psychiatrist. One can find the meaning of his life in work.
At camp, Frankl used to imagine his wife to avoid attention from suffering. And she was one reason to live through suffering. Logotherapy accounts for that man can find meaning in life by loving someone.
Chances of surviving in the camp were one in twenty-eight still, when someone succeeds to live, it shows that man can find meaning despite the hopeless situation or avoidable suffering.
We just need to change our attitude toward life. The moment we see meaning to our suffering, it ceases.
In the concentration camp where people started suiciding due to emptiness and meaninglessness in their lives, the author’s will to complete the manuscript of his first book, his love for wife helped him to give meaning to his suffering and eventually he suffered bravely and saved his life as well.
Paradoxical intention is one technique in logotherapy to overcome fear. The fear of sleeplessness can be removed by trying to awake as long as possible fall. This reversal intention will help to overcome sleeplessness.
Here are some of the best quotes from this book.
With this, we come to the end of the book summary of Viktor Frankl’s man’s search for meaning. See you in the next book summary till then happy reading…