Have you ever contemplated the meaning of life?
Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning emphasizes that there is a meaning to life and an ultimate purpose. He adds that it’s the responsibility of every individual to figure out what it is that brings meaning to their life.
Because the only thing that will give an individual the strength to persevere through hardships is a strong sense of purpose. In the book, Frankl quotes Friedrich Nietzsche who said “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”.
Man’s Search for Meaning was published in 1946. By the year 1997, it sold over 10 million copies and was translated into 24 languages.
Viktor E Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist, a neurologist, and a Holocaust survivor. He spent 3 years in the Nazi concentration camps, specifically in Auschwitz and Dachau.
This book is split into two parts. In the first part, Frankl describes his life in the concentration camp and shares a psychological analysis of the prisoners in the camp, the SS soldiers who handled the prisoners, and the capos.
The second part of this book talks about the therapeutic technique developed by Viktor Frankl himself, known as Logotherapy. This field of therapy is oriented towards helping individuals find personal meaning in life and to provide them the strength to endure suffering and hardships which is an inevitable part of every individual’s life.
This book was able to make a huge difference in many lives and therefore it’s considered one of the most influential books of the 20th century.
In the book, Frank shares the view that no matter how hostile your circumstances might be, you always have the freedom to make a choice. You’re free to decide whether you want to act in accord with the influences of your circumstances or if you want to take a stand and resist these driving forces.
The author shares the example of some of the inmates in the camp who indulged in things like consoling fellow prisoners and giving away the last piece of bread that they had. These prisoners were exceptional because the only emotion that dominated the minds of the majority of the prisoners was apathy and indifference.
Frankl says that the generous behavior that a handful of prisoners exhibited was the result of an inner decision that they took and that was to spend their time in captivity serving others and by doing so they found meaning in their lives even in a place like the concentration camp.
And that’s the message the author is trying to convey, that we all have the freedom to make such choices in life. This also makes it clear that Frankl believed in the notion of free will.
So the core message of this book is, rather than expecting something out of life, one needs to shift his perspective and ask himself what can life expect out of him?