In search of lost meaning

Nietzsche said, ‘he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

“Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.” The Meaning of life is found in every moment of living; life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death.


Frankl offered the thought that for everyone in a dire condition there is someone looking down, a friend, family member, or God, who would expect not to be disappointed. Ultimately man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.

In a word, each man is questioned by life: and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life : to life he can only respond by being responsible. Frankl believed that humans are motivated by something called a ‘Will to meaning” which is the desire to find meaning even in the most miserable of circumstances and that the motivation for living comes from finding that meaning.

Viktor Emil Frankl was a Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and a Holocaust survivor. He was the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy which describes a search for a life meaning as the central human motivational force.

Frankl was a victim of the holocaust who had lost his entire family – his wife, brother – to it. The immense shock of such an irreversible loss can drive anyone to the brink of insanity. But Frankl came out of stronger on the other side of the ordeal.

The book is heartbreaking, and disturbing. Yet the readers get a gainful insight into Frankl’s psychological perspective. He writes the most traumatic episodes in your life can build your inner courage. Man’s Search For Meaning is a short book and a worthy read. The author’s tale is exceptionally compelling as his observations about life & hellish conditions in Holocaust .

The book is very short. It is only 160 odd pages and can easily be read within a few days – I’m sure you could finish it in a day, but I would allow more time to process what you’re reading! This was my 2nd read to book. I re -started it, when I was going through many mental health crises and struggling to find a meaning to existence. Frankl’s book has been regarded as one of the most inspirational stories of the 20th century, describing his experiences of the Holocaust and using this as a basis to explain his alternative to psychoanalysis – logotherapy. Frankl endured unimaginable amounts of suffering inside Nazi concentration camps. Still, he found a way to transcend his suffering.

The book is divided into two parts. The first section recounts in vivid detail Frankl’s horrifying experiences as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl, a former psychiatrist, also describes his observations of other prisoners and what he felt to be the main way in which people tried to cope with the insurmountable obstacles they faced. He found that those who could find meaning or purpose in their suffering were the ones who also seemed better able to find the strength to go on. As I recall, Frankl personally found his purpose in the hope of someday being able to see his wife again – a hope that was strong enough to get him through the daily horrors he faced.

The second half of this book is devoted to the therapy he developed based on the search for meaning, which he calls logotherapy. The basic premise is that those who can find meaning in their suffering are better able to cope with what would otherwise be a struggle too hard to bear. As one who majored in psychology,I found this section as fascinating as the first.
As Frankl tells us, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The central theme of the book is about how anyone can choose to make meaning out of any situation, no matter how bad thing are. Moreover Frankl said there are three wells of meaning in life – Pursuing a life task : those who know that there was a task waiting for them to fulfill were most apt to survive. “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”.

Loving selflessly: Frankl’s definition of love is different the most. It has little to do with the mere emotional feeling of being in love and more about helping others to elevate them. He writes that the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities .By making him aware of what he can be and what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.

The third way of finding meaning in life is by suffering bravely. In some way suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning ,such as the meaning of a sacrifice. Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. “ By accepting the challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning.

At any time each of the moments of which life consists is dying, and that moment will never recur. And yet is not this transitoriness a reminder that challenges us to make the best possible use of each moment of our lives? The book is an absolute treasure. There are few such explicit, overwhelming, and absolutely honest accounts of life in the concentration camps. Frankl’s description of the emotional, spiritual, and social dynamics of his experience, as well as that of other prisoners, is tremendously humbling and beautiful. Frankl successfully does the impossible — after sharing his account of life in the concentration camp, he shares with posterity how we can learn from his experience. The notion, initially, I found extremely strange. My life is not remotely like Frankl’s experience, so I was hesitant to even think about how the horrors of Frankl’s experience could relate to my own life.

However, Frankl’s lesson is perhaps the single most important lesson of life — a concept described in all of the world’s great religions. Frankl explained, in such simple language, the importance of finding and cultivating meaning and purpose in our lives — and how doing so can provide each of us with the strength to survive — regardless of the severity of our trials and hardships. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life . Let go of the disappoints, let go of what did n’t work out,let go of negativity ,let go of yesterday ‘s baggage .let go of the hurt because of what someone said to you .Get your mind going in the right direction. Let peace reign in your life.

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