Sunday, January 10, 2021

Book Review: Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning

I have been reading some oldies with my daughter. I don't expect to reach my goal of a book a week, but I did succeed this past week. I must have gotten my copy of Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning in some used book store in the late 80s. It's a 1962 edition, and one of its previous owners read it in 1985. 

Without taking the time to do a full review, here are some of the things I underlined. First, the book is divided into two parts. The first part and the bulk of the book gives Frankl's reflections on his time in four concentration camps. Then the shorter second part gives a taste of his approach to psychology--logotherapy.

Here are some excerpts:

Part I: His Reflections

  • "The best of us did not return" (4). This was a striking comment. He indicates that in each moment of culling, escaping death in the camps required someone else to die. Those who survived had to be willing to save their own life over someone else.
  • The insult toward them was worse than the beating. (22)
  • "Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire" (36). "The salvation of man is through love and in love." There can be a time when enduring suffering in the right way is the only way to achieve fulfillment.
  • There was "a strong feeling that fate was one's master, and that one must not try to influence it in any way, but instead let it take its own course" (56).
  • "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" (65).
  • "If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering" (67).
  • Nietzsche --"He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how" (76).
  • "It is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way" (77).
  • A poet --"What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you" (83).
  • "No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people." "Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society... therefore one occasionally found a decent fellow among the camp guards." (87).
Part II: Logotherapy
  • "Logotherapy focuses on the future" as opposed to psychotherapy, which largely focuses on the past. (96) He speaks of a "will to meaning."
  • "The meaning of our existence is not invented by ourselves but rather detected" (99).
  • "Man is never driven to moral behavior" (99).
  • "There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life" (104).
  • "The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour" (108).
  • "So live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now" (109).
  • "Human existence is essentially self-transcendence rather than self-actualization" (111).
  • "Suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice" (113).
  • "Paradoxical intention" is a solution to anticipatory anxiety. Wish the thing you are afraid will happen, and it will help you release from fear.
  • Address hyper-intention (obsession) by de-reflection, transcending yourself as the focus of things.
  • "Every human being has the freedom to change at any instant."