Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Viktor Frankl, is a memoir about overcoming sufferings to have an optimistic perspective on life in the midst of pain and death. Frankl provides examples of his own experiences after surviving three years in a Nazi concentration camp where his parents, brother, wife, and children died. Using his logotherapy theory, Frankl elaborates on the human pursuit while finding significance through experiences and sufferings. Against a backdrop of violence, cruelty, and death, Frankl creates a perception that by having a meaning or purpose, and a hope in the future, a person can propel through any torment.
Frankl’s goal is to postulate a perspective for a person to find meaning in his or her life. Describing his horrendous experiences in an Auschwitz concentration camp, Frankl provides detailed examples of misery, which supported him to find the meaning and fulfillment in his own life. Using the principles of freedom of will, will to meaning, and the meaning in life, Frankl implores that humans must have a purpose in order to survive. In his book, Frankl iterates through his psychological explanation of his imprisonment backdrop, that the “human being is completely and unavoidably influenced by his surroundings,” (Frankl, p. 5).
He believed that humans are manipulated by their environment, but have the authority to decide their responses to situations and grow from their sufferings. When faced with troubling circumstances, an individual must be grounded in his or her values, even if it requires personal sacrifice. A person may give up or commit suicide, but life is about the journey and not about taking the nearest exit. While in the camps, Frankl witnessed cruelty, deprivation, misery, and death and realized that suffering is unavoidable.
Everyone must deal with his or her own form of pain; however, it is how that person chooses to view the suffering and grow from those experiences. According to Holmes (2014), “suffering is inescapable, to the extent one can accept suffering as an ineradicable part of life, even as fate or death. ” Frankl realized that many people gave up on their lives throughout the horrific conditions that they endured while in imprisonment. But he realized that some people continued to have hope that they would survive.
Frankl concluded that because the some prisoners had possessed a meaning and purpose, they were able to remain optimistic and survive. Frankl demonstrated his theoretical approach to life by using his logotherapy techniques. Logotherapy is a theory that clinically expands on the premise that the person is motivated by a will to meaning, which is an inner pull to the meaning of life. The essence of logotherapy is that the human spirit is viewed as exceptional. According to Frankl, “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.
Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete” (Frankl, p. 67). In section one of the book, Frankl mentions that the prisoners lost courage and became disappointed. Because of the amount of distress and sorrow that they felt, many of them died. Frankl made an attempt to regain the prisoners’ inner strength by showing them the how and why for their existence. He told them that if there is no purpose or goal in life, then life is meaningless, so it is important to focus on future goals and not dwell in sorrow.
He quotes Nietzsche’s famous words, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how” (Frankl, p. 76). This quote serves as a backbone to Frankl’s theory in that it is important to have a positive attitude about life, as life requires responsibility and accountability for human actions. Section one of Man’s Search for Meaning focuses on the personal experiences of Frankl as he endures horrendous situations that aid him in founding the existential theory of psychology years later. This section is clear in using his own examples of pain and suffering when describing his meaning of life.
He comes to terms with his situation and determines his purpose in life, as well as helps others figure out their goals. Frankl elaborates more about his logotherapy techniques in section two of the book. He contrasts psychoanalysis with his own logotherapy to form an argument. Frankl elaborated that logotherapy is a method less introspective as psychoanalysis. Logotherapy focuses on the future and life fulfillment, while the usual self-centeredness of the neurotic is broken up instead of being reinforced.
In comparison, psychoanalysis focuses on facts, and how the mind influences thoughts and behaviors. Therefore, it can be concluded that logotherapy considers man’s desire for meaning as significant, more than a gratification of the id, ego, and superego. While psychoanalysis focuses on facts and the patient’s realization of longing, logotherapy elaborates from this perspective and deals more on the patient’s desires and wishes in his or her own life. Logos is a Greek word, which translates as “meaning.
Frankl used the term logotherapy as it focuses on the meaning of human existence and the enthusiasm in finding the significance in life. It is important for man to know his purpose, as this is the motivational force that drives man to seek a meaningful life. However, it can be frustrating when man’s will to find meaning becomes unclear. Existential frustration is not pathological, as it relates to everyone’s own experience, one way or another. Frankl contrasts “will to meaning” with psychogenic neuroses, which pertains to human dimension.
He claims that existential frustration can result in neuroses, and that it is imperative for the patient to realize his or her existential crises and develop from them. Therefore, people will suffer and die for their values, hence the will to meaning and a will to power. People who are willing to die for their values have found their meaning in their own lives, and have grown from their past unpleasant circumstances. Frankl’s logotherapy approach includes “being responsible. ” This means that it is imperative to have a meaning in life, and create a responsibility to do so.
This includes willingness to die to beliefs and values, which corresponds with a will to meaning. If a person is willing to sacrifice himself or herself for what he or she believes in, then they have achieved a responsibility. Frankl uses the term “nothingbutness,” as a way of say meaningless or nothingness. He uses this as a platform to describe that life is purposeful, and a person must find the goal in order to find a meaning in his or her life, otherwise that life is meaningless and a sacrifice is invaluable.
Frankl attended some of Freud’s lectures on psychoanalytic theory. Although Frankl disagreed with Freud, he proclaimed that he was a “height psychologist who built on Freud’s foundations” (Corey, p. 137). Frankl developed his own ideas, which included concepts of freedom, responsibility, meaning, and the search for values. His reputation as the founder of the Third School of Viennese Psychoanalysis is profound, as the other two recognized schools are Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology.
In conclusion, it can be determined that Frankl’s logotherapy theory is always changing, as there are always new meanings to life, as life itself is inevitable. A person can discover meaning by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something drastic or loving another person, and having a positive attitude about suffering. In order to find fulfillment in life, a person must remain optimistic, even in the face of life’s tragic triad: pain, guilt, and death.
By using Frankl’s therapeutic process, although challenging, an individual “may find meaning and purpose through suffering, work, and love” (Corey, p. 43). Depression, aggression, addiction, anxiety, and personality disorders are examples of misery in today’s society, and it is the goal of the people who are around these individuals to help them find a positive regard for their pain. It is important to realize that each individual faced with difficult situations in life, must solve them to the best of their abilities. Because humans can think and decide for themselves, they also have the ability to challenge their own meaning of life.
If a person can ask himself what his own meaning of life is while standing firm on his values and beliefs, then he has found success and achieved personal gain. As the existential theory focuses on the struggle for significance and purpose in life, it can also provide a framework for helping clients challenge the meaning in their own lives. If a person feels as though he is not worth anything, then he will not be living to his full potential and will be miserable for the rest of his life.
But if that person could see the opportunity to make a better world for himself and have a hope, then his future will be a more positive one. As Frankl gives his examples of the prisoners who survived because they had a hope in the future, a client who has anxiety or depression can concentrate on the positive to prevent suicide or disruption in the family. “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” (Frankl, p. 131-132).