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 Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl (c. 1959)

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Age : 51
Location : Geneva, Illinois

PostSubject: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl (c. 1959)   Fri 26 Jun 2009, 7:42 am



I had this book highly recommended to me by a good friend when I was struggling with some very difficult things in life. Oddly and in addition, on a recent trip to NYC, I was on the bus from the airport to the city ... sitting next to a young man who was reading it. He said it was changing his life. So with that premise, I delve into Man's Search for Meaning by Vicktor E. Frankl.

The book is in two parts. The first part it is Frankl's story of being in and being one of the few survivors of a concentration camp at Auschwitz ~ and his reflections on how he and others survived. Frankl was a psychiatrist, but received no special treatment, in fact, suffered with the 'common prisoners'. The second part of the book is based on the theory that meaning in life (wherever the individual finds it) is the key to not only survival, but thriving. He also deeply believed in the power of the individual to control our thoughts, feelings and choices. That is set out in a very powerful Forward:

"Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."

Since this came so highly recommended and I thought would be a great self-help book (and it also seems to be a wonderful prelude to my next one, which will be Choice Theory) ... off I go.

Review to follow.

Carolyn
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PostSubject: Re: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl (c. 1959)   Sun 28 Jun 2009, 10:46 am

This book was not quite what I had hoped for, but I think a very worthwhile endeavor. It is powerful, no question about it, but did not really touch on areas in my life I struggle with (i.e., things I need "self help" with).

The first part is excrutiatingly difficult to read about, the author's time in the concentration camp. It is hands-down the most horrid story of the Holocaust I have read. Part of it is this is a neurologist and psychiatrist's view, so he looks at the workings of the mind of the prisoners who were around him, as well as his own thoughts (as well as what physically happened to the prisoners' bodies). The camps are so severe, it is an uncomfortable journey to watch how some prisoners show their best and some literally try to kill each other to survive or gain a small favor from the SS guards (or "Campos" which are prisoners slightly elevated to a guard of sorts). The analysis shows how people emotionally survived, if they did, why and how some people turned into animals (or angry or lying or depressed or suicidal), and the rare few, kept their kindness, spirit, will to live and inner beauty despite the circumstances. This was probably one of the most interesting, yet disturbing things, I have read this year. Frankl was incredibly wise, incredibly honest and evaluated the people (including himself) standing naked before him. Again, much of this was devoted to showing that one can survive virtually anything (or die graciously, if that is what the circumstances dictated), and with pride, if we have meaning in our lives (and that could be something as simple as he thought about his loving wife) and keep our humanity and control/freedom of our thoughts in place. His personal story alone was so powerful, how HE survived, that is what I felt is life changing to read.

The second half of the book is devoted to his existential creation "logotherapy" ... basically, the will to live through having meaning in life and/or all facets of existence. This was dry in spots and I felt a place I already vastly agreed with him on. I do think finding meaning in life, is a huge key to existence and happiness. I have had people in my life die because they did not have that. This brought home though exactly how important it is ... not only when life just plugs along nicely, but surviving, and doing the best you can, amidst severe emotional turmoil.

I have to factor in that this was written in 1959 ... a lot has changed, especially for women, but still this existential book has plenty to say. It is not for the feint of heart though, that first part is very rough to read about.

4 out of 5 stars
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