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Man's Search For Meaning Mass Market Paperback – Standard Edition, December 1, 1997

322 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud. The book begins with a lengthy, austere, and deeply moving personal essay about Frankl's imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years, and his struggle during this time to find reasons to live. The second part of the book, called "Logotherapy in a Nutshell," describes the psychotherapeutic method that Frankl pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps. Freud believed that sexual instincts and urges were the driving force of humanity's life; Frankl, by contrast, believes that man's deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. Frankl's logotherapy, therefore, is much more compatible with Western religions than Freudian psychotherapy. This is a fascinating, sophisticated, and very human book. At times, Frankl's personal and professional discourses merge into a style of tremendous power. "Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is," Frankl writes. "After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips."


Gordon W. Allport from the Preface A compelling introduction to the most significant psychological movement of our day.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; Rev Upd edition (December 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671023373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671023379
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (322 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Viktor E. Frankl was professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School until his death in 1997. He was the founder of what has come to be called the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy (after Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology)--the school of logotherapy.

Born in 1905, Dr. Frankl received the degrees of Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Vienna. During World War II he spent three years at Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps.

Dr. Frankl first published in 1924 in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and has since published twenty-six books, which have been translated into nineteen languages, including Japanese and Chinese. He was a visiting professor at Harvard, Duquesne, and Southern Methodist Universities. Honorary Degrees have been conferred upon him by Loyola University in Chicago, Edgecliff College, Rockford College, and Mount Mary College, as well as by universities in Brazil and Venezuela. He was a guest lecturer at universities throughout the world and made fifty-one lecture tours throughout the United States alone. He was President of the Austrian Medical Society of Psychotherapy.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

864 of 890 people found the following review helpful By arye orona on November 25, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The first section of this book (which makes up over half of the text) consist of Victor Frankl's account of his experiences in the concentration camp. This section seems unique among the Holocaust accounts that I've seen and read because Dr. Frankl approaches the topic from a psychological perspective. He discusses the ways in which the different prisoners react to their (note: men and women were seperated at the camps, so Frankl is mainly disscussing his experiences with the men in Auschwitz) imprissonment. He writes about the psychological effects of being completely dehumanized; of losing even your name, and becoming simply a number. Also he disscusses the effects of not being able to contact loved ones, or even know is they are still living. Another issue that Dr. Frankl talks about in this book is the idea that none of the prisoners of the concentration camp had an idea as to when there imprissonment would end (if ever). Thus, they were faced with the thought of living the rest of their lives as workers at the camps. Dr. Frankl discusses how people can find meaning to life in these conditions. He also describes how finding meaning in life, or a reason to live, was extraordinarilly important to surviving the camp.
One of the most interesting, and disturbing, issues in the book was the idea of the Capo. These were were people put in charge of their fellow prisoners, in order to keep them in line. Dr. Frankl describes these people as, often, being more harsh than the actual guards. This seems to be a disturbing lesson in the abuse of power. This also goes along with Dr. Frankl's discussion of how the camps brought out the true personality of the people within it (after all the social trapping had been stripped away): The cretins, the saints, and all of those in between.
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428 of 441 people found the following review helpful By Alan Perkins ( on August 21, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was recently diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I am 41 years old with two small children. I was finding it hard to find something to hold on to after getting the news. This book has helped put the cancer in perspective and is giving me the courage and encouragement to keep on matter what. And if I die, then there has to be meaning in my life before then. I am now beginning to understand that I should not ask what can I get out of life, but what does life expect from me.
This is a WONDERFUL and INSPIRATIONAL book that I recommend for anyone suffering from any tragic cirucmstance...cancer, death in the family, divorce, etc. All of the phsychiatric nonsense might help (I doubt it), but this book will get you on the right road.
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243 of 254 people found the following review helpful By DAVID-LEONARD WILLIS on January 16, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Several years ago a friend had an operation for a cancerous growth behind his eye yet today is well and tells of the importance of the right mental attitude when facing adversity. Another friend faces a similar experience but appears to be in the process of succumbing in ignorance of the importance of mental attitude. Seeking guidance as to what I might do to help, I turned to this book.
After recounting the horrors of everyday life in a work camp - the initial selection process in which 90% were sent to the gas chambers while 10% were kept to extract the last ounce of work as slaves for construction firms; the Capos selected from the most brutal who had lost all scruples in order to save their life; how everything was subservient to keeping oneself and one's closest friends alive - Viktor Frankl tells of the psychological problems they met.
The most important seems to be the hope of release as shown by the very high death rate in his camp in the week between Christmas 1944 and new year 1945 which had no explanation in food, treatment, weather, disease or working conditions; it was that the majority had lived in the naïve hope that they would be home again by Christmas. In the absence of encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage; disappointment overcame them and their powers of resistance dropped. Frankl noticed that it was the men who comforted others, who gave away their last piece of bread who survived longest and who offered proof that everything can be taken but one thing - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances.
In the camp every decision determined whether or not you would submit to loss of inner freedom. The sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not of camp influences alone.
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77 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Elderbear VINE VOICE on May 24, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done, and of love loved but of sufferings bravely suffered." (p. 123)
My connection to Viktor Frankl dates back to a Hannukah party in which I found myself conversing with a baker who used to deliver his bread. It took me a few more years to discover this absolute gem of a book, itself both bread for the soul and leaven for the mind.
The first half of this book consists of Frankl's reflection on his time in a Nazi concentration camp. "An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior," (p. 18) he notices, "Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent." (p. 43) Distilling the essence of his experience at the hands of the Nazis and the resilience of his soul, he states, "If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering." (p. 67) Finally, he notes that "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." (p. 65)
He segues into the second part of the book, a description of "logotherapy," based on the challenge learned behind barbed wire, downwind from the ovens "Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why--an aim--for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible _how_ of their existence." (p. 76)
Frankl states that "Man's search for meaning is a primary force in his life and not a 'secondary rationalization' of instinctual drives." (p. 99) He finds this meaning specific & unique to each individual.
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