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on November 18, 2016
If you're in pain, read this book. If you're scared, read this book. If you are lost, read this book. If you are happy, read this book. If you have time, read this book. If you don't have time, read this book. Read this book, read this book.

"We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof 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."
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on September 23, 2016
I read this in college and ordered again to read some 40 years later. Frankl relates the severe conditions in the concentration camp. Those without any purpose seemed to perish. Those that had developed purpose and meaning to the harsh conditions got out of bed every morning to face another unbearable day. this book is a classic. anything less than 5 stars would be a reflection on me.
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Viktor Frankl, an Austrian Jew, studied neurology and psychiatry with a focus on depression and suicide years before being arrested and deported by the Nazis in 1942. He defied odds by lasting three years in concentration camps. He lost his parents, brother, and his wife, who was pregnant. As doctors were in short supply in the camps, Frankl, after working as a slave laborer for some time, was able to work as a physician until his liberation.

As his work prior to his time in the concentration camps had focused on depression and the prevention of suicide, he turned his focus to his own survival story and the people with whom he interacted in the camps. Why did some survive and others perish? What gave people the will to live? What gives life meaning?

Some favorite moments:

•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.
•Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person) and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.
•Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, you 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.
•The truth- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and believe have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.
•Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.
•From all this we may learn that there are two races of men in this world, but only these two - the "race" of the decent man and the "race" of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people. In this sense, no group is of "pure race" - and therefore one occasionally found a decent fellow among the camp guards.
•Now, being free, they thought they could use their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly. The only thing that had changed for them was the they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed...Only slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.
•"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."
•So, let us be alert - alert in a twofold sense: Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.

Highly recommend.
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on January 16, 2018
When I first started reading Man's Search.... last week I was repulsed by the descriptions of the concentration camp experiences. How could humans be like that? Even though of course we have known about them for 70 years now, it is horrible to read about them. My temptation was to put the book aside, I told someone it was "depressing." But how glad I am that I persevered (because it was our Book Club choice this month.) Ultimately, this book is a hopeful paen to humankind's ability to rise above all suffering, to find our own individual meaning to our existence and in that way make sense of why we are in the world and why we should continue in it, doing our very best. This book transcends religion even as I recognize so much of what Frankl writes in my own religious beliefs.
Truly a must read for people as soon as they are old enough to understand it--perhaps mid teenage years.
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on October 20, 2017
For some reason, I put off reading this book for many years. I had read excerpts that made me want to read it, but getting the book and sitting down to read it just seemed to not fit into my plans. I am so glad I finally read it. For about twenty years, I read many stories about World War Two. I wanted to know why no one helped the Jews. The most gratifying part of the reading was to find that there were many people that endangered their own lives and the lives of their families in order to hide Jews from the Germans. So, to follow a Jew into the concentration camps and read his observations was enlightening. Some survived the camps while others died. They all ate the same food, suffered the same diseases, performed the same work, and suffered the freezing temperatures. Why did some survive? That is what Victor Frankl wanted to know and with close observation, he saw the pattern that gave meaning to life and helped some survive while others gave up and died. His ideas are applicable to modern day problems as well as his methods.
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on January 3, 2016
The first half of this book is transformative, and it was worth reading for just that. The content is difficult to read, but very meaningful, as the title suggests. It's certainly not for the faint of heart. It was engrossing to read about life in the concentration camps from the prisoners' point of view because all I've ever seen are the horrifying videos of the starved bodies and plowing masses of humanity into vast communal graves. Those images totally strip the prisoners of their individuality, and this book restores that to them. The second half of the book is about logotherapy, which, in a nutshell, is a form of therapy that aims at identifying the specific meaning of life for the patient. I found this half of the book to be pretty dry. Still, it was a deeply life-altering book, which caused me to truly appreciate my own life, as full of trials and tragedy as it has been. It helped me to see that life is not a "pursuit of happiness", which is so difficult to attain, but an opportunity to live meaningfully and purposefully.
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on February 20, 2012
I had the good fortune of knowing my great-grandfather, may he rest in peace, for the first ten years of my life. Being a Holocaust survivor, my great-grandfather always had a story or piece of wisdom to share with my family when we visited. He gave my father Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl as a gift and it remains one of my father's favorite books to this day. Although I was too young to read the book at the time, I know now that it rings truth in a new perspective on the Holocaust. My ancestors survived the horrors that the Nazis inflicted upon them, and they lived to tell me the tale. In an engaging and fascinating way, Frankl sheds some light as to how exactly people made it out of the concentration camps alive, with a will to live and with hope for the future.

In the first part of the book, Frankl describes his personal experiences as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps. He traces the mental state of an average prisoner in the camps, beginning upon arrival, and through liberation. Frankl writes that after the initial shock of reaching the infamous camp, a prisoner would be overcome by a "delusion of reprieve", an irrational feeling of hope that his situation would somehow be changed for the better. However, after being separated from loved ones in the dreaded selections, and watching them walk towards the gas chambers to their deaths, the reality and horrification of it all dawned upon the prisoner. Frankl describes the next emotional stage as "relative apathy", which was a complete weakening of the prisoner's senses and feelings, leaving a body merely going through the motions of everyday camp routine rather than a person. According to Frankl, apathy was essential for the preservation of a prisoner's life, because it channeled every emotion he had towards the goal of making it through the day alive. The third and final stage that a prisoner experienced was the complete inability to grasp the meaning of freedom. Following this the prisoner would have to re-learn what emotions such as joy and pleasure meant. Throughout this development, there still remains the question: what were the thoughts that gave a prisoner the drive to live, completely necessary for the conservation of his life? Frankl provides answers to this question in the second section of the book.

Throughout the book, Frankl often quotes Nietzsche: "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how." In the second section, Frankl elaborates on how this phrase sums up, in a nutshell, the mentality with which he survived the war. Having a purpose in life, writes Frankl, is the key to withstanding almost any suffering. Frankl named his theory "logotherapy", since logos is Greek for meaning. A method employed in psychology, "logotherapy" causes a patient to pinpoint and become familiar with the meaning of his life, which according to Frankl is the patient's will to strive, succeed, and to live. Frankl goes on to suggest three ways in which one can strive for meaning. The first one, understandably, is to accomplish something. Additionally, meaning can be found by loving another. Finally, man can find meaning by suffering. When one is faced with suffering, and there is nothing he can do to change his predicament, the only remaining option is for him to change his perspective, to change the way in which he views the situation. An example that Frankl gives is of a story of a grieving widower who had lost his wife. The man came to Frankl to ask for advice. Frankl asked the man, "What would have happened...if you had died first and your wife would have had to survive without you?" Through this question, the suffering the man was enduring gained a new purpose, he was mourning, but his wife would not have to mourn him. This story illustrates the usage of "logotherapy", and how by using it, one can utilize his suffering and find meaning through it.

The Holocaust and World War II is a time in world history that has been studied and pondered by many scholars. There are volumes upon volumes written about this dark time in history. Man's Search for Meaning is unique because Frankl focuses on the psychology of it all. He brings proofs to back up his claim that man's search for meaning is, in and of itself, a will to live. Through starvation, sickness, torture and brutality, surrounded by death and despair, man can endure it all, he can even gain something from it, so long as he has a reason to keep going. Each individual has a different source of meaning, yet no matter what the cause, the meaning alone is what gives that man the drive to wake up each morning and endure whatever life sends his way. Even when faced with death itself, man can survive if he has a reason to.

This book was written specifically about the Holocaust and the concentration camps. Nonetheless, there is a life-changing lesson that one can learn from reading the book, no matter what his life circumstances may be. Life is full of challenges, but those challenges eventually cause a person to question who he is and what he stands for, thereby forcing him to determine the meaning in his life. No matter where a person comes from, and no matter where he is headed, he must have a purpose in his life in order to move forward, and to be able to look back at the end of his life and feel proud of all that he accomplished. In a brilliant and insightful way, Victor Frankl has ultimately handed his readers the key to success and happiness, and the answer to many questions; he has affirmed that above all, meaning is what makes life worth living.
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on February 9, 2018
This wonderful book was recommended to me by my 17-year-old granddaughter, Britnye, who read it for school. My congratulations to her for reading and recommending such a serious, important work, and to her teacher for assigning it. It was first published in 1945, the year before I was born, and 12 million copies have been printed in 24 languages. Many people I mention it to have already read it…where was I? Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist living in Vienna when he was arrested by the Nazis. He could have fled to America before that, but stayed to help his elderly parents. They died in the camps, as did his first wife. He had almost completed his book on logotherapy, but it was taken from him along with everything when he was sent to Auschwitz. He survived four different concentration camps. While Freud held that man seeks pleasure and Adler that man seeks power or control, logotherapy holds that people seek meaning in their lives. Frankl recounts his time in the horror of the camps and noticed that those who gave up, who had no goal to live for, died, while many of those who did have such a goal still found meaning in life and often survived. Of course, a twist of fate could kill you in the camps anyway. I believe what Frankl says. In my books, “Advice for my Granddaughter” and its companion, “Advice for Boys,” I write that the secret of happiness is to find something you care about more than yourself, be it your family, your church, your work, rescuing dogs or people, your country or the US Marines. I think that is another way to say you must find meaning. Frankl writes that people cannot find happiness, they mush find meaning in their lives and then happiness ensues. My favorite quote in the book is, “I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.” Frankl believes that much drug and alcohol addiction come about because the addicts have not found meaning in their lives. I wish more people, especially teens and young adults, would read this short volume. --Robert A. Hall
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on November 12, 2015
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It towers over all self-help philosophy books and essays regarding the power of positive thinking and similar psychologies.

My summary of Dr. Frankl's philosophy as expressed in his book is that 1) a person's very existence depends upon finding meaning in life, and that meaning will be found not by focusing on what a person expects from life, but rather what life expects from that person; and 2) the meaning of life will vary from person-to-person and, for some, even from moment-to-moment.

Part I of Dr. Frankl's book tells the story of his internment in a Nazi concentration camp, existence there, and eventual liberation. Part II of the book reviews post-liberation life for camp prisoners, and picking up the pieces (Dr. Frankl's entire family, except for one sibling, was exterminated during the war) through finding continued meaning in life. Part III is a clinical and academic review of the psychotherapy technique he calls "logo-therapy." Although more clinical in nature, Part III is easily accessible to and understood by a layperson such as myself.

Upon Dr. Frankl's arrival at Auschwitz, he was forced to forfeit his treasured manuscript on logo-therapy, on which he had worked so hard. Although he tried to reconstruct the treatise on scraps of paper here and there, the effort was futile. Dr. Frankl then decided to keep his theory of logo-therapy alive not by writing it down, but rather by actually living it and sharing it with his fellow-inmates of the several concentrate camps where he was interred. This, after all, was what life expected from rise above his relentless suffering and find a meaning to his existence while he endured those years of inhumane imprisonment.

A minor, yet for me, profound, point made by Dr. Frankl in this book is that goodness and evil is found across all groups of people, without exception. Dr. Frankl tells how Jewish "Capo" guards humiliated and merciless beat their fellow-Jews in exchange for slightly better living conditions. This story is told without judgment because, after all, the Capos were saving their own necks. The story is told by Dr. Frankl to contrast it with that of the German Nazi prison guard in charge of the camp where Dr. Frankl was last imprisoned and found upon liberation. This Nazi officer, during his tenure as chief guard of the camp, purchased medicine and other small necessities with his own money from the local village and surreptitiously gave these items to the prisoners in order to ease their suffering just a bit. Upon liberation, 3 Hungarian Jews hid this Nazi in the neighboring forest, and refused to reveal his whereabouts to the American soldiers until the soldiers promised that no harm would come to this man. I read this short story -- only a few paragraphs in length -- at the right time in my life, as I now find myself struggling with my own prejudices against certain groups of people as I watch some of the most heinous crimes being committed in the international arena.

Paradise was lost, Dr. Frankl says, when human beings evolved to a point where they could make conscious choices. For some us, meaning in life comes easily. For others, we must find the courage to ask what life is expecting from us, and choose to meet that expectation given our current circumstances and abilities.

According to Wikipedia, Dr. Frankl passed away in 1997. If he was alive today, I would write a letter to thank him for his short but profound book. Since this is not possible, I am posting this review, my first and only book review on Amazon after buying books from Amazon for well over 10 years.
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on February 11, 2015
I followed Viktor Frankl diligently in his journey from the gas ovens of Auschwitz into the hospitals of Vienna after he beats the 1 in 20 odds of his surviving a German concentration camp. He writes that the single most important self-determinant in his survival was his deep inherent conviction under the worst of all possible conditions that life has meaning: even here under constant risk of typhus, wearing the recycled prison garb of those who had been sacrificed to the ovens, starving, freezing, beaten, demonized and dehumanized. If one can still find meaning here and survive because of it, then under better conditions meaning should be possible to find. Frankl believes that there are three sources of meaning: 1) one's work 2) other people whom you love 3) rising with dignity and integrity from a hopelessly tragic diminishment. He found that in the camps the survivors had a positive attitude, which reinforced their search for meaning and gave them hope in a hopeless situation. In Vienna hospitals he debunked theories of Freud and Adler with "logotherapy" which helps others to find the meaning in their lives and heal from thoughts of suicide, psychoses and neurotic behavior. "Logos" is Greek for "meaning" and if you can find it in your own life, then essentially it seems you are as invincible as Frankl, who not only survived Auschwitz but also lived into his 90's, is the living proof of his own thesis. Ultimately, when asked what was the meaning of his life, he wrote that the meaning of his life was to help other people find the meaning in their lives. He is an existentialist but he has a positive outlook on life unlike, for example, Camus or Sartre or the usual champions of this dark philosophy, which sprang out of the widespread, bombed-out wreckage of WWII. He writes that the Nazis proved what man was capable of and Hiroshima proved how high the stakes are. So the search for meaning is important therapy not only as it heals individuals but also because it has a healing and uplifting effect upon humanity as a whole and may well be one approach to saving the human race from its own self-destruction. Frankl had a visa and train ticket out of Vienna before the Nazis rose into power but decided to stay there to help his aging parents who had no such respite. Like Frankl, his pregnant wife and parents were taken to the camps and on the first day after he came home to Vienna he learned that all three had been lost there. He wrote "The Search for Meaning" in only nine days and described how his positive attitude and search for meaning enabled him to survive. He describes how this process of autobiography helped him to begin his own healing, a term which he describes as "autobibliotherapy." By virtue of writing down one's findings in the search for meaning, one serves to find meaning in one's own life and to help others find it in their lives. He prescribes no formulas and believes that every individual must find his or her own meaning in life despite diminishments and suffering and death which accompany every life. With incredible, calm clarity he writes that for everyone "suffering and death are necessary to complete life." He believes that suffering clarifies the meaning of life and, while he doesn't believe we need to bring it upon ourselves, the average life generally provides sufficient circumstances for us to know that suffering is an inevitable aspect of life. So why not learn from it? As Nietzsche wrote: "Suffering is the origin of consciousness." He is not advising us to bring it upon ourselves as a form of sadomasochism but to rise above it with heroic integrity and see it as an opportunity to learn from it. He believes that such life lessons ultimately hold the keys for understanding and overcoming the diminishments of life itself. He writes that man always has a choice of action in reacting to the circumstances no matter how dire they may be. So it seems that readers, when they read great books, are searching for meaning and this search has healing powers for them. Further, it seems that when writers search for meaning in creating their work, they have an opportunity to experience the same healing benefits of autobibliotherapy. So keep reading and writing the good stuff for all the good it can do to you and by all means, read this brief, brilliant book by an Auschwitz survivor as it has life altering implications for you: this book will change your outlook on life and may well, thereby, save it through mastery of the art of living.
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