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Man's Search for Meaning Paperback – June 1, 2006
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"One of the outstanding contributions to psychological thought in the last fifty years."—Carl R. Rogers (1959)
"An enduring work of survival literature." —New York Times
"An accessible edition of the enduring classic. The spiritual account of the Holocaust and the description of logotherapy meets generations' need for hope."—Donna O. Dziedzic (PLA) AAUP Best of the Best Program
About the Author
Harold S. Kushner is rabbi emeritus at Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, and the author of bestselling books including When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Living a Life That Matters, and When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough.
William J. Winslade is a philosopher, lawyer, and psychoanalyst who teaches psychiatry, medical ethics, and medical jurisprudence at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston.
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"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."
Truly a must read for people as soon as they are old enough to understand it--perhaps mid teenage years.
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.
Top international reviews
Well writing a review for this kind of extraordinary book is a big audacity for me. however here I’m, trying to give some brief review of the book.
The book is basically divided into three parts, the first one describes the way the Jews prisoners were treated in the Nazi Concentration Camps and how their lifestyle was. In the second part, the author described the basics of Logotherapy, a way of treatment of the Psychotherapeutic Patients. And finally, in the third part, he described what he actually meant by Man’s Search for meaning.
Being a Jew, the author was transferred to the Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps during the Nazi occupation in Austria. Here, in the first part of the book, the author described his days in those concentration camps, where is were no chance of seeing the morning sun in the next day. And this happened every day. He described the way the SS guards used to treat the prisoners, the corruption prevailed in the camps, the malnutrition, the lifestyle of the camp Jews etc. The way he described the tortures the prisoners suffered, would surely bring tears to your eyes. During his description, he also pointed out the psychological condition of the other comrades in those camps. When most of the prisoners lost all hope of his life, some of them still kept the faith, that good days were coming.
In the second part, the author basically described the Logotherapy Techniques. And the most interesting part of the book is the third part. Here the author describes “Man’s search for meaning”. We, the human beings on this planet are living for a purpose. Until & unless we can’t find the purpose of our life, there is no reason for us to be here alive. Most of the prisoners in the camps lost all of their hopes and then died because they lost their purpose, as per the author. It is a must-read book for all I think.
The book also consists of few life-changing quotes which I liked in the book and would like to share:
1. For success, like happiness, can’t be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
2. There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose.
3. Suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great of little. Therefore the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.
4. No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
5. The human being is completely and unavoidably influenced by his surroundings.
6. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life can’t be completed
7. Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.
8. There is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.
9. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ” how”.
10. The body has fewer inhibitions than the mind.
11. No one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.
This book has two parts:
1.Experiences in a Concentration Camp.
2.Logotherapy in a Nutshell
The second part is so impactful and unique that you will re-read this book. The first part mainly is the autobiographical account of Sir, Frankl and the best part is both parts mutually support their credibility.
The way he has poured all the pain in this book is not so easy and that too after experiencing it, I was literally shocked because firstly, I was unaware of the term “Holocaust”, maybe I have read before somewhere in History but I was unaware while reading and Secondly, I had never come across something like this.
He has talked about everything related to life in this book and you know what the best part is even after so much pain, I felt sad but I wasn’t demotivated, I could relate it and with each page-turning, what I found was ‘I am into the book’, suffering all this but I wasn’t tackling all the worst situation in my life as he did.
Suddenly I started understanding that what life is? what suffering is? and what surviving is? and where am I lacking?
So, in another way, I discovered the answer to three most important questions which I wanted to be answered since maturity.
I came across a new word “Logotherapy” and I loved that section so much that I will re-read this book.
In one line, I learned a lot from this book, which I can further practice to live a peaceful and beautiful life ahead. And this what makes this book worth reading.
Anyone who feels their life has no meaning or purpose, as our society has become increasingly Dickensian in the last 10 years, will find hope, as I did, to motivate myself to lead a fuller life, in spite of some of life's setbacks. I feel a winner, now, and am grateful for a special mentor who gave me her copy to learn wisdom.... I bought my own copy, as above to refer to it in times of stress. Other than that, it is a great read, which casts an objective eye on a period of history, some would rather forget.
But actually it’s a detached prose (insofar as a scientist who lives his unchosen experiment can write) which signifies the importance of finding meaning in life.
It’s like a really visual, visceral reminder that we can survive anything if we choose to. If we have our attitude reframed or we do it ourselves. If we see purpose or meaning in suffering, we cannot die.
Quite a profound read that gave rise to new thinkings and questionings in my head, and which I intend to follow for my own personal development and flourishing but also as a path to teach others.
Thank you, for going through it, sharing it, understanding it.
I quote some of the lines from the author which can show the gravity of their sufferings, “It is very difficult for an outsider to grasp how very little value was placed on human life in camp………….Those who have not gone through a similar experience can hardly conceive the soul-destroying mental conflict and clashes of will power which a famished man experiences…………Reality dimmed, and all efforts and all emotions were centered on one task: preserving one’s own life and that of the other fellow………..Step by step we had to become accustomed to a terrible and immense horror…………The most depressing influence of all was that a prisoner could not know how long his term of imprisonment would be. He had been given no date for his release……….Actually a prison term was not only uncertain but unlimited……….It was impossible to foresee whether or when, if at all, this form of existence would end……….The suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little.”
The mind set which kept the author alive is better read in his own words. He says, “In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen………..What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life……..it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us…..we could say that most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did majority of prisoners.”
For outsiders, it’s very easy to talk about Optimism while sitting in a comfortable couch, with a roof on top, food on table, surrounded by loved ones with a secured life. It’s easy to talk when life favorably looks upon us and the weather is bright.
But the Optimism carries weight when it comes from the mouth of a person who had come out alive from a virtual hell. It is indeed an achievement to hold on to dear life with hope when all the odds were stacked against him, when he never knew that he will live to see freedom. When such a person speaks of what kept him alive and kicking that he “beat the odds” and came out victorious, it is a lesson for all of us.
I have no hesitation in giving 5 stars
It’s not just a matter of enduring or retreating into an inner realm in which you’re free. In fact, it’s not really about the inner realm at all, because the way you find meaning is not within, but through a purpose in the world, something that’s outside you, something that is greater than you. It could be by creating something, and it could be — and very often is — connections to other human beings, whether it’s comrades, friends, family or the people you come up against in life. And if all else fails — as it tended to in the concentration camps — and all the usual sources of meaning fall apart, there is always the chance of finding a meaning in the suffering itself. This is something that’s very hard to talk about in the abstract, but that was the conclusion that he came to.
It’s interesting how optimistic Viktor Frankl’s philosophy is. Existentialism is often characterised as a rather morbid philosophy, dwelling on. That view of existentialism as “Life is terrible and we just have to resign ourselves to it” is a real misrepresentation. Sartre would have said, “No, we can change the circumstances of our lives.” He believed we could do it through revolution, through Marxism, through politics — and potentially through ethics as well, though that is something he never finished working out completely. With Viktor Frankl there’s a sense that we need this philosophy to help us to live. Existentialist philosophy doesn’t bring despair and angst into our lives, it gives us a way of making sense, it’s a way of discovering our own inner freedom. There’s a lot more that’s positive in existentialism than it’s ever given credit for, because it really is about how you live your life, and how you exist, given what you’re presented with. angst and anguish and the difficulty of making choices. It’s a nice foil to that caricature of existentialism. It avoids the pitfalls of Colin Wilson's evangelical approach.
It won't take you long to read - it's quite thin. Just go do it.
He gives so much reason to ponder about one's own life with this reading, It really forced me to rethink my life.
I mean he's gone through hell and we are complaining about so many things in life that are ridiculous. We are so focused on our own ego and always wondering why the f*** nothing happens that makes us happy.
Always running after the next big thing, or the next opportunity instead of just realizing how awesome everything is. We aren't in danger we don't have to fear the freaking gas chambers or any of that.
We just have to remember that the true happiness comes from nobody else but us. It's not even deep inside, we just burried it with our so called problems and our misleading expectations.
Life is not a good nor a bad thing, I think it's a challenge, WE MAKE IT GOOD or we stay in our comfort zone and hope for the best.
Well it's hard but you either go out and do something about it or you don't but then you shouldn't complain. Most of us will sadly never realize that.
Thank you for reading this, you're a champion and don't you ever forget that!
This book gives many insight full thoughts that generally we forget in our daily lives.
This book has great massage for life for those people who are in dispare Or prone to dispare.
One of the great lines I loved is ' you cannot control what's happens with you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about it. '
It will change the way you look at life.
This is not about what happed in concentration camp per day it's more about the lessons that need to be drawn from it!
All people of all age group must read it.
I recommend this book to all of the people who are in search for motto in life....