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Man's Search for Meaning Paperback – June 1, 2006
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One of the great books of our time. —Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People
"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
Viktor E. Frankl was professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School until his death in 1997. His twenty-nine books have been translated into twenty-one languages. During World War II, he spent three years in Auschwitz, Dachau, and other concentration camps.
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."
Frankl-- who survived when his pregnant wife, parents and other relatives did not-- went on to show that not all prisoners were moral and all guards immoral. Within extremely narrow parameters, both had the freedom to embrace life and to aid others. He was also insightful about what signaled impending death. I guess I should not be surprised that after the war, Frankl opposed the theory of collective guilt; he was loathe to condemn whole societies, which is what makes him out of step with many Holocaust scholars and (in my reading) with other prominent moral teachers of his era.
The last part of the book sets out his theories of logotherapy in which he held that the purpose of psychotherapy is to help patients make meaning of their lives rather than find happiness or resolve various complexes. It's interesting that logotherapy is almost unknown today, although some of his ideas seem to bubble up in existential therapies. As it turns out, Man's Search is condensed from longer writings he produced after liberation. The book in English is so lucid that I forgot that he lived all this experience "in German." Unlike many psychological writings, this one does not suffer from the restriction of categories that don't quite translate. I suspect that's one reason is still resonates with readers as it did with me.