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Man's Search for Meaning - A Book Review


Man’s Search for Meaning is a book by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor. The book is divided into two parts, the first part explains his experiences in concentration camps and in the later section he explains his psychological approach- Logotherapy.


Unlike other books from holocaust survivors, this book does not aim to express real events or facts of torment of camp prisoners but describes the psychology of captives and even of the Capos and guards at times. The author tries to find out what made the ordinary prisoners to survive the agony of camp life apart from their fate. He explains us how a worthwhile goal can help us survive through any struggle and why having such goal is indispensable.


The first part of the book describes three stages of prisoner’s life in camp- 1) shock during initial admission 2) apathy that results from camp’s experiences and 3) state after liberation. Author explains these stages from a psychologist’s perspective. He tries to see mind sets of all kinds of persons in the camps.


He describes how undernourishment caused "desire for food" to be the most dominant thought in every prisoner’s mind. He highlights how insignificant was human life in camp by stating the example of replacing one’s identity by just a prison number.


The author tells how just a thought of his wife and her image in his mind transfixed him and how he realized that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. He admits that humour helps in bearing the pain. In his view, humour is the soul’s weapon in the fight of self- preservation.


The one thing I loved the most about this book is, though the author provides scientific reasoning to every event or result of action, he never undermines the value of destiny in person’s life. He mentions the scale of relative luck while describing some events. He narrates how the camp hardship made the prisoners grateful for the smallest mercies.


The author from his observations proves 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.”


I found the second part of the book more interesting. Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. Logos is a Greek word that denotes “meaning”. I loved the way author has explained some of the psychological terms such as- conflict, existential frustration, noodynamics, existential vacuum, “Sunday neurosis” etc.


I felt relieved when I read- Not every conflict is necessarily neurotic, some amount of conflict is normal and healthy.” We generally hope for tension-less state of mind, we think it’s when we are happy; but author calls it a misconception. He thinks "what man actually needs is struggle for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task."


In general the book offers us a whole new perspective to look at things. More importantly it helps us unlearn the common misapprehensions. It helps us to become little more considerate and teaches us- no matter how difficult our sufferings are, we always have a choice to make.


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