“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.”
As a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, Viktor Frankl is well-suited to offer any advice on how to deal with suffering in life. As a psychiatrist, he was able to take what he lived through and saw and apply it to his practice, creating a new form of psychiatric therapy – logotherarpy. He wrote about his time in the concentration camp and originally wanted to remain anonymous when Man’s Search for Meaning was published. He wasn’t seeking fame, but to have people understand how having a sense of meaning in a person’s life can make a huge difference. He wrote that they knew when a prisoner had given up because he would start smoking the cigarettes they used for currency. The men who had a purpose to live for, whether people or legacies such as books or research, were more apt to survive no matter what they suffered.
I have recently read a lot of books about becoming a more confident and happier person (Gretchen Rubin’s books, Girl, Wash Your Face and The Brave Art of Motherhood) and several leadership books (Jocko Willink books and How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age). I don’t remember which ones, but many of them referenced Man’s Search for Meaning and I knew it would be a book I would need to read soon. I was surprised there was no waiting list to check out the ebook from my local library through the Libby app. I read it over a few nights and, just like The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, I am surprised I hadn’t come across this book sooner in my life.
Man’s Search for Meaning is divided into two sections and the version I read also had an afterword that updates the book. The first section is about Frankl’s time in the concentration camp and his observations about how people survived. It was not an easy thing to read, but it is told in a factual way. It reads like a scientist observing a situation rather than someone telling an emotional memoir. The second section of the book goes over what logotherarpy is and how it was influenced by his time in the camps. It is very common sense and really delves into man’s motivations. It was very fascinating to me.
I honestly think every adult should read this book. Not just because we need to know the stories of people who survived the Holocaust, but also because it talks about how every person can find meaning in his or her life. Every single person has something to live for. It is a message that needs to be told over and over again. Due to the nature of what Frankl survived and some references to sexual conditions in the psychiatric part of the book, I would recommend that mature high schoolers or adults read this book.