YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK If You Want To Figure Out Your Unique Purpose — Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (Book notes)
About Man’s Search For Meaning
Some people are tempted to think of the majority of psychotherapists as snake oil salesmen. After all, where do their theories come from? Don’t they just make them up in their heads and then interpret all of their patients’ conditions using the framework they invented?
If that’s how you think, let me assure you that Viktor Frankl is a different kind of psychotherapist. For one, he’s a Holocaust survivor, and the life lessons and insights he shares in this book are ones he personally wrested from the jaws of extreme suffering beyond the likes of which most people ever experience in their lives.
The first part of this book is Frankl’s story — how he ended up in a concentration camp, what it was like living in such a camp day after day, how he survived. The second part is Frankl’s explanation of his psycho-framework, logotherapy, the will to meaning. If you don’t know what that means, keep reading!
FOREWORD: HAROLD S. KUSHNER
Typically, if a book has one passage, one idea with the power to change a person’s life, that alone justifies reading it, rereading it, and finding room for it on one’s shelves. This book has several such passages.
- Frankl describes prisoners who died less from lack of food or medicine, than from lack of hope, lack of something to live for.
- Frankl kept himself alive…by dreaming at one point of lecturing after the war about the psychological lessons to be learned from the Auschwitz experience.
- Frankl’s concern is less with the question of why most died than it is with the question of why anyone at all survived.
- Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure (Freud) or quest for power (Adler), but a quest for meaning
- Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another), and in courage during difficult times
- Suffering is meaningless. We give it meaning by the way we respond to it.
- Forces beyond your control can take away everything except your freedom to choose how to respond. We are never left with nothing as long as we have the freedom to choose.
- Having a WHY enabled people to bear the HOW.
- This is a profoundly religious book, insisting that life is meaningful, and we must learn to see it as such despite circumstances — and there is an ultimate purpose to life.
Man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.
PREFACE TO THE 1992 EDITION
Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot 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 suffernder to a person other than oneself…you have to let it happen by not caring about it…listen to what your conscience commands…and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then…in the long run — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.
- Why Viktor Frankl did not escape Austria: He had an invitation to the US, but could not bring his elderly parents.
- He was torn between going to America and saving his life’s work (a book on logotherapy) or staying to try to protect his parents from the Nazis as best as he could.
- His parents were happy he could go, but when he saw a sliver of marble his dad had picked up from the burning of a Viennese synagogue, he asked what it meant.
- It was part of the 10 commandments, specifically, #4: Honor thy father and mother that thy days may be long upon the land.
At that moment I decided to stay with my father and my mother upon the land, and to let the American visa lapse — Viktor E. Frankl
I. EXPERIENCES IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP
On the average, only those prisoners could keep alive who…had lost all scruples in their fight for existance…We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles…we know: the best of us did not return.
- Frankl originally wanted to publish this book anonymously, then decided he had to have the courage to attach his name and state his convictions publicly
- “We are indebted to WWII for enriching our knowledge of the psycopathology of the masses.”
- Once lost, the will to live seldom returned.
- There are 3 phases of the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life: 1) period following admission 2) period when he is entrenched in camp routine 3) period following release/liberation:
1. Period following admission
- When Frankl arrived at the first camp, the prisoners were immediately separated into the healthy and those condemned to die in the gas chambers.
- Delusion of reprieve: the condemned man right before execution, has the illusion he might be reprieved at the last minute.
- Guards took all possessions from prisoners: “No one could yet grasp the fact that everything would be taken away.”
- When Frankl tried to keep the book manuscript he was working on, a guard mocked and cursed at him:
“At that moment I saw the plain truth and did what marked the culminating point of the first phase of my psychological reaction: I struck out my whole former life.”
- Cold curiosity predominated even in Auschwitz, somehow detaching the mind from its surroundings…one cultivated this state of mind as a means of protection.
- Dostoevski: man is a being who can get used to anything.
Yes, a man can get used to anything, but do not ask us how.
- An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal.
2. Period while entrenched in camp routine
- The prisoner passed…to the second phase, of relative apathy, a kind of emotional death, making him insensible to beatings
- It was not the physical pain that hurt most (applies to adults and children) but the mental agony caused by the injustice/unreasonableness/insult of beatings
- Frankl warns: it may give momentary psychological relief, but visualizing things you want but can’t have (ie: food, when you’re starving in a concentration camp) isn’t without danger.
Some men lost all hope, but it was the incorrigible optimists who were the most irritating companions.
- Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.
- For the first time, I saw the truth — that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire…the greatest secret of human poetry/thought/belief:
- For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
- Love goes beyond the physical person to the deepest inner spiritual self of that person
- As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense, he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before.
- Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation…humor, more than anything else, can afford an aloofness and ability to rise above any situation, even for a few seconds.
- Developing a sense of humor is a trick for mastering the art of living.
A man’s suffering is like the behavior of gas: Gas will fill the chamber it is in completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering fills the human soul and conscious mind no matter if the suffering is great or little. So the size of human suffering is absolutely relative.
- Negative happiness: Schopenhauer’s “freedom from suffering” (There were few positive pleasures in concentration camps, only this kind of negative happiness — the ability to delouse hair, being spared some pain, etc)
- Prisoners longed for privacy/solitude because they were always crowded together
- the camp inmate was frightened of making decisions and of taking any sort of initiative whatsoever, because of a strong feeling that fate was one’s master and one mustn’t try to influence it.
We had all been, or fancied ourselves to be “somebody.” Now we were treated like complete nonentities. (The consciousness of one’s inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?)
- The sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. He can hold onto his dignity even in a concentration camp.
- Dostoevski: There is only one thing I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.
- Purpose in life comes from creative work or enjoyment of beauty, but even in a life without creation or enjoyment, there is meaning in high moral behavior in the face of suffering.
If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.
- Suffering is unavoidable. Without it, human life is not complete.
- The Latin word finis has two meanings: The end or finish, and a goal to reach.
- A man who can’t see the end of his existence can’t aim at an ultimate goal in life. He stops living for the future. (Ex: retirees, unemployed workers suffer from deformed inner sense of time without a future or a goal)
- Looking to the past to make the present less real is also dangerous:
It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of camp life, opportunities which really did exist…people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself.
- Bismarck: Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already.
- Man’s peculiarity: he can only live by looking to the future: sub specie aeternitatis. And this saves him in the most difficult moments, though he may have to force his mind to think of the future.
- Spinoza’s Ethics: Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.
- There’s a close connection between a man’s state of mind and body immunity. Loss of hope can be deadly.
- More camp prisoners died around Christmas than any other time because they’d secretly hoped to be free by then, and when those hopes were dashed, they died.
Any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength…had first to succeed in showing him some future goal.
- One had to give the a why to strengthen them to bear the terrible HOW of their existence.
- Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.
- It does not matter what we expected from life, but what life expects from us.
- Stop asking about the meaning of life and think of ourselves as those being questioned by life, daily and hourly. Our answer must consist not in talk/meditation but in right action/conduct.
It is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, like life’s tasks are also very real and concrete…No man and no destiny can be comopared with any other man or destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response.
- Some situations require action, or contemplation, or simply to bear your cross.
- In suffering, each person is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve the suffering or suffer in his place.
- Rilke: How much suffering there is to get through!
- Don’t be ashamed of tears. Tears bear witness of your courage to suffer
- Suicidal people may say they have nothing more to expect from life. But they must realize that life still expects something from them, in the future…some work or role they and they alone can do.
- Realize that it is impossible to replace a person. One who realizes this can never throw away his life.
- The immediate influence of behavior is always more effective than that of words. (Ex: a senior block warden who encourages prisoners by refusing to side with authorities)
- Anyone alive still has reason for hope.
Note from SC: Ecclesiastes 9:4 says “Anyone who is among the living has hope, even a live dog is better than a dead lion.”
- No one knows what the future will bring, or even the next hour.
- Camp inmates knew how great chances sometimes opened up, suddenly, at least for individuals (Ex: being assigned to a group with good working conditions)
- Poet: What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.
Nothing is lost when it is past — we have brought it into being. Having been is also a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind.
- I told them of a comrade who on his arrival in camp had tried to make a pact with Heaven that his suffering and death should save the human being he loved from a painful end. For this man, suffering and death were meaningful…He did not want to die for nothing. None of us want that.
- Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.
- No group is all decent or all indecent people. No group is pure race. There were decent fellows even among the camp guards.
3. Period following release/liberation
- When Frankl and others were freed, at first they felt that it was unreal, depersonalized. The word “freedom” had lost its meaning
We did not yet belong to this world…We had literally lost the ability to feel pleased and had to relearn it slowly.
- Sudden freedom after extreme psychological pressure can be dangerous, like divers getting the bends when they go from deep pressure to the surface too quickly.
- Some prisoners used their new freedom licentiously/ruthlessly, becoming oppressors instead of the oppressed, justifying their behavior by their terrible experiences
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 beendone to them. We had to strive to lead them back to this truth, or the consequences would have been much worse
- Prisoners also experienced bitterness and disillusionment when they returned to their former life: family members they wanted to see were often long dead, neighbors who didn’t oppose the Nazis didn’t seem to care about their suffering, etc
A man who for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now found that suffering has no limits, and that he could suffer still more, and still more intensely.
We were not hoping for hapiness — it was not that which gave us courage and gave meaning to our suffering, sacrifices, and daying. And yet we were not prepared for unhappiness.
- This disillusionment was hard for the newly-freed prisoners to get over, and also for a psychiatrist to help them overcome.
- As the day of his liberation eventually came, when everything seemed to him like a beautiful dream, so also the day comes when all his camp experiences seem to him nothing but a nightmare.
- The crowning experience: After all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more — except his God.
II. LOGOTHERAPY IN A NUTSHELL
- Logotherapy focuses not on the past, but on the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future.
Making a patient aware of the maning of his life can contribute much to his ability to overcome his neurosis.
- LOGOS: Greek word denotes “meaning”
- The striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.
- The meaning is unique and specific in that it must/can be fulfilled by him alone
- Man is able to live and die for his values.
- Of course there are some pseudo-value cases, where people’s concern with values is a camoflauge for hidden inner conflicts, but they are the exception not the rule.
- Existential frustration can result in neuroses: noogenic neuroses, rather than traditional psychogenic neuroses.
- Noogenic neuroses must be treated with logotherapy.
- Existential frustration is not a mental disease.
- Man’s search for meaning may create tension, but that is necessary for mental health. Mental health = tension between what one has achieved and what one still must achieve, between what one is and what one should become.
- In the Nazi camps, those who had a task waiting for them to fulfill were most apt to survive.
What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.
- In neurotic individuals, this is even more valid. Architects who want to strengthen a decrepti arch INCREASE the load laid on it so the parts are joined more firmly.
- Today there is no instinct, tradition, telling people what to do. Many don’t know what they want to do. They choose what others do (conformism) or what others tell them to do (totalitarianism)
- The existential vacuum manifests in a state of boredom. Boredom creates psychiatric problems, more than distress does.
- Logotherapy is helpful not o nly in noogenic cases, but also in psychogenic and even some somatogenic neuroses. Every therapy in some way must also be logotherapy.
The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.
- Just as there is no “best move” in chess, there’s no abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific mission to do. He cannot be replaced or his life repeated.
- Man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but realize HE is the one being asked.
- Live as if you were living already for the second time and act as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now. Imagine that the present is past and that the past may yet be changed.
- A logotherapist is an eye doctor, not a painter. A painter tries to convey the world as he sees it, an eye specialist tries to enable us to see the world as it is.
- The true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world, not in man/man’s own psyche as if it’s a closed system.
- The more one forgets himself (giving himself to a cause, loving another), the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. Self-actualization is a side-effect of self-transcendence.
- The meaning of life always changes, but never ceases to be.
- We discover meaning in three ways: 1) create a work/do a deed, 2) experience something/encounter someone (ie, experiencing a person through loving the person), 3) attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering
- Love is the only way to grasp another person in their innermost core…no one is fully aware of another person’s essence without loving him. Love lets you see a person’s potential, which is not yet actualized.
By his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize those potentialities.
- When we are unable to change a situation, we’re challlenged to change ourselves
- In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice.
- Man’s main concern isn’t to gain pleasure and avoid pain but to see a meaning in life. Man will suffer, if it has meaning.
- Suffering is not NECESSARY to find meaning, but meaning is possible in suffering if the suffering is UNAVOIDABLE.
In our culture, the incurable sufferer is given little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and consider it ennobling, not degrading. He’s not only unhappy, but ashamed of being unhappy . (Edit Weisskopf-Joelson)
In this critical situation…my concern was different from that of most of my comrades. Their question was, “Will we survive the camp? For, if not, all this suffering has no meaning.” The question which beset me was, “Has all this suffering, this dying around us, a meaning? For if not, then ultimately there is nomeaning to survival; for a life whose meaning depends upon such a happenstance — as whether one escapes or not — ultimately would not be worth living at all.”
- Thoughts from SC: This reminds me of what Brene Brown said in her book Daring Greatly about how we cannot dull/eliminate vulnerability/unpleasant feelings, for then we will eliminate ALL feelings, good ones included
- Thoughts from SC: This is why “amor fati” fails in the end. Fate has no meaning. Meaning requires communication. Communication requires two sentient beings. Therefore there must be a sentient God for life to have meaning.
- Viewing one’s life from one’s deathbed can allow you to see meaning in it, even including current suffering.
- Frankl asked a group whether an ape used in a medical experiment could grasp the meaning of its suffering. The group replied: No; an ape cannot understand the world of man with its limited intelligence, the only world in which its suffering would be understandable.
- So, Frankl asked, is it not conceivable that there’s another dimension, beyond man’s world, where the question of an ultimate meaning of human suffering will find an answer?
What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.
- Frankl once treated a patient who was a devout Jewish rabbi whose first wife and children were killed in Auschwitz. His second wife could not have children, and he was depressed. Frankl observed that procreation isn’t the only meaning of life, or else life itself is meaningless. Then the rabbi said he had no son of his own to see him off when he died. Frankl countered that he would see his children in heaven. Then the real reason for the rabbi’s despair came up: The rabbi believed that his innocent children would go to the highest place in Heaven, but as a sinful old man, he could not expect to be assigned the same place. Frankl said: Is it not conceivable that this is the exact reason why you survived your children? So that through your suffering you may be purified to join them one day? So perhaps none of your suffering is in vain. This new point of view relieved the rabbi’s suffering for the first time.
- Things in the past are not irretrievably lost but irrevocably stored.
- Man constantly makes his choice concerning the mass of present potentialities — which will be “condemned to nonbeing” and which will be actualized? Which choice will become an actuality forever — an immortal footprint in the sands of time?
- Pessimists watch fearfully and sadly as their wall calendars grow thinner. Optimists actively teach each leaf from the calendar, filing it carefully away, reflecting with pride and joy on the richness of the days he has lived.
- Older people need not envy young people their possibilities. They have realities in the past, work done, love loved, sufferings bravely suffered — the last of which they can be most proud of, even though they do not inspire envy.
- Realistic fears (eg: fear of death) can’t be tranquilized by psychodynamic interpretations. Neurotic fears like agoraphobia can’t be cured by philosophical understanding.
- Neuroses come from anticipatory anxiety: it produces what the person is afraid of. “The wish is father to the thought” → “The fear is mother to the event”
- Just as fears bring to pass what one fears, forced intention makes impossible what one forcibly wishes.
- Pleasure is a side-effect and is spoiled when it is made a goal in itself.
- Ecessive attention and hyper-reflectioin can also be pathogenic
- Paradoxical intention: a logotherapy technique where the phobic patient is invited to intend on what he fears. (Ex: man who fears perspiring is told to resolve deliberately to show people how much he can sweat. Replace the fear with a paradoxical wish.)
- Thoughts from SC: So, to treat a more mental fear, one could deliberately try to raise the fear-meter as close as possible to a 10/10.
- This kind of procedure must use the human capacity for self-detachment inherent in a sense of humor.
- The neurotic who learns to laugh at himself may be on the weay to self-management, perhaps to cure (Gordon W. Allport’s The Individual and His Religion)
- Paradoxical intention is useful in treating OCD and phobic conditions, especially ones that have underlying anticipatory anxiety.
- Also, it is a short-term therapeutic device with long term effects.
- It is possible certain factors cause neurosis in childhood and entirely different factors relieve neuroses in adulthood.
- Anticipatory anxiety is a major pathogenic factor in neuroses: A symptom is responded to by phobia, the phobia triggers the symptom, and the symptom reinforcese the phobia.
- Example: People with OCD fights the ideas that haunt him, increasing their power to disturb him since pressure →counterpressure. When the person stops fighting obsessions and tries to ridicule them/deal with them in an ironical way through paradoxical intention, he breaks the vicious cycle.
- OCD sufferers often fear they will become psychotic, that their obsessions indicate imminent/actual psychosis, when actually OCD immunizes them against (and does not endanger him towards) a formal psychosis
- Anticipatory anxiety is counteracted by paradoxical intention; hyper-intention/hyper-reflection counteracted by dereflection; dereflection is not possible except by a person’s orientation toward his specific mission in life.
- Allport: “As the focus of striving shifts from the conflict to selfless goals, the life as a whole becomes sounder even though the neurosis may never completely disappear.”
- There is danger in teaching nihilism, that a man is nothing. This makes a neurotic believe he’s a pawn and victim of outer influences or inner circumstances.
- Humans are finite and freedom is restricted, but we are free to take a stand toward the conditions.
- Every human has the freedom to change at any instant.
- We can predict human behavior in a large framework of a big group, but the individual personality is essentially unpredictable.
- Man is capable of changing the world for good if possible and changing himself for good if necessary. (in spite of bio, psycho, socio conditions)
- Freedom is half the story, the negative aspect of the phenomenon. The Positive aspect is responsibility. Freedom degenerates without responsibility.
I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast
- Nothing can take all of man’s freedom away. A residue of freedom remains even in neurotic, psychotic cases. The innermost core of a personality isn’t touched by psychosis. If that were not true, euthanasia would be justified.
For too long, psychiatry tried to interpret the human mind as a mechanism and therapy for mental illness as a technique. Instead of psychologized medicine we need humanized psychiatry.
- A doctor must see the human being behind the disease, not see a patient as a machine.
- Things determine each other, but MAN is self-determining.
- In the Nazi camps, some behaved like saints, others like swine.Man has potentialities within himself. Which one is actualized depends on decisions, not conditions.
POSTSCRIPT 1984: THE CASE FOR A TRAGIC OPTIMISM
- The tragic triad: 1) pain 2) guilt 3) death
- The opposite triad: 1) faith 2) hope 3) love
- Tragic optimism: remaining optimistic and saying YES to life in spite of the tragic triad
- What matters is to make the bestof any given situation.
- Optimum: in Latin, “the best”
- How? 1) Turn suffering into a human achievement, 2) derive from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better 3) derive from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action
- One can’t force self to be optimistic indiscriminately, against all odds/hope
Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy. Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically…human(s are) not in pursuit of happiness but..a reason to become happy
- Laughter also needs a reason.
- In the camps, those who lost their meaning orientation would start smoking their last cigarette and would die within 48 hours. When meaning orientation subsides, seeking of immediate pleasure takes over. Then death.
- The drug scene is an aspect of general mass meaningless, common in industrial societies
- People have enough to live by but nothing to live for — means without meaning
- Feeling of meaningless is proof of one’s humanness…but it can cause pathology potentially
3 facets of the existential vacuum (feeling of emptiness, meaninglessness): depression, aggression, addiction
- When Frankl speaks to people who are suicidal: He tells them that many people eventually see a good turn in their lives sooner or later, but you must live to see the day on which it may happen. You are responsible for your survival.
- In one study by Carolyn Wood Sherif, she noticed that aggressions between boys subsided when they dedicated themselves to a collective purpose
- Stanley Krippner studied addicts. 100% said “things seemed meaningless.”
- Logotherapists are concerned with potential meaning inherent/dormant in all situations one faces in life.
- Think of a movie made of thousands of scenes each of which makes sense and carries a meaning, but the meaning of the film can’t be understood until the last sequence. But we need to understand each component, individual picture to understand the whole film. The same is true of life.
- The final meaning of life depends on whether the potential meaning of each single situation has been actualized to the best of your knowledge/belief.
- How do we find meaning? Charlotte Buhler’s suggestion: study the lives of people who seem to have found their answers against those who haven’t.
- The conscience is a prompter that indicates the direction in which we have to move in a given situation
- Values are not espoused/adopted on a conscious level — they are something we ARE
- Those held in highest esteem by most people are not great artists/scientists/statesmen/athletes, but those who master hard lots with heads held high.
- Crimes are inexplicable because they can’t be traced back fully to bio/psycho/social factors. Otherwise it would render humans not free responsible people, but broken machines. Even criminals themselves prefer to be held responsible for their deeds.
- Today’s society has an achievement orientation, adoring young, happy, successful people, ignoring the value of everyone else. There is value in dignity as there is value in usefulness. If you forget that, you fall into Hitler’s euthanasia ideas of “mercy killing” old people, mentally ill people, handicapped people.
The world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best…since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. Since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.
AFTERWORD: WILLIAM J. WINSLADE
- Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the 10 most influential books in America (Library of Congress survey 1991)
- Frankl had a talent for diagnosing psych problems and discovering people’s motivations
- Frankl: to achieve personal meaning, one must transcend subjective pleasures by doing something that points/is directed to something/someone other than self…giving self to a cause to serve or a person to love.
- Negative attitudes intensify pain and deepen disappointments, undermines/diminishes pleasure and satisfaction, leads to depression/physical illness
- Norman Cousins: promoted health through positive emotions
- Choices humans make should be active, not passive. Making personal choices affirms our autonomy.
- Frankl wondered about the existence of autobibliotherapy — healing through reading
- Frankl: does not tell people WHAT to do, but why THEY must do it.
- Frankl was committed to the uniqueness and dignity of each individual, admiring people like Freud and Adler while disagreeingn with their philosophies/psych theories
- Frankl said psychiatry’s aim was to heal the soul, religion was to save the soul
- Frankl believed therapists should focus on specific individual needs, rather than extrapolate from abstract theories
- Freud/Adler had a “depth psychology” which delves into a person’s past and unconscious desires. Frankl practiced “height psychology” focusing on a person’s future and conscious decisions/actions.
- Frankl’s meaning in life: to help others find the meaning of theirs.
Get your own copy of Man’s Search for Meaning HERE (affiliate link)
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