When human beings go through suffering, they tend to become hopeless and get a strong feeling of being failures. Where do you get the help you need during search times? Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Frankl is one book that you can use to get help when you feel like you are all alone.
In this book Dr. Frankl is not trying to tell you how to avoid suffering, instead he points out suffering will always be there, but you can choose how to cope with the pain that comes your way, learn from it and move forward stronger. This Man’s Search for Meaning summary will give you a glimpse of the lessons you can draw from the suffering Dr. Frankl went through in a Nazi Camp.
Part 1 – Experiences in a Concentration Camp – in this part of the book Dr. Frankl lays out the experiences that he went through in the concentration camps. His story begins in a train with over 1500 people headed to an ammunition factory where they were to be employed as forced laborers.
Eventually, the train found its way to a station with the “Auschwitz.” Dr. Frankl indicates that they had the hope that soon everything would be alright, but it all kept getting worse.
“In psychiatry, there is a certain condition known as “delusion of reprieve.” The condemned man, immediately before his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprieved at the very last minute. We, too, clung to shreds of hope and believed to the last moment that it would not be so bad.”
At their arrival in the Nazi concentration camp, they were divided into two groups. Some went left, and others went right. Those who went left, we the sickly, old and those we could not be able to work. Those who went to the right were the healthy ones and those who were capable of doing work.
Dr. Frankl had attempted to go to the left but was turned to the right. He later discovered that those that went to the left were sent to their death and burnt.
Even those who went to the right were not that lucky either. They were stripped of everything they had jewelry, watches, rings and everything else of value. Dr. Frankl had the manuscript of his book in his pocket and tried to reason with one of the old prisoners on why he should keep it, but the only answer he got back was “shit.” Besides all this, their dignity was taken away too.
“While we were waiting for the shower, our nakedness was brought home to us: we really had nothing now except our bare bodies—even minus hair; all we possessed, literally, was our naked existence. What else remained for us as a material link with our former lives? For me there were my glasses and my belt; the latter I had to exchange later on for a piece of bread.”
Dr. Frankl indicated the emotions that they were going through in the camp. They had intense curiosity, anxiety and many of them contemplated and even attempted suicide. Some were successful. During all this time when he was going through all this, Dr. Frankl was consciously trying to detach his mind from the circumstances so that he could find value in his life even in those conditions. This was the fundamental teaching in his logotherapy technique.
Part II – Logotherapy in a Nutshell – in this part of the book Dr. Frankl talks of his logotherapy technique that focuses on “the meaning of life.” Dr. Frankl explains logotherapy this way “Logotherapy regards its assignment as that of assisting the patient to find meaning in his life. In as much as logotherapy makes him aware of the hidden logos of his existence, it is an analytical process.
To this extent, logotherapy resembles psychoanalysis. However, in logotherapy’s attempt to make something conscious again it does not restrict its activity to instinctual facts within the individual’s unconscious but also cares for existential realities, such as the potential meaning of his existence to be fulfilled as well as his will to meaning.”
Dr. Frankl asserts in this part of his book that the desire for meaning in man is greater than the desire for power or pleasure as described in other theories. He shows how he uses spiritual and existential questions to determine the source of a patient’s neurosis. This is unlike other theories of therapy that do not recognize spirituality.
Part III – The case of Tragic Optimism – this is the last part of the book in which the author focuses on how the human mind can make the best of every tragic situation. He explains that life has meaning even in the most miserable circumstances that you may go through.
The human existence he notes is circumscribed by pain, guilt, and death which are some of the most triad circumstances people go through. Even in these situations, it is possible to find meaning in your life.
What I Like About the Book
I love that this book is a chilling yet inspirational story that indicates real-life events that happened to Dr. Frankl. What he went through was heartbreaking, but he found a way to reach people through his experience.
Most of the family of Dr. Frankl died in concentration camps while others were sent to the gas oven, but still, Dr. Frankl found value in life at this lowest moment in his life. This book is well written and contains his ideas of Logotherapy that are easy to borrow from.
Why You Should Read the Book
This book might be the only one you need to read when you are in difficult situations that might even make you feel suicidal. In the Nazi concentration camps where they held, the conditions were such that every aspect of familiarity with life was taken away.
Dr. Frankl indicates that even his entire body was shaved off. The only thing you are left with there is as Dr. Frankl puts it is “the ability to choose your attitude towards the circumstances you are in.” You should read this book if you want to learn how to be “worthy of your suffering.”