Title: Man’s Search for Meaning
Author: Viktor Frankl
Year: First published: 1946; New edition published: 01/06/2006
Length: 184 pages
Genre: Psychology, Philosophy, Autobiography, Classic
Short Description: One of the ten most influential books of the past century. The book describes the life of the people held in the Nazi death camps and how they find meaning above the endless torments. Extraordinary story described in first-person from inside one of the most terrifying places mankind has ever created.
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Viktor Frankl, the author, shares the time spent in captivity between 1942 and 1945 inside the Nazi death camps. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”) – holds, that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
It’s hard to imagine how such a small book can offer so much to the reader.
The takeaways from this book are constantly popping out from the pages. I’ve started taking notes from the very first page. For me, the book is a composition of two things. First, the harsh story of the people held in the concentration camps – what was their daily life, what were their thoughts, pains and joys. Secondly, the author’s thoughts about meaning: his own and also for the rest of the prisoners.
The whole story is masterfully described. You can really feel the cold and imagine the horrible things the prisoners have experienced in all these years. Even in despair, they’ve found something to keep them alive and give them a sense of purpose.
I would highly recommend the book to people who are still wandering in life, searching for their reason to be here.
Here are some of the most insightful things I would really like to remember from this book:
Life is not about Pleasure. It’s about finding meaning
We daily experience and go through various of mental states: anxiety, joy, sadness, anger, affection, boredom and more. These feelings either help us or prevent us to achieve what we want in the defined situation. Although the modern society hardcoded in our minds the desire to constantly feel happy, we actually don’t want that.
If a dog from the street tries to attack you; a car is heading your way, a large piece of broken window is about to fall on top of you; colleague spills his coffee on your shirt – you most definitely don’t want to feel pleasure or happiness. You want to feel anger, impulsive, concerned, clean. I mean, there is a good reason there aren’t only a few feelings we humans can experience. The list is pretty huge, as you can see here -> link.
Life is more about keeping track of what matters most, regardless of the things which can happen to us. To remain brave, honest, conscientious, and generous, regardless of what life is up to. Life has a potential meaning under all conditions, even the most unbearable.
Do not aim for success
The more we strive for it and make it our prime target, the more we are going to miss it.
Success shouldn’t be pursued. It’s something that will emerge from your actions and dedication towards something greater than yourself.
If success for you means having 1 million dollars at your disposal, what will happen if, let say within a year, you reach that goal? By the current social standards, you will be a millionaire, that’s for sure. You will also feel quite satisfied with your achievement. Again, something pretty normal.
But, what will happen to the way/ways you’ve achieved this success? If in order to get hold of this money you’ve done pretty nasty, brutal, inhuman things, or, let say you stole them, you may be facing jail time. However, if your main goal was the money and you did earn that amount in a legal way, you definitely hate the way you got them. At the end, you have one million dollars, a job you hate and the worst part, you’re not even satisfied. Let’s observe the things in a different perspective. We take the time to understand what kind of task truly motivates and inspire us. We devote our lives towards that task. Finally, we became experts in the field we’ve chosen, have a meaningful life and if our job was good enough, we most probably will earn more than a million bucks.
Take care of yourself
The way you look, on the outside, will influence the way you feel on the inside. That actually goes both ways. If you feel ok, this will reflect on your face, posture, smile and even inside your eyes.
Taking care of yourself on the outside is really important if you want to boost your confidence and the way others perceive you. If you’re wearing old, ragged, clothes, smell funny and your hair looks like the old hairstyle of the famous pop singer, the Weekend, then, don’t blame others for speaking crap behind your back or for avoiding you. “Dress to impress” is an exaggerated statement but I think you got the idea, right?
Same goes for the food you eat, the people you hang out with, the music you listen. Everything you consume influences your body and soul. If you’re wondering why every month you’re sick and have to lay down for a couple of days, maybe there is something you are doing wrong. Probably is because you eat a sandwich per meal, or, smoke too much. I don’t know, but I am sure you don’t need a doctor to tell you this. You already know, right?
Another day has passed
“Another day has passed” – if these words are coming out of your mount every time the clock on the wall strikes six pm, or other, depending on when your working day is over, then, you must find something else. Obviously, this job isn’t bringing any satisfaction.
If our daily thoughts and actions are towards the end of the day, we are not living at all. Life isn’t what will happen in the next few hours, days or even years, it’s what happens now, in this present moment. There are a lot of things, people we daily interact with. Surely, most of them are not things or people we kind of like, that’s why we space out and daydream about something else. However, we must learn to live for the moment and enjoy what happens to us right now.
Time flies, and if we don’t like the way it passes, we should do something about it, now, not in few years.
If you think about it for a moment, you will figure it out on your own, there is nothing greater than love and affection. That’s why there are so many songs, poems, movies, books for and about love. Human salvation will happen only through love towards others.
In the current times, we think more about ourselves. We’ve become very selfish and distant creatures with little care about others. We hide behind computer screens and smartphones. Savagely commenting others online, walking around with headphones, afraid to share our emotions face to face. We first want to feel love in order to give love. But that’s not how things work. In order to receive, you must give first.
Revealing our feelings towards others first may seem like a social suicide, yet, is the right thing to do. In this busy world, where chatting is becoming the mainstream of communication, showing love, acting with care towards others will open a lot of doors.
The truth is, that love, is the highest goal that one can aspire to.
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