“Man’s Search For Meaning”(1946), authored by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, is one of the greatest books of all time. This book is the collection of Frankl’s experiences as an inmate in Nazis extermination camps during World War II. Frankl, as a prisoner in camp, deeply thought about the ‘meaning of life’ in those circumstances of horrific, humiliating, torturing and defiling treatment by Hitler’s troops towards inmates. In this book, Frankl recommends us to find ‘meaning in life’ rather than power and pleasure. Here I listed some of the greatest lessons I have learned from “Man’s Search For Meaning”. I hope these can be helpful to you in your life journey.
(1) Find the purpose in your life !
Life can feel like empty, futile and vain, when we actually don’t see its purpose. The very existence of our lives can be understood by finding our purpose and meaning in this world. When we are suffering, we sometimes think that there is nothing left to be expected from life, but what we need to realize is it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. In the Nazi concentration camps, Frankl twice helped his fellow prisoners to come out of suicidal thoughts by making them realize their purpose in their lives. One man felt the responsibility to his unfinished work and the other man towards his daughter, whom he loved. In short, life ultimately means taking the responsibility to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. These missions form our goals and destinies, which are different and unique for each of us. So, what do you think your purpose in life is?
(2) The salvation of man is through love and in love !
According to Frankl’s logotherapy, love is one of the ways we can create meaning in our lives. Even in the state of subjugation and torture by the Nazi troops, Frankl was able to endure his suffering by clinging his thoughts on his wife, whom he loved much. His wife had been separated from him by the Nazis and was sent to female concentration camps. However, Frankl could still experience bliss through his wife’s image and mental conversations with her. He learned that love can go beyond the physical person of the beloved and finds its deepest meaning in their spiritual being.
(3) Meaning of life in creative deeds, nature and little joys !
Fulfilment of life’s meaning can also be found in creative works and in experiencing beauty, art and nature. Despite the suffering in camps, Frankl always kept himself busy and active in writing his manuscript. This is a great lesson for us. Focusing on creative works, which are greater than ourselves, can help us in keeping our minds sharp and hence distract us from the terrible situations happening around us. Even appreciating the beauty of nature, culture and art can gave us comfort and relief during suffering so that we can see the life’s ultimate purpose.
(4) Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue !
Frankl advices us not to run after success since success, like happiness, can only happen when we fulfil our meaning of life. If we merely focus on becoming successful, we may end up as failure eventually. We should rather listen to what our conscious mind commands us to do while pursuing our passions, and should go on to dedicatedly work for it to the best of our knowledge without thinking about success. Like this, if we least care about the end results, one day, success will ensue as a by-product for our dedication and will follow us everywhere we go.
(5) The only thing that cannot be taken away from us is- our attitude !
No matter what the circumstance is, we always have the ability to choose how we react to the situations. We may loose our possessions, career, health and loved ones. But, our inner ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘our attitude’ towards life’s challenges, can never be stolen. A positive attitude in us enables us to endure suffering and disappointment as well as enhance enjoyment and satisfaction. While, a negative attitude intensifies our pain; it diminishes pleasure, happiness, and satisfaction or it may even lead us to depression or physical illness. In Nazi concentration camps, there were people who gave up their hope and died. Yet, there were some, like Frankl, who chose to live with positive attitude and got liberated finally. If those people, even in such a horrible circumstances, could stay up positive, why can’t we do the same?
(6) Every suffering has a meaning. Be willing to embrace it !
Through his experiences in concentration camp, Frankl repeatedly teaches us that life is meaningful under any circumstances and we should be willing to find it. Even when facing a fate that cannot be changed, life always has a meaning up to the last moment. Remember, if there is meaning in life, there must be a meaning in suffering. Frankl recommends us to see the suffering as an opportunity to challenge ourselves in order to turn predicament into human achievement. If we accept the suffering by taking up our own cross- it adds even still deeper meaning to our lives. As quoted by philosopher Nietzsche- “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how“
There are still many lessons one can learn from this book. If you can re-read this book again, you can find even more. This book has such a power to change our lives.
So, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from Man’s Search For Meaning?
Please share your thoughts in the comments 🙂