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The Search for Meaning

'Man's Search for Meaning' has been on my reading list for a while, and I'm super glad I was able to finish reading it recently. It's written by Victor Frankl who survived 3 years living in various Nazi concentration camps. What makes his insight even more valuable is his viewpoint as a psychiatrist in helping understand the mental state of himself and the other prisoners. Here are a few of the takeaways I had from the book:

A man's deepest desire is to find meaning in his life. If he can find that meaning, then he can survive anything

Frankl found meaning in the concentration camp by making the choice that he was going to use his suffering as an opportunity to make himself a better person. Instead of becoming apathetic and accepting death, he chose to embrace his suffering. Frankl believes man is ultimately free to choose his own path in life, and even in horrible circumstances, man always has the freedom to choose his attitude towards life. He saw firsthand that as soon as a person 'gave up' by not getting out bed and not eating that it was only a matter of days before they passed. There are 3 ways to find meaning in life

Frankl claims that there are 3 ways to find meaning in life: through work, through love, and through suffering. Frankl kept his desire to live a meaningful life by focusing on the potential meanings he could create for himself. In addition to finding meaning in his suffering, Frankl motivated himself by thinking about his wife as well as the work he wanted to do after leaving camp - specifically finishing a manuscript on logotherapy. Logotherapy is a type of psychotherapy he developed based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life. The idea of personal responsibility Frankl believes it is our own personal responsibility to look for ways to make each individual moment valuable. Every man has a unique skill that only he can accomplish, and he is responsible for undertaking this job. He says that if a man cannot find the meaning or purpose in his life, than he can develop mental problems that need to be addressed. Frankl argues that everyone should strive to be in a state in which there is a tension between what one has already done and what one hopes to accomplish. To Frankl, this tension between past and present is vital to mental health. Remember Hope Frankl says, “man is that being who invented the gas chambers at 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.” Frankl believes that while man is certainly capable of doing evil, no individual human must be evil. Every human has the ability to change his behavior and attitude in every possible situation. Frankly believes in the importance of saying “yes” to life despite the pain, guilt, and death that one must necessarily face. These three negative forces are counteracted by the positive forces of hope. Frankly lived to be 92 years old and was once asked to express in one sentence the meaning of his own life. We wrote, "The meaning of my life is to help others find the meaning of theirs." Have a great week, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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