“He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

There are enough memoirs and accounts of survivals of the Holocaust. There are enough stories about life and death in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. The horrors and the devastating evil of humanity is well recorded already, even though some do not believe it, even though most do not fully understand. What the world needs is not another memoir or account, but instead a way to move on from that point. What the world is desperate for is not a tale of how men and women were abused and used by the powers of evil, but how life is not ultimately destroyed in the face of such adversity. What the world needs, back in 1946 as it does now, is a light to show us a way to live through the tragedies and trials..

What the world needs, what men and women are longing for, what the young and the old are seeking for, is a sense of meaning in their lives.

Having survived the nightmare that was Auschwitz, psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl shares a revolutionary approach to life, and to psychotherapy. Through the stories of his personal experience in the World War II concentration camp, Frankl explores what he believes to man’s primary motivation and driving force—Man’s Search For Meaning.

While not a textbook or thesis on his personal approach to psychotherapy, Frankl does delve deep into the truths and realities that he believes do make up the human psyche, but in a way that those without prior knowledge or experience in this field will understand.

Man’s Search For Meaning is a meaty account that will have the reader examining their own life, even within the first few paragraphs. The original manuscript may have been written long ago, but Frankl writes with a potent truth that is still completely relevant for this modern age. Maybe even more so. He speaks about tragedy, suffering and difficulties that few have ever experienced in the world, but offers an insight that is for all people, regardless of what kind of tragedy, suffering or difficulty they may be experiencing. An insight that says there is a way to live through your suffering that will not destroy you, but build you up. An insight that says, you are not a victim in your circumstance, but the commander of your attitude towards it. An insight that says, you are not a prisoner in a world that is without meaning, but the one that holds the key to your own freedom.

“Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those power which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.” – Viktor Frankl

Because there have been so many years between the initial publication of Viktor Frankl’s work and this review, the uniqueness of Frankl’s material has lost some of it’s bite. What he started, what he created when he developed what he calls “logotherapy” has now become almost a normal part of modern society. The power that Frankl subscribes to the individual is something that has been past down through the years, something that is so common place.

However, just because these ideas have become common and normal now, it does not take any power or potency away from the original source material. Man’s Search For Meaning is just as eye opening and soul revealing now as the day that it was first published in 1946.

What makes this work so astonishing is that this theory of psychology is an empowering train of thought. Rather than saying that mankind’s actions are dictated and limited by the urges and bodily desires, Frankl offers readers a more empowering reality. We are not

suffering from a nature or nurture problem; we are suffering because we do  not realize the power we have. Men and women have the freedom or power to rise above their situation, they are not suck where they are. They can overcome the circumstances that they are in. Frankl calls it the “will to freedom”, the capacity that all humans possess to “suffer with dignity”, to live through a horrific ordeal because they have chosen to live for something. They have found a meaning in their lives that is worth enduring the worst of situations.

Explaining his theory with personal accounts and first hand stories from Auschwitz, Frankl makes a powerful case for logotherapy. And I must say that I agree with this theory. Not only because it is an uplifting and empowering way of thinking about humanity, but it also works nicely with the Christian faith. Statements like “The salvation of man is through love and in love”  spoke to me in a way Frankl may not have intended, but nevertheless are completely true.

Man’s Search For Meaning may be a psychology book but it is not a textbook by any means. It is so much more. The truth that Viktor Frankl reveals speaks directly to the soul of the reading, encouraging them to shift their thinking and engage in life in a new, more fulfilling way. The power and freedom that Viktor Frankl uncovers and makes available for the reader makes this a book that is bigger than just psychology. This is a life book, one that will stay ON MY SHELF for me and future generations.


You can pick up your own copy of Man’s Search for Meaning at Amazon.ca

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