Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

Date read: 2018-11-19
Rating: 9/10

It’s one of those you just have to read. Stories about concentration nazi camps. “Man needs the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task”.

My book notes

He asks his patients ‘why do you not commit suicide’.

Dynamic of concentration camps

  • Running into the electrical fence was the most common way of suicide
  • Cigarettes were currency. When someone would give up they would smoke their cigarettes instead of getting food
  • Grim humor in extreme reactions (after
  • They received advice on shaving daily, it’ll make you look younger. Hide your limps. Appear fit for work
  • You can get used to anything
  • 9 people sleeping in one small bed

For certain beatings it’s not the physical pain that hurts the most, it is the mental agony caused by the injustice.

Frostbite and the cold stories. They had no socks, they couldn’t lace the shoes because their feet were so swollen.

Wouldn’t wake up a man from obvious nightmares. The reality was a much worse dream than any.

Undernourishment took away the sexual impulse completely.

A man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus, suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.

Letting fate decide for you. There countless times you had only minutes to decide, it usually meant life or death (escape or not, cross your name of the list or not). His policy was to let fate make the choices

Nietzsche: He who has a ‘Why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘How’

The usual excuse for giving up: I have nothing more to expect from life. Viktor’s reply: how about what life expects of you? What is the why?

Avoiding suicide, something in the future was expecting something from them: for one the answer was his child waiting in a foreign country, for another, unfinished scientific books and his life’s work, no one could do these things for them. The uniqueness and singleness give a meaning of existence.

The immediate influence of behavior is always more effective than that of words, but at times, words were effective too.

A dangerous misconception of mental hygiene is to assume that what man needs is equilibrium, called homeostasis in biology, that is a tensionless state. Man needs the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. The call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled. 

If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it. Thereby the parts are joined more firmly together. If therapists wish to foster their patient’s mental health, they should not be afraid to create a sound amount of tension through a reorientation towards the meaning of one’s life.

Hyper-intention. A forced intention makes impossible what one forcibly wishes.

Happiness cannot be pursued it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy. Once the reason is found however one becomes happy automatically. A human being is not in the pursuit of happiness but in a reason to become happy through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a particular situation.

This need for a reason is similar in laughter. You need to provide a reason to laugh

As to the causation of the feeling of meaninglessness, one may say that people have to live by but nothing to live for. They have the means but no meaning. Some do not even have the means.

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