Man’s Search for Meaning – Bookcast #18

Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) by Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl’s riveting account of his survival in the Nazi concentration camps and his exploration of the human will to find meaning in spite of the worst adversity.

“Man’s Search for Meaning” has offered solace and guidance to readers since it was first published over 70 years ago. Today, as new generations face new challenges and an ever more complex and uncertain world, Frankl’s classic work continues to inspire us to find significance in the act of living.

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“Man’s Search for Meaning” Show Notes

0:00 – Intro to “Man’s Search for Meaning”

  • Frankl believes “The meaning of my life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.” This book is a description of how Frankl’s “Will to Meaning” helped himself and others to survive the nightmare of the concentration camps, and how his philosophy can help you to endure any suffering.
  • Intended audience: Anyone who needs a cure for boredom, depression and lack of purpose; Anyone who is searching for what they need most in your life; Anyone who wants a powerful, first-person description of the Nazi concentration camps; Anyone who wants to cure their neurosis.
  • Who won’t like it: People who aren’t ready to accept the evil things men are capable of doing; People who are too scared to be truly honest with themselves; People who only read writing that is superficial and easy
  • …But EVERYONE SHOULD read this book!

5:30 – How easy is the book to read?

  • Very Difficult. Purely reading wise, the first half of the book is “easy” to read; the second half is much more difficult, with lots of scientific terms and analysis. However, as for the subject matter, his stories of the concentration camps are very painful to read. Absolutely worthwhile but be prepared.
  • Print: 192 pages (4-5 hours to read)
  • Audiobook: 4 hours 45 minutes

6:00 – Reviews and significance of “Man’s Search for Meaning”

  • 16,181 — 4.7 Stars (Sold over 16 million copies, translated into 50 languages)
  • Currently: 
    • #1 Amazon – Jewish Holocaust History
    • #1 Amazon – Judaism
    • #1 Amazon – Behavior (psychology)
    • #3 Amazon – Existential Psychology
    • #14 Audible – Philosophy

8:30 – Bio of Viktor Frankl

  • Born 1905 in Austria
  • When he was three he said he would be a doctor
  • Fascinated by psychology from an early age; While in junior high school he took additional adult-education college classes at night in Applied Psychology
  • When he was 16, Frankl began writing letters to Sigmund Freud and formed a friendship
  • While he was in medical school, Frankl, now 19 years old, published his first article in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis (Freud submitted the article and recommended it)
  • Frankl founded Vienna’s first private youth counseling program and worked with troubled youths
  • After obtaining his M.D. as a psychiatrist, he was in charge of the “pavilion for suicidal women”. Over a four-year period (1933–1937), he treated no less than 3,000 patients each year.
  • By the time he was 34, Dr Frankl was the head of the Neurology Department at Rothschild Hospital in Vienna.
  • When the Nazi’s began to send Jews to concentration camps, Frankl was offered a US immigrant visa. Rather than escape and work safely in America, Frankl chose to stay in Vienna with his aging parents. He, his wife and his parents were arrested in 1942 and deported to the camps. None of his family survived.
  • Frankl spent three years in four different concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau
  • After he returned from the camps, in 1948, Frankl earned a Ph.D. in philosophy and was the head of the neurology dept at Vienna Policlinic Hospital for the next 25 years.
  • As a visiting professor he taught at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pittsburgh; Frankl lectured widely in Europe, the Americas, Australia, Asia and Africa. 
  • Frankl published 39 books, which were translated into 49 languages. He received 29 honorary doctoral degrees.
  • Even into his 90s Frankl continued to engage in dialogue with visitors from all over the world and to respond personally to some of the hundreds of letters he received every week.

12:00 – Major Themes of the Book

  • 3 Psychological Phases of Concentration Camp Prisoner
    • Phase 1: Admission to Camp => Shock
    • Phase 2: Daily Routine & Deaths => Apathy
    • Phase 3: Liberation => Depersonalization
  • Coping Mechanisms for Horrible Circumstances
    • Rich inner lives
    • Goals for the future
    • Perception of Choice 
  • What is Logotherapy?
    • Viktor Frankl’s experience in the concentration camps inspired him to develop logotherapy.
    • Logotherapy (from Greek “logos” or “meaning”) is a psychological approach that focuses on the meaning of human existence. It’s built on the principle that humans are motivated by meaning. We want to know why we exist, what we’re supposed to do, and that there’s value in our existence. 
  • Finding The Meaning of Life
    • There’s no universal definition for the meaning of life. Such meaning varies from person to person and from moment to moment. What truly matters is the meaning of your life right now, in this moment.
    • Three different ways to discover the meaning in our individual lives:
      • 1. By creating a work or doing a deed
      • 2. By experiencing something or encountering someone, and
      • 3. By the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering

16:30 – Jay’s Perspectives

  • What did you like best about Man’s Search for Meaning? 
    • Learning that there is no ONE meaning of life; we all continuously redefine our own life meaning moment-by-moment as our circumstances change
  • Share a favorite quote (maybe 2). Why did this quote(s) stand out?
    • “Some men lost all hope, but it was the incorrigible optimists who were the most irritating companions.”
    • “I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, “homeostasis,” i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”
  • What did you learn from this book / How did this book change you?
    • I learned that pain and suffering is much less scary when I embrace the fact that my death is inevitable.
  • What did you like least (critique)?
    • I would like the second half of the book where Frankl dives into Logotherapy to be more user-friendly. Many readers won’t be able to follow phrases like “In logotherapy, love is not interpreted as a mere epiphenomenon of sexual drives and instincts in the sense of a so-called sublimation.”
  • What question(s) would you ask the author?
    • I want to get psychoanalysis from Frankl! I want him to work on me, analyze my mind and make me stronger and more capable!
  • What character, other than the main character, impacted you most and why?
    • I loved the story of the young woman who was dying in the camp and who talked every day to the chestnut tree outside her window. Before the concentration camp she was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously. Now, even as she was dying, she saw beauty in that tree and in life.
  • Any other related/connected books that you’d recommend to others?
    • “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. Another story about the holocaust, but unlike any I’ve book ever read. The main character is Death – who is very impressed with how a young German girl brings joy to others, despite the chaos and horror around her.

24:00 – Matt’s Perspectives

  • What did you like best about Man’s Search for Meaning? 
    • Incredible description of the physical and mental process necessary to survive a concentration camp
  • Share a favorite quote (maybe 2). Why did this quote(s) stand out?
    • Concerning returning home from concentration camps: A man who for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now found that suffering has no limits, and that he could suffer still more, and still more intensely.
    • If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.
  • What did you learn from this book / How did this book change you?
    • Enjoyed learning about Logotherapy and how there are forms of psychology that really help people, unlike many forms currently in practice; Also the incredible first-person experience of the concentration camps.
  • What did you like least? (critique)
    • Different parts of book are really for different audiences
  • What question(s) would you ask the author?
    • How did your philosophy of Logotherapy change during and after your experience in the camps?
  • “What character, other than the main character, impacted you most and why?”
    • The Capos – Jewish prisoners who are in charge of keeping order
  • Any other related/connected books that you’d recommend to others?

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Man's Search for Meaning – Bookcast #18 2

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