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Man's Search For Meaning: Saying yes to life in spite of everything.

Andrea Seydel

Man's Search For Meaning By Viktor E. Frankl


Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir walks us through his descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. In his book he describes many of the experiences he had while in these concentration camps. He explains that through these horrible experiences his worldview changed completely. He shares these ideas so that we can get an idea of what Frankl was exposed to for the time he was a there. He discovered much of his own existence, which progressively helped him to develop his theory of logotherapy. First book called; Saying yes to life in spite of everything. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

Frankl's theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.


Frankl Shares his experiences: Concentration camps, forced to work, little food, if tired or fatigue you were hit or killed. People unfit or unhealthy were killed right away, During all this he kept several things in his mind in order not to succumb to being killed. As long as a person has a reason to live, a 'why', he can always face any obstacle that may arise. He also discovered that a in order to have this reason to live, it in not necessary to have any expectations in life. Frankl does a good job recounting his experience in a way that we can put ourselves in his place and at least feel a little bit of the situation that the had been in for so long.

It is absolutely essential to have a reason to live, otherwise we will just be someone waiting to die. He said that the reason most of the prisoners did not survive was because they abandoned their reason to be, because they let the situation take control of their will, when in the end, we are the ones who control our own actions, we are the only ones who can control our will even if our environment has a strong influence on us and our situation.

Frankl also talks about the importance of love and hope. Love can be our guide in the darkest moments. Frankl says he was a able to survive mostly because of his love fo his wife. Memories and thinking of her kept him going. He also said hope is also extremely important. Losing hope can be fatal, while keeping it alive can even save our lives.

Frankl walks us through lessons that he discovered.Logotherapy- Logotherapy is based on the idea that we are strongly motivated to live purposefully and meaningfully, and that we find meaning in life as a result of responding authentically and humanely (i.e. meaningfully) to life's challenges

Key Take Aways

Lesson 1: The 'Why' is the Key:

The way of living that each person chooses to embrace is as varied as humanity itself. Having a why to live for is essential to know what you want for yourself, what you are willing to do to have the life your wish.

Our Aim, our goal. The "how" can be challenging as life presents problems and struggles but the 'why' is a beacon of light in storms. The why gives us reason to live. Instead of looking at life in what it will bring you, consider Why you are here and what will you bring to life. When we lack 'why' we will never find hope.

Lesson 2: Even Without Expectations, we can Find a Reason to Live

When faced with challenge, many people would lose faith in life, the purpose of their own existence. We do not need to have expectations in order to have a reason to live, we do not need to wait for anything, we just need to find meaning. Think about an incident, What were your have expectations: What would happen if you had not had aa reason to live?

We need to stop asking what fate will bring us, we have to stops asking ourselves what life means to us and rather ask ourselves WHAT WE MEAN TO LIFE, what it expects of us. Life is about taking responsibility for our own destiny and finding the answer to our own problems. Even when we don't have much hope in our lives, we must always embrace our reason to live.

Lesson 3: Love is Salvation

Love is the main theme of many Stories, poems, songs, movies, books etc. Love means different things to different People. Frankl explains that love is what goes beyond all our emotions, all our misfortunes, and all the challenges we endure or overcome in our lives.

Love illuminates us, guides us, conquers everything even when we abandon all hope. Love can provide small moments of happiness which can support ourselves despite what is happening around us. Love can become your salvation in a world that's as dark and harsh as a concentration camp. It is through love and being in love that we find guidance and an antidote to darkness. Who and what is your source of love?

Lesson 4: The Resistance of the Human Body (and Mind) Is beyond imagination

THe human body and mind are very adaptable, very evolutive and very strong. The human being can resist more than we think. Your body is not limited The body and mind is amazing. When have your been surprised as to what you body could handle? Your body can be more incredible than you imagined.

Lesson 5: Our Environment Does Not Determine Our Will

Is it our environment that makes decisions for us and makes us who we are or we ourselves are who makes our own decisions and have a will regardless of the environment in which we live? we are not slaves to our circumstances.

Frankl assures us that the actions of the human being are not totally determined by our environment, that each person has the power to choose what he or she wants to do and believe regardless of the environment and circumstances. We always have the power to choose. No one can steal that freedom from us. Analyze how much power the environment has in your situation. Determine which areas of your environment you have the power to control. Act based on what you can and cannot control.

Lesson 6: We Can Choose the Meaning of our Own Fate

Our life is full of experiences of all kinds. These experiences can be seen in two ways: good experiences or bad experiences. We choose how we want to see what happens to us, what attitude to take and what to do when we are going through them. We often assume that ignorer to be happy we must always try to have joyful experiences to make us feel good. Frankl explains that suffering' adds meaning to outlives and suffering can also be meaningful. Lack of joy, happiness, pleasure, and beauty does not make life devoid of meaning. It can actually make life more meaningful and more intense.

We must see the greatest problems as challenges, and even opportunities to learn , to improve, to evolve ourselves. Sometimes people assume their lives are hopeless and don't see the experience as a challenge and a chance to triumph. Think of an incident in your life, How did it affect you? How did you learn from that incident? What lessons have been helpful? How did those teaching change your life?

Lesson 7: Logotherapy is Amazingly Useful and Practical

Frankl developed a practical theory called Logotherapy to help people focus on building a better future, restore the persons life, and help them find purpose to help guide themselves in life. One of his techniques called Paradoxical Intention- what a person fears is actually what they are afraid of. Typically people are not actually scared of what they are afraid of, but what hey feel as they are afraid to feel it again. A helpful solution is to invite the specific fear to confront that fear. You can use this approach to overcome fears by applying the logotherapy technique.

Think of a phobia that is an obstacle. Determine what effect this phobia causes (sweating) What usually happens when you are in front of what causes you to be phobic. Think about the real dangers. expose yourself to what you are afraid of even if it's brief. While in front of what scares you ananlyze your fear. Probable the real fear of that which you thought you feared did not exist, but that it was the thought of it that terrified you.

Lesson 8: Hope can Literally Save us From Death

Hope often reflects our dreams, what we want, what we desire, what we yearn for. Having hope gives us strength over obstacles. When we are most pessimistic and beleive our lives are over, or we will never have the life we had hoped for, HOPE becomes our source for strength. Many people lose hope easily, pity party and wait for the worst to happen. Hope is one of the only guides in the most difficult moments.

Hope gives us remarkable motivation and well-being. Our minds and body are connected. Hope transmits to the immune e system and the whole body in genreal. The positive energy of hope from our mind and thoughts become critical for our health. How has hope helped you? How hard has it been to keep hope in tough situations? What would have happened if you did not have hope?


What lesson or lessons from Frankl resonated with you the most? How will you apply this lesson to your life?

My personal take aways: 1. We always need a reason to live. 2. Love goes beyond all suffering. 3. Our environment is a major influence. However, it can never control our will. 4. Our whole life and everything in it has meaning. 5.Find reason to live. What WE MEAN TO LIFE, What does life expect of me?

Andrea Seydel

As aa Book Doula, I help people read, write and publish books!


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