Viktor Frankl's Search For Meaning In His Work Man's Search For Meaning

1296 words - 5 pages

In his work Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl narrates his experience in a concentration camp which led to his development of logotherapy, a form of existential psychoanalysis. He was an abused prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, and there he found himself contemplating to his own bare existence. His entire family was killed in these camps, and his possessions as well as much of his life's work were taken from him. In the brutal environment of the concentration camps, he was threatened with immediate death at all times. One wonders how he could refrain from suicide and continue to find life worthwhile. I feel that his credentials as a psychiatrist are buoyed by his witnessing such extreme and horrific events. Because he has faced and survived these conditions, his arguments to me are much more convincing. Frankl, more than any of the philosophers we have studied this semester, seems more able to accurately view the human condition wisely and compassionately. Frankl's argument seems extremely truthful, since he bases them upon experiences so challenging and terrible that most of us cannot begin to imagine them.Frankl observed the phenomenon that many of the prisoners of the concentration camp died while experiencing less hardship and suffering than those who survived. The survivors were, in general, people who envisioned a future for themselves despite their present suffering and believed they had a meaning in life. They did not succumb to despair because they continued to live through focusing upon this meaning. Based upon these observations, he developed a psychological treatment method called logotherapy, which he describes in detail in the second section of the book. Frankl describes logotherapy as striving to find a meaning in one's life in order to escape despair and depression. Frankl helped patients improve their mental health by helping them to discover meaning in their lives. Although Frankl calls himself and is most likely an existentialist, his philosophy is not like the existentialism of despair of Sartre or Camus. Frankl is a scientist who believes that gathering empirical knowledge from experience is a valuable way of learning. In Man's Search for Meaning, he wholeheartedly embraces life and believes we can make our lives meaningful by discovering our true reason for living.Frankl repeatedly questions other concentration camp prisoners as to why they feel they should survive their imprisonment. From their answers, he often finds the guide-line for his psychotherapy: in one life there is love for one's children; in another, a talent to be used; in a third, only memories worth preserving. To combine these elements of a subjugated human spirit into a solid vision of meaning and responsibility is the object and challenge of logotherapy, which is Frankl's own version of modern existential analysis. The narrative is well constructed and gripping. Around the midpoint of the story, Frankl introduces the philosophy of logotherapy....

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