Last year, I volunteered to walk in the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention 5k Out Of The Darkness Walk. There was a booth there where a man was giving this book away. He said most people commit suicide because they can’t find their meaning. My friend, who volunteered with me, said David Foster Wallace (her favorite author) recommended this book as a must-read.
I believe the message was good: meaning will keep you going. Having him talk about his time in the concentration camps and what he experienced witnessing others fight and/or give up was very dramatic and well exemplified his theory. However, I felt the writing was very dry so it took a while to finish.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it. At one point, Frankl writes that a person “may remain brave, dignified and unselfish, or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.”
And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers 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.
I remember reading a book where the author said his mom told him that as a human, your purpose was to overcome your instincts. To be better. Therefore, if your instict is survival, you were to strive to be more than just that.
I always wonder how I will behave if I were imprisoned. It is such a good excuse to ignore all morals and just go with it. It’s easier than enduring the pain without lashing out. However, I know that if I make it out alive, I wouldn’t be proud of myself or my behavior. It’s why the Stanford Prison Experiment was such an eye opener.
When I watched the first season of Orange Is The New Black, I remember thinking “how freeing must it be to let your filters down. To just go full mental.” I, of course, realized that this was only a show and that real prisons aren’t as lenient or fun as the show makes it seem, but the idea of not needing to care about your personality felt like a burden has been removed.
But a personality is very different than that of an identity. I think this whole book was focusing on remembering your identity throughout the situations. To never falter who you are for what is convenient in that moment. Frankl was spared from being treated badly because of who he was and how she expressed himself. He wasn’t preferred for any other reason.
The salvation of man is through love and in love.
As someone who has struggled defining what love is, this seems extremely discouraging. However, I do understand that love has some mystical powers that no other emotion has. It drives people insane. It gives them courage. It warms. It pains. It is the most difficult thing to explain.
A prisoner who had lost his faith in the future–his future–was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.
We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly.
This is a good definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Surviving is only the first part of the battle. Finding how to move on is the war.
What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.
The existential vacuum manifest itself mainly in a state of boredom. Now we can understand Schopenhauer when he said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom.
Self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.
In other words, find a passion.
What can never be ruled out is the unavoidability of suffering. In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end.
Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.
(Frankl believes that the answer to the meaning of life is being responsible.”Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”)
Featured image from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4069.Man_s_Search_for_Meaning