from Man's Search for Meaning
by Viktor Frankl
ARE YOU PRONE TO DESPAIR?
I highly recommend this book for anyone who questions
life and wonders if it has any meaning or value. Frankl's reason for
writing his life affirming book:
"I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of concrete
example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions,
even the most miserable ones. And I thought that if the point were
demonstrated in a situation as extreme as that in a concentration
camp, my book might gain a hearing. I therefore felt responsible
for writing down what I had gone through, for I thought it might
be helpful to people who are prone to despair."
"WHY DO YOU NOT COMMIT SUICIDE?"
DR. FRANKL ASKS HIS PATIENTS
from preface to Man's Search for Meaning by Gordon W. Allport
"...in one life there is love for one's children to tie to;
in another life, a talent to be used; in a third, perhaps only
lingering memories worth preserving... As a long-time prisoner
in bestial concentration camps he [Viktor Frankl] found himself
stripped to naked existence. His father, mother, brother, and his
wife died in camps or were sent to gas ovens, so that, excepting
for his sister, his entire family perished in these camps. How
could he - every possession lost, every value destroyed, suffering
from hunger, cold and brutality, hourly expecting extermination
- how could he find life worth preserving?"
Even in the degradation and abject misery of a concentration camp,
Frankl was able to exercise the most important freedom of all - the
freedom to determine one's own attitude and spiritual well-being.
No sadistic Nazi SS guard was able to take that away from him or
control the inner-life of Frankl's soul. One of the ways he found
the strength to fight to stay alive and not lose hope was to think
of his wife. Frankl clearly saw that it was those who had nothing
to live for who died quickest in the concentration camp.
"He who has a why for life can put with any how."
Frankl wrote the following while
stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles,
along the one road running through the camp. The accompanying guards
kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone
with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a
word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his hand
behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If
our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps
and don't know what is happening to us."
being marched to forced labor in a Nazi concentration camp:
That brought thoughts of my own wife
to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting
each other time and again, dragging one another on and upward, nothing
was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally
I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light
of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds.
But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny
acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging
look. Real or not, her look then was more luminous than the sun which
was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first
time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets,
proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth--that
love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.
Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry
and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man
is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing
left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment,
in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation,
when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only
achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way--an
honorable way--in such a position man can, through loving contemplation
of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the
first time in my life, I was able to understand the words, "The angels
are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."
In front of me a man stumbled and
those following him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used
his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a few minutes.
But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoners existence to
another world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions,
and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered...
My mind still clung to the image of
my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were
still alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison
life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it
ceased to matter. There was no need to know; nothing could touch the
strength of my love, and the thoughts of my beloved. Had I known then
that my wife was dead, I think that I still would have given myself,
undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of that image,
and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid
and just as satisfying. "Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love
is as strong as death."
Man's Search for Meaning
Both a concentration camp prisoner and world-respected author
and psychotherapist in his lifetime, Viktor Frankl writes the following
advice about happiness:
"Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and
America: Don't aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it
a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness,
cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended
side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than
oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other
than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success:
you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen
to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it
out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that
in the long-run - in the long-run, I say! - success will follow you
precisely because you had forgotten to think about it."
Of course, the important part is the "...in the long-run..."
A great man has left the earth; let us not forget
him or his message.
Rest in peace Viktor Frankl!
VIKTOR FRANKL, RENOWNED AUSTRIAN PSYCHIATRIST, DEAD AT 92
3 September 1997
Web posted at: 23:37 CEST, Paris time (21:37 GMT)
VIENNA, Austria (AP) Viktor E. Frankl, author of the landmark "Man's
Search for Meaning" and one of the last great psychotherapists of this
century, has died of heart failure. He was 92.
Frankl died Tuesday and his funeral already has been held, the Austria
Press Agency reported today, citing the Vienna Viktor Frankl Institute.
It gave no further details.
"Vienna, and the world, lost in Victor Frankl not only one of the
most important scientists of this century but a monument to the spirit
and the heart," said Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl.
Frankl survived the Holocaust, even though he was in four Nazi death
camps including Auschwitz from 1942-45, but his parents and other members
of his family died in the concentration camps.
During and partly because of his suffering in concentration camps,
Frankl developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as
At the core of his theory is the belief that humanity's primary motivational
force is the search for meaning, and the work of the logotherapist
centers on helping the patient find personal meaning in life, however
dismal the circumstances may be.
Frankl's teachings have been described as the Third Vienna School
of Psychotherapy, after that of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler.
In "Man's Search for Meaning," which has sold approximately nine
million copies worldwide and been translated into twenty-three languages.
The Library of Congress called the book one of the ten most influential
books of the twentieth century. Frankl said: "There is nothing in the
world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive
even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning
in one's life."
According to logotherapy, meaning can be discovered by three ways: "(1)
by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or
encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable
suffering," he wrote.
"We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even
when confronted with a hopeless situation," he insisted, a theory he
gradually developed as a concentration camp survivor.
"As such, I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man
is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable," he
Viktor Emil Frankl was born in Vienna on March 26, 1905. His father
worked his way up from a parliamentary stenographer to director at
the Social Affairs Ministry. As a high school student involved in Socialist
youth organizations, Frankl became interested in psychology.
In 1930, he earned a doctorate in medicine and then was in charge
of a ward for the treatment of female suicide candidates. When the
Nazis took power in 1938, Frankl was put in charge of the neurological
department of the Rothschild Hospital, the only Jewish hospital in
the early Nazi years.
But in 1942, he and his parents were deported to the Theresienstadt
concentration camp near Prague.
Frankl returned to Vienna in 1945, where he became head physician
of the neurological department of the Vienna Polyclinic Hospital, a
position he held for 25 years. He was a professor of both neurology
Frankl's 32 books on existential analysis and logotherapy have been
translated into 26 languages. He held 29 honorary doctorates from universities
around the globe.
Starting in 1961, Frankl held five professorships in the United States
at Harvard and Stanford Universities as well as at universities in
Dallas, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
He was awarded the Oskar Pfister prize of the American Society of
Psychiatry, as well as honors from several European countries.
Frankl taught regularly at Vienna University until he was 85 and
was an avid mountain climber. He also earned a pilot's license at 67.
He is survived by his wife, Eleonore, and a daughter, Dr. Gabriele