Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning; By Viktor E. Frankl

There certainly are a lot of self-help books out there, written by a lot of so-called experts on stress management and life coaching. Which one of the recent avalanche is worth your money?

None of ‘em. The only self-help book worth your money isn’t even a self-help book. It’s usually sold under psychology. It’s “Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy” (1946) written by Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997), a Nazi concentration camp survivor. Now, honestly — who do you think knows more about getting through stressful times — someone who lived through Auschwitz, or someone who chats with Oprah?

Other self-help books are nice and they can give you ideas or a good laugh, but you can get them for free in a library. This is the only one I recommend actually buying.

Brace Yourself

This isn’t “Chicken Soup of the Soul.” The book has a very grim beginning and a somber tone throughout. Frankl doesn’t dwell on the horrors he witnessed, although what he does mention can be nightmare-inducing. However, he never gets maudlin or even self-pitying. “Bad things happen and that’s the way things are,” is more the tone of voice you’ll find in “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

But if you can find a meaning for your life, it makes getting through the bad times that much easier. Frankl’s meaning was to survive long enough to write a book. He would eventually start the logotherapy movement in psychology, which teaches that the quest to find their own meaning to their lives is the prime driving force behind a person’s actions.

Personal Reaction

I find the book even more comforting than many modern self-help or positive thinking books. I have been through too much

in my personal life to pay much attention to “rah-rah” books (as I call them).  I’ve been robbed, cheated, beaten up and had my home flooded out and then burnt down in the course of my life.  I have endogenous recurring depression.  And I firmly believe I did wish these things upon myself.  These events just happened.  No one’s to blame.  But I am to blame if I keep wallowing in self-pity.

For example, I really didn’t want to get out of bed today.  But I have to go to work.  The meaning is to get money for food.  It might not be a really deep meaning, but it’s meaning enough.

You will find your own meaning when going through incredibly stressful situations.  For example, perhaps you’re stuck in a dead-end retail job (which has also happened to me).  It’s the best job you can find.  You hate it, but you’ve got to bring home a paycheck.  Your meaning is to bring food home to your family.  That’s a noble goal.  You have to focus on that in order to keep from going starkers, sometimes.

And it certainly helps to breathe deeply in these stressful situations.  “Man’s Search for Meaning” helps remind me to keep breathing deeply when life sucks.

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