The Meaning of Life?
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
In his bestselling 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the Nazi camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life.
In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents.
A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life.
He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”
When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, “Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.”
Frankl jumped out of his chair and responded, “Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?”
Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished — but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived.
Frankl notes that from his experience that a prisoner’s psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also from the freedom of choice he always has even in severe suffering.
Frankl states that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living; life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death.
As time passed, however, the prisoner’s experience in a concentration camp finally became nothing but a remembered nightmare.
In a group therapy session during a mass fast inflicted on the camp’s inmates trying to protect an anonymous fellow inmate from fatal retribution by authorities, Frankl offered the thought that for everyone in a dire condition there is someone looking down, a friend, family member, or even God, who would expect not to be disappointed.
Frankl identifies three psychological reactions experienced by all inmates to one degree or another:
(1) shock during the initial admission phase to the camp,
(2) apathy after becoming accustomed to camp existence, in which the inmate values only that which helps himself and his friends survive, and
(3) reactions of depersonalisation, moral deformity, bitterness, and disillusionment if he survives and is liberated.
The hope that had sustained them throughout their time in the concentration camp was now gone. This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love.
________________________________________________________________________ sources: Fein, Esther (1991). "Book Notes". New York Times. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 2.Noble, Holcomb B. (September 4, 1997). "Dr. Viktor E. Frankl of Vienna, Psychiatrist of the Search for Meaning, Dies at 92". The New York Times. pp. Section B, page 7. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 3."Viktor Frankl Life and Work". Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna. 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 4. Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl. Beacon Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-8070-1426-4 5. Frankl, Viktor (1959). Man's Search for Meaning. ISBN 9780807014295. 6. Man's Search for Meaning, Part One, "Experiences in a Concentration Camp", Viktor Frankl, Pocket Books, ISBN 978-0-671-02337-9 pp. 56–57 7. If freedom is to endure, liberty must be joined with responsibility. Statue of Responsibility, Warnock, C. (2005) Daily Herald (Utah). Retrieved, October 20, 2009. 8. Man's Search for Meaning,Frankl, V., Beacon Press, 2006. p. 77.