Man’s Search for Meaning is a provocative autobiography written by Viktor Frankl, a former inmate of a Nazi death camp. First published in 1956, the book is a case study of Logotherapy, an innovative form of psychotherapy, and how it allowed Frankl to maintain his humanity under horrific circumstances.
The main point of the story, which Frankl repeatedly conveys, is that “It is not how you avoid suffering but rather how you cope with it that keeps your spirit intact or shatters it altogether.” This is demonstrated in many cases, most powerfully as Frankl is being transferred from one camp to another. As he rode in a cramped filthy train, he was unaware of where he was going. The only two possibilities were Mauthausen or Dachau. Although Frankl was supposed to have stayed in Auschwitz with his friends, he did not despair when the SS rounded him up. Rather he rejoiced, as the train headed toward Dachau rather than the certain death of Mauthausen.
In addition, he focused not on how bad things were in the camps, or how good things used to be, but rather he set goals for the future, such as becoming a professor of psychology, and completing his book. This gave his life a purpose, and motivated him to keep on living.
Although the book was unpleasant to me, I learned valuable lessons from it. I learned how best to persevere through my sufferings in life without losing my humanity. I also learned how important a person’s state of mind and outlook on life are to achieving a meaningful existence.