Viktor Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning

I included some quotes from him below. Many relate to Viktor Frankl's struggle to find meaning as prisoner in a German concentration camp during the Holocaust. I guess his revelation was that he could get through extreme degradation and suffering by finding and actualizing meaning. He did this by acting on the small choices and actions still available to him. He called the system of therapy he developed throughout his life, "logotherapy." It focuses on a will to meaning as opposed to Adler's Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud's will to pleasure.

I suppose someone could follow Viktor Frankl's teachings in a way that excludes Christ. However, that's true of a lot of things. I find this Jewish man's insights amazingly consistent with Christianity. For students of psychology, his insights put Freud's theories on a surer, less fatalistic footing. His writings expose my blind spots and inspire me. If someone we're not a Christian, Viktor Frankl's teachings on meaning, choice, and responsibility could lead them to the door of faith. After that, it would be up to them to walk through.

I got carried away. Just skim through, if you like, until something catches your eye.
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.
Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.
It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by action. At other times it is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes man may be required simply to accept fate, to bear his cross.
Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives (Freudian psychoanalysis).
One of the basic tenets of logotherapy is that man’s concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see meaning in his life.
What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.
One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.
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.
The true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system.
The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.
According to logotherapy, we can discover meaning in life in three different ways:
  • By creating a work or doing a deed.
  • By experiencing something or encountering someone.
  • By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.
By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities.
Sex is justified, even sanctified, as soon as, but only as long as, it is a vehicle of love.
 Love is not understood as a mere side-effect of sex; rather, sex is a way of expressing the experience of that ultimate togetherness which is called love.
The unique human potential [is] to transform a personal tragedy into triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.
But in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning…To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.
Are you sure that the human world is a terminal point in the evolution of the cosmos? Is it not conceivable that there is still another dimension, a world beyond man’s world; a world in which the question of an ultimate meaning of human suffering would find an answer?
This ultimate meaning necessarily exceeds and surpasses the finite intellectual capacities of man.

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