According to “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, finding meaning through suffering is one of the most elusive challenges that humanity must face. The author, doctor, and concentration camp survivor asserts that having and envisioning a definite future goal provides sufferers with deep meaning. That sense of purpose can carry people through even their worst nightmares. These teachings have formed the basis of logotherapy, which focuses the patients’ energies on securing that profound sense of meaning in their lives. His ideas about meaning indeed carried him through one of the most trying times in history.
Readers get a firsthand account of the author’s struggles during the German Holocaust and the personal journey that he endured. The first half comprises his memoir, but part two brings to light the connections that he made between those experiences and logotherapy. From his time in the camps, he delves into why some people could persevere while others succumbed to hopelessness. He explains that suffering does not need to be as extensive and encompassing as his was to derail you from your purpose. However, you ultimately get to choose how you respond to your struggles. Dr. Frankl’s message may seem simple, but he answers many big questions about life.
A lifetime of neurological and psychological study informed the wide-reaching spiritual insights in this book. One central theme that runs through the memoir and what follows is that having hope and a dream can keep you going when all else is lost. Moreover, having everything that you want can still lead to despair if you do not cultivate those inner qualities. Thus, a recent retiree who never considered what retirement would look like can have a worse fate than the person who ends up working until the end. Dr. Frankl makes it clear that suffering is individual and unique, applying his ideology to every situation, no matter how severe.