Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl - Highlights
January 17, 2021 · 4 min · Saeed
Nietzsche: “He who has a Why to live for, can bear almost any How.”
Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning.
The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life.
Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during diffcult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.
Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
In psychiatry there is a certain condition known as “delusion of reprieve.” The condemned man, immediately before his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprieved at the very last minute.
An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.
everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Dostoevski said once, “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.”
If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.
“Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already.”
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.
When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.
But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.
Psychologically, what was happening to the liberated prisoners could be called “depersonalization.” Everything appeared unreal, unlikely, as in a dream. We could not believe it was true. How often in the past years had we been deceived by dreams! We dreamt that the day of liberation had come, that we had been set free, had returned home, greeted our friends, embraced our wives, sat down at the table and started to tell of all the things we had gone through—even of how we had often seen the day of liberation in our dreams. And then— a whistle shrilled in our ears, the signal to get up, and our dreams of freedom came to an end. And now the dream had come true. But could we truly believe in it?
back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.
is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.
“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”
happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to “be happy.” Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically. As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation.
people have enough to live by but nothing to live for;
George A. Sargent was right when he promulgated the concept of “learned meaninglessness.” He himself remembered a therapist who said, “George, you must realize that the world is a joke. There is no justice, everything is random. Only when you realize this will you understand how silly it is to take yourself seriously. There is no grand purpose in the universe. It just is. There’s no particular meaning in what decision you make today about how to act.”