I’m not sure how to review this book. For those who don’t know (am I the only one who never had to read this in high school?), the first half is an account of Frankl’s time in concentration camps during World War II, while the second half discusses in more detail the psychotherapy that Frankl developed, logotherapy.
And now that I’ve summarized it, I still don’t know how to proceed from here. I don’t think this book can be reviewed in the traditional sense–I certainly don’t want to critique Frankl’s concentration camp experiences, other than to say if you haven’t read the story of at least one Holocaust survivor, you really should, and if you find reading about it to be painful and upsetting (which. . .I would guess most of us do?), well, at least Man’s Search for Meaning is short. I don’t really want to provide any anecdotes from the book, because they’re all horrific, as you might’ve guessed.
Yet somehow after reading it I felt good. Maybe there is something to Frankl’s philosophy. Logotherapy is the idea that all life has meaning, and that our will to live is actually our will to find that meaning in our own lives. He proposed three ways by which a person could find meaning: by doing or creating something meaningful; by the act of loving someone; or by the attitude a person has toward unavoidable suffering. By concentrating on this meaning, we can find the strength to keep living. Maybe you find the meaning in your career, or in artistic pursuits, or raising your children, caring for an elderly parent, loving your partner. . . whatever it is, according to Frankl, if you focus your attention on it you will find that you have the will to carry on even at your lowest point. He also believes that suffering can have meaning. For example, if you’re in mourning for a deceased loved one, by being the one who lived instead of the one who died, you spared your loved one the suffering you are now facing.
This book was depressing, but it was also uplifting. If, like me, you never had to read it in school, I’d give it a shot. It’s a quick read and worthwhile one. I think almost everyone could get something out of it.