When we saw a comrade smoking his own cigarettes, we knew he had given up faith in his strength to carry on, and, once lost, the will to live seldom returned. Viktor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning
Book: Man’s Search for Meaning
Author: Viktor Frankl
Read: July 2019
The true story of Viktor Frankl’s experiences as a prisoner in a concentration camp during World War II. Through his struggles, he forms what it means to survive and defy all odds to conquer himself and his mind.
If hundreds of thousands of people reach out for as book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails.
I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of a concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable one.
“Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to cause greater than oneself or as they by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run, I say—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”
There was neither time nor desire to consider moral of ethical issues. Every man was controlled by one thought only: to keep himself alive for the family waiting for him at home, and to save his friends.
On the average, only those prisoners could keep alive who, after years of trekking from camp to camp, had lost all scruples in their fight for existence; they were” prepared to use every means, honest and otherwise, even brutal force, theft and betrayal of their friends, in order to save themselves.
I was number 119,104
When we saw a comrade smoking his own cigarettes, we knew he had given up faith in his strength to carry on, and, once lost, the will to live seldom returned.
Step by step we had to become accustomed to a terrible and immense horror. “delusion of reprieve”. The condemned man, immediately before his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprieved at the very last minute.
Fifteen hundred captives were cooped up in a shed built to accommodate probably two hundred at the most. We were cold and hungry and there was not enough room for everyone to squat on the bare ground, let alone lie down. One five-ounce piece of bread was our only food for days.
The most painful part of beatings is the insult which they imply.
I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in his sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare. Since I had always been especially sorry for people who suffered from fearful dreams or deliria, I wanted to wake the poor man. Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shake him, frightened at the thing I was about to do. At that moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him.
The book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is broken into two separate sections. The first section, the autobiographical section of Frankl’s time in the concentration camps, and the second, the psychology behind his Logotherapy, parts of which he credits to Stoicism.
I would highly recommend the entire book, but the first section of it is what really speaks to the mentality he formed during the horrific events he endured in the concentration camps.
We have power over how we choose to respond to events. Frankl constantly reminds us through the book that even throughout these horrific atrocities which he faced, it was his mindset that helped him overcome much of the abuse.
I highly recommend this book to everyone as it not only speaks to the mental strength one can form, but also the fact that it is a life changing book.