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Man's Search for Meaning: A Comprehensive Summary
To say that Man’s Search for Meaning is a book about the Holocaust would be to limit the book’s relevance. Of course, Frankl does share his experiences as a prisoner in some of the Holocaust’s most violent camps, but the book that was written as a product of his experiences parallels Frankl’s main message about this dark time in his life, as well as his psychological philosophy: meaning can be found in everything we do.
Frankl’s experiences as a prisoner are not meant to explain the horrors that millions of individuals faced in concentration camps. It also does not focus on the heroes of the camps: men and women who somehow triumphed over their position in grand ways. Rather, Frankl shares his experiences in order to shed light on the day to day lives of the average inmate and the fact that they are his personal experiences validates many of his observations, as well as his resulting psychological theories. By personalizing what happened to the men around him, Frankl’s message about finding hope and purpose in even the worst situations is highlighted.
Logotherapy, Frankl’s psychological theory, posits that all individuals in life struggle to find meaning, and many of the neuroses that patients develop are a result of not fulfilling this goal. Meaning is not something that one discovers in life, however. It is something that every individual must define for himself, moment to moment. This can be done through the work that they do, the love that they have for another human being, or the way in which they endure suffering. Suffering in particular is a point of focus in logotherapy because it shows that even in the worst conditions imaginable, even in Auschwitz and with no liberties, there is meaning and purpose to find in transcending our human limitations and choosing to endure our suffering with dignity and even pride.
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