Descriptions of Life in Nazi Death Camps in Man's Search for Meaning

How did anyone survive the tortuous conditions in the concentration camps in Germany? As a survivor, Viktor Frankl discusses how he observed himself and other survivors find meaning in the terrible suffering they endured.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

At the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.

Beacon Press, the original English-language publisher of Man's Search for Meaning, is issuing this new paperback edition with a new Foreword, biographical Afterword, jacket, price, and classroom materials to reach new generations of readers.

Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is a book that any reader can learn from. Frankl shares his experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, and how this experience helped him to develop an approach to psychotherapy (called logotherapy).

The book continues with Frankl describing his philosophy of psychiatric treatment, "logotherapy", that is, therapy based on discovering meaning in one's life. Based in large part on his observations in the camps, Frankl developed a method of treating depression which rejected the Freudian approach of dwelling on the past, wallowing in childhood traumas, in favor of focusing on the future, discovering personal meaning in one's present context. The idea of proper context is important here. Frankl enjoins against the notion of a One True Meaning of Life. The analogy he uses is that of asking the chess grand master, "What is the best move in the world?"

Frankl does not deny the usefulness of Jung's or Freud's work, but he does not stop there -- he continues where they left off. His brand of pychology he calls "logotherapy" -- or "meaning therapy". In this sort of analysis, he tries to get the individual to look at their present life rather than examing complexes, phobias or dreams. Many people who are unsatisfied in their lives can trace this to a nagging sense of meaning starvation. This can be overcome, in Frankl's view. He doesn't give any very good ideas as to how one is to go about doing this in much detail, but then again, this is just an introductory text.

The problem of meaning is a topic that also embraces a religious perspective on life, and it may be of interest to those who wish to pursue this further. It is a very inspirational book and contains many helpful insights for those who are struggling with any sort of suffering, pain, or grief, which they are powereless to combat.

Although this is "An introduction to Logotherapy" the implications of Man's Search for Meaning  are much more profound then simply a psychology text-book or a do-it-yourself self-help book. This book does not play the part of creating a sugared life, denying that real struggles, real trials, and real pain do exist. But in acknowledging suffering, this book does not attach meaninglessness to life, which is so easy to do when a person does profoundly suffer. Instead Frankl asserts a beauty to life that is inclusive of both suffering and meaning.