Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Man's Search for Meaning

Thanks to Michelle for lending me her copy of Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning". It is an interesting read. Victor Frankl was a prisoner in the German concentration camps during World War II. Every member of his family, except his sister perished in these camps. He was stripped of all posessions, including the manuscript of a book he was writing. During this experience, which he describes in the first half of his book, he discovered the thought process that led to what he calls logotherapy. Dr. Frankl describes in vivid detail the suffering he experienced and witnessed. One thought he had early was how he clung to the image of his wife. He did not even know if she were still alive, and in fact she was not. He explains learning that love goes far beyond the physical person of the beloved and finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance. He still had vivid mental conversations with her that helped sustain him. Dr. Frankl tells of a time he was asked "Can you tell me in one sentence, what is the difference between logotherapy and psychoanalysis?" He answered, "Yes, but can you first tell me in one sentence the essence of psychoanalysis?" The answer was, "During psychoanalysis, the patient must lie down on a couch and tell you things which sometimes are disagreeable to tell." Dr. Frankl's retort was "Now, in logotherapy the patient may remain sitting erect but he must hear things which are sometimes very disagreeable to hear." His reply was meant facetiously, but he also realized that compared to psychoanalysis, logotherapy is less retrospective and less introspective. "Logotherapy focuses rather on the future, that is to say, on the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future."

Few people will read to the end if I continue a full summary of the book. Frankl suggests that suffering can be a blessing in the long run and he condenses his approach to mentoring people to this one statement; "Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now." What do you think of that statement? Please think about it and leave a comment.

14 comments:

Lerra said...

Hmmm...that sounds a lot like "Castaway". Tom Hanks' character survived on the island by thinking of his wife, even though he had no idea she had moved on without him. I love that movie.

I'm still thinking about that last statement to determine a comment for it...

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