Does life have meaning, even in the worst situations?
This is the story of Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, philosopher, and Holocaust survivor. Not only did he survive, but he came away from that unimaginable horror with a profound sense of love, compassion, and significance. He would go on to teach that suffering is a normal part of the human condition. We can’t avoid it. In fact, there are a lot of things that will happen to us that are completely out of our control. But we do have one thing that we can control – how we choose to respond. How you choose to respond is the key to growth.
The first half of the book is his account of what it was like to live through that horrific time in history. It’s a reminder of how terrible humans can be to one another and how others found a way to survive. The depth of suffering is great, so a caution to some readers who might find the material disturbing. Dr Frankl doesn’t go into graphic detail, but it is pretty intense at times.
The second half of the book is more on the wisdom he learned through this experience and the development of what would come to be known as existential philosophy. It is a way to look for meaning and purpose in life, no matter what the context or how great the suffering.
What can be learned from suffering and pain?
No suffering or trial in life is wasted if we can learn from it, grow in maturity, and gain compassion and love for our fellow brothers and sisters in humanity. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Meaning in life is possible for everyone. You don’t have to be a genius, special talent, or extraordinary at something to find meaning in life.
What is going on in your life? Can you choose to respond in a different way, in a way that is more healthy and beneficial for those around you? I think we all can. That’s a great goal to have.
Man’s Search For Meaning is possibly the most impactful book that I have ever read. It is very deep and you can continue to learn from it as you read it again and again at different points in life. Here’s a great quote from Dr Frankl to end with:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”