Monday, June 12, 2023

Man's Search for Meaning By Viktor Frankl

A while back, I kept hearing people mention the book "Man's Search for Meaning" By Viktor Frankland how it is a must read. A book written in 1946. Finally I read it, and it really did help me see things in a way I never fully realized. 

It's about a psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl who ended up in a concentration camp during WW2. It tells of how Viktor had a chance to leave, before the Nazi's came because he managed to get a passport. However, he didn't feel right about leaving his parents behind, so he stayed. At that time he didn't fully know what was going to happen.    

He was captured. Instead of being gassed, they used him for slave labor. The conditions as we know were horrible. They had to work in freezing weather without enough food, with rags for clothes and worn out shoes. Then diseases like typhus came through the camps. All the while the Nazi's beat them for every little reason. 

As a psychiatrist, he realized he was in a position to not only observe human behavior under the worst conditions, but to also experience it. He observed that some prisoners simply gave up and committed suicide or they would just lay in their bunk refusing to get up even if they were beaten. Some people just didn't want to live anymore. 

Then there were others who kept trying to survive. He found that these prisoners kept something to look forward to first in their mind. Then they would dwell on it. Sometimes they thought of things they enjoyed from the past. Viktor would think of happy times in the past with his wife. He would even imagine her talking to him. He didn't even know if she was alive (she wasn't.) Another thing is that he had been working on a book, and he looked forward to getting it published. These things kept him from not giving up. Viktor also helped other prisoners to find a purpose to help them go on. He says that even in a concentration camp one could find purpose. I can only imagine how difficult that must've been.  

The book also talks about the difficulties survivors faced. For example, all they thought about was being free, only to come home and find out they lost their spouses, children, etc. This made it difficult for survivors to find any happiness, even after being free. 

While reading this book, I thought back to times when I've had some sort of purpose and/or goal. It was in those times that I felt more alive than ever. It's when you give up on that goal, one one can fall into the rut of depression and anxiety. 

One of my goals was to have and raise kids. When I look back on those days, I feel like I'm in a happy place. Yet, nothing stays the same. I remember a time when summer was coming to an end, and I still hadn't gone anywhere the kids (now in their late teens.) They didn't want to do anything I mentioned. They were too busy with their own friends. For so long, they had been my purpose and now they preferred other people. It's a common thing for moms to feel that empty nest syndrome. I went through that for awhile, and simply told myself "Don't worry. They'll need you again. Watch and see." And that is honestly true.

There are people who reach amazing goals and become famous. Soon they realize it's a hard struggle to stay on top. This is because change is inevitable. This tends to be an unpleasant surprise for many.   

Of course, I've had the "let's write and publish a book that sells." ambition. For the first book, things were much more hopeful and exciting. Then I found out this is not easy. Sure it feels good to publish a novel, and I have some small successes here and there. I've enjoyed making other writer friends. Yet, sometimes I've thought: "Why do you keep this goal when it's so hard?" 

Then I read this book, and my question was answered. It drove home the importance of having a purpose, a goal, a dream regardless if you ever reach your goal or not.  This is because it's good for you. Without that dream, one is just existing. There is meaning in the journey, and it's a good time, whether or not you fully get to that big dream. 

And of course, read Viktor's book!

1 comment:

  1. It's good to have goals. Mine are a lot less fanciful today than they were 15 years ago but such is the way of things.