Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy / Edition 3

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Overview

Now in its 60th year — the landmark bestseller by the great Viennese psychiatrist remembered for his tremendous impact on humanity

Internationally renowned psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps. During, and partly because of, his suffering, Dr. Frankl developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy. At the core of his theory is the belief that man's primary motivational force is his search for meaning.

Cited in Dr. Frankl's New York Times obituary in 1997 as "an enduring work of survival literature," Man's Search for Meaning is more than the story of Viktor E. Frankl's triumph: It is a remarkable blend of science and humanism and "a compelling introduction to the most significant psychological movement of our day" (Gordon W. Allport).

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What People Are Saying

Patrick J. Williams
Viktor Frankl's timeless formula for survival. One of the classic psychiatric texts of our time, Man's Search for Meaning is a meditation on the irreducible gift of one's own counsel in the face of great suffering, as well as a reminder of the responsibility each of us owes in valuing the community of our humanity. There are few wiser, kinder, or more comforting challenges than Frankl's.
— Patricia J. Williams, author of Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671244224
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 10/1/1984
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 189
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.41 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Preface

DR. FRANKL, AUTHOR-PSYCHIATRIST, SOMETIMES asks his patients who suffer from a multitude of torments great and small, "Why do you not commit suicide?" From their answers he can often find the guide-line for his psychotherapy: in one life there is love for one's children to tie to; in another life, a talent to be used; in a third, perhaps only lingering memories worth preserving. To weave these slender threads of a broken life into a firm pattern of meaning and responsibility is the object and challenge of logotherapy, which is Dr. Frankl's own version of modern existential analysis.

In this book, Dr. Frankl explains the experience which led to his discovery of logotherapy. As a longtime prisoner in bestial concentration camps he found himself stripped to naked existence. His father, mother, brother, and his wife died in camps or were sent to the gas ovens, so that, excepting for his sister, his entire family perished in these camps. How could he — every possession lost, every value destroyed, suffering from hunger, cold and brutality, hourly expecting extermination — how could he find life worth preserving? A psychiatrist who personally has faced such extremity is a psychiatrist worth listening to. He, if anyone, should be able to view our human condition wisely and with compassion. Dr. Frankl's words have a profoundly honest ring, for they rest on experiences too deep for deception. What he has to say gains in prestige because of his present position on the Medical Faculty of the University in Vienna and because of the renown of the logotherapy clinics that today -are springing up in many lands, patterned on his own famous Neurological Policlinic in Vienna.

One cannot help but compare Viktor Frankl's approach to theory and therapy with the work of his predecessor, Sigmund Freud. Both physicians concern themselves primarily with the nature and cure of neuroses. Freud finds the root of these distressing disorders in the anxiety caused by conflicting and unconscious motives. Frankl distinguishes several forms of neurosis, and traces some of them (the noogenic neuroses) to the failure of the sufferer to find meaning and a sense of responsibility in his existence. Freud stresses frustration in the sexual life; Frankl, frustration in the "will-to-rneamng." In Europe today there is a marked turning away from Freud and a widespread embracing of existential analysis, which takes several related forms — the school of logotherapy being one. It is characteristic of Frankl's tolerant outlook that he does not repudiate Freud, but builds gladly on his contributions; nor does he quarrel with other forms of existential therapy, but welcomes kinship with them.

The present narrative, brief though it is, is artfully constructed and gripping. On two occasions I have read it through at a single sitting, unable to break away from its spell. Somewhere beyond the midpoint of the story Dr. Frankl introduces his own philosophy of logotherapy. He introduces it so gently into the continuing narrative that only after finishing the book does the reader realize that here is an essay of profound depth, and not just one more brutal tale of concentration camps. From this autobiographical fragment the reader learns much. He learns what a human being does when he suddenly realizes he has "nothing to lose except his so ridiculously naked life." Frankl's description of the mixed flow of emotion and apathy is arresting. First to the rescue comes a cold detached curiosity concerning one's fate. Swiftly, too, come strategies to preserve the remnants of one's life, though the chances of surviving are slight. Hunger, humiliation, fear and deep anger at injustice are rendered tolerable by closely guarded images of beloved persons, by religion, by a grim sense of humor, and even by glimpses of the healing beauties of nature — a tree or a sunset. But these moments of comfort do not establish the will to live unless they help the prisoner make larger sense out of his apparently senseless suffering. It is here that we encounter the central theme of existentialism: to live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is a purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering and in dying. But no man can tell another what this purpose is. Each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes. If he succeeds he will continue to grow in spite of all indignities. Frankl is fond of quoting Nietzsche, "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."

In the concentration camp every circumstance conspires to make the prisoner lose his hold. All the familiar goals in life are snatched away. What alone remains is "the last of human freedoms" — the ability to "choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances." This ultimate freedom, recognized by the ancient Stoics as well as by modern existentialists, takes on vivid significance in Frankl's story. The prisoners were only average men, but some, at least, by choosing to be "worthy of their suffering" proved man's capacity to rise above his outward fate.

As a psychotherapist, the author, of course, wants to know how men can be helped to achieve this distinctively human capacity. How can one awaken in a patient the feeling that he is responsible to life for something, however grim his circumstances may be? Frankl gives us a moving account of one collective therapeutic session he held with his fellow prisoners.

At the publisher's request Dr. Frankl has added a statement of the basic tenets of logotherapy as well as a bibliography. Up to now most of the publications of this "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy" (the predecessors being the Freudian and Adlerian Schools) have been chiefly in German. The reader will therefore welcome Dr. Frankl's supplement to his personal narrative.

Unlike many European existentialists, Frankl is neither pessimistic nor antireligious. On the contrary, for a writer who faces fully the ubiquity of suffering and the forces of evil, he takes a surprisingly hopeful view of man's capacity to transcend his predicament and discover an adequate guiding truth.

I recommend this little book heartily, for it is a gem of dramatic narrative, focused upon the deepest of human problems. It has literary and philosophical merit and provides a compelling introduction to the most significant psychological movement of our day.

GORDON W. ALLPORT

Gordon W. Allport, formerly a professor of psychology at Harvard University, was one of the foremost writers and teachers in the field in this hemisphere. He was author of a large number of original works on psychology and was the editor of the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. It is chiefly through the pioneering work of Professor Allport that Dr. Frankl's momentous theory was introduced to this country; moreover, it is to his credit that the interest shown here in logotherapy is growing by leaps and bounds.

Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1984 by Victor E. Frankl

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 46 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2002

    Extremely Relevant

    This book about the author's discovery during the holocaust of not only the need of man to search for meaning but rather his obligation to do so, naturally remains relevant today and will continue to in the future. However, it is especially relevant in examinging the displacement of individuals in modern times and how man's subjection over the past century to mass movements that have more or less failed has doomed him to a state in which he believes in nothing. A culture of apathy has developed, and Frankl shows why that is morally reprehensible. If the suffering of the holocaust is not an excuse to give up on searching for life's meaning, then disenchatment ceratinly isn't.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2001

    One Helpful Book

    I found this book to be very helpful and interesting in a time of great need. If there is anyone out there looking for a meaning to their life...this is definitely the book for them!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2009

    This IS the book.

    This is the book that I will continue to re-read/listen to for the rest of my life. It provides meaning to every environment - psychological, professional, social, political.
    This is a book you can fall asleep to, a book you can wake to, a book you can use to take a break from what you're doing, and return to.
    Incredible writing. Incredible insight. Incredible read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2000

    THE BEST BOOK ON THE HUMAN SOUL EVER

    In the history of the human spirit, no book has ever accomplished what Man's Search for Meaning has. This book is a true treasure. Any 'good' person should be required to read this book. If you read one book in your lifetime, make it this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2000

    Survival is emotional not physical

    In Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl uses important personal issues through a detachted voice to relay the mood of the Holocaust. The only strength important to survival is emotional not physical. Frankl shows through several instances that the will to survive is stronger. It is finding that will, that reason to survive, that saved lives and caused them to go on and not give up. This is a new aspect of the Holocaust, which doesn't focus on the pain and suffering but more of the hope that allows one to go on in these situations and never stop trying. Even in trying to survive, he shows that the group will suffer to spare one person and friends can be the difference between life and death. Although this is a very emotional issue, Frankl uses a calm, detached voice to describe these events, making them appear less horrifying than they were. This can be sad for some who wish to believe that one can never get used to these cruel acts, but the truth revealed by Frankl is that one has to forget about it and get used to it in order t survive themselves. It's sad and despressing but in the end, one can only think about what in one's own life can make them continue and be their own meaning to life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A great book!

    This is an amazing book! based on his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, Viktor Frankl describes his psychotherapeutic method (called Logotherapy) of discovering a motive for living. Frankl will take you through the three stages of concentration camp imprisonment: Shock, Apathy, and depersonalization. Indeed an unforgetable journey. I highly recommend it. Angela...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2008

    More Powerful Than Ever

    Frankl very deftly draws you into the personal experience of the enormous difficulty and stress of Auschwitz, and the very powerful truths he found there - and which helped to him to survive. Do you know the one freedom that cannot be taken from you? This should be required reading for every American.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2005

    Have a Highlighter Handy

    For a long time, I'd heard about this book and seen it quoted by other authors. I finally realized that if so many great writers and speakers were familiar with it, I should be too. It is definitely a must read. It is in my personal top 10 list of all time. Frankl's revelations and wisdom from his horrifying experience will intrigue and amaze you. This book will be underlined, highlighted, and dog-earred. I promise.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2005

    personal and intuitive

    For all of us who have 'enough to live by but nothing to live for;...the means but no meaning.' This book gives clear reason to why we all miss the mark when we seek the meaning of our idividual journeys.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2004

    Both touching and helpful!

    This book was touching to the point that it was painful to read at times. Yet, the overall message of this book is wonderfully exhilarating. Whatever meaning you find in your life is your life. If that meaning gives you hope, you will have hope. If that meaning gives you despair, you will find despair. This is a fantastic piece of existential work! The whole idea in this book reminds me a bit of the concept of the self-system in Toru Sato's genuis book 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit'. Now 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit' is a much newer book but it is another truly excellent book that takes these things one step further by integrating these ideas with the psychology of relationships as well as transpersonal experiences. I recommend this Frankl and Sato's book very very much! They are both outstanding!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2003

    A book no one should be without.

    Viktor Frankl demonstrates that the void which we all try to fill with the things of this world is a vacuum that can only be filled with a transcendent, ultimate meaning. The only way he discovered this himself is having suffered brutally in a concentration camp. If you have any doubts, read pg. 131 and see if life doesn't provide second chances.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2003

    Wow that's al I can say

    When reading this book you can not but wonder at times why you are. The horror that was experienced was terrible however, I felt compelled to see what kept him going. Viktor Frankl say's that you can choose your response to any given situation. I get to agree. Funny isn't it that's what Steven Covey says when he talks about the circle of influence and about being Pro-active. How many of us are though? WOW THAT IS ALL CAN SAY! I love this book, will gift it to many friends. Definatly food for thought. Easy read too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2002

    Warning: This book could change your life.

    Some books entertain and some inform, this one can really make a difference in your life. Definetely a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2002

    How man search for meaning changed my life

    I really enjoyed reading this book because I learned a lot from it because in this day in time people don't look at that situation tha is why I encourage everybody to read it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2002

    This book can help

    When my husband's office was attacked and destroyed with many of his beloved and talented employees on September 11th, we had to wonder what is the meaning of this. This book was given to him by his therapist as a first step in the healing process. This book has brought us a little bit of peace.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2000

    Overoptimistic but interesting perspective

    While it's interesting to read of the psychology of people in the German death camps, Frankl's 'will to meaning' is not backed nearly enough, and falls short of the master, Freud, and even of Adler and Fromm.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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