Victor Frankl Man's Search for Meaning

The Viktor Frankl 5-a-day Book Club: Day 1 'A psychiatrist who personally has faced such extremity is a psychiatrist worth listening to.'1 minute read

Gordon W Allport opens his preface to Man’s Search for Meaning with an anecdote about Viennese psychiatrist-author Victor Frankl. Apparently he used to ask all his patients one question: ‘Why do you not commit suicide?’

French existential philosopher Albert Camus considered this the only serious question of philosophy. For Frankl, this question is the key to his ‘logotherapy’: a meaning-centred psychotherapy that sees much of our modern mental anguish as consequences of a struggle with the apparent meaninglessness of our lives.

Frankl believed that the search and discovery of meaning is itself tremendously therapeutic – and even more fundamental to our existence than our drives for pleasure or power.

During the Second World War Frankl was a longtime prisoner in ‘bestial’ concentration camps, where his father, mother, brother and wife all perished. As Allport says: ‘A psychiatrist who personally has faced such extremity is a psychiatrist worth listening to.’

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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