The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 21

Today’s pages are some of my favourite in the whole of Man’s Search for Meaning. I say that not lightly.

First, a (re-)definition of Frankl’s logotherapy:

[Logotherapy] considers man a being whose main concern consists in fulfilling a meaning, rather than in the mere gratification and satisfaction of drives and instincts.

This search for meaning, however, creates an inner tension on which good mental health is based. This goes against what Frankl calls the ‘dangerous misconception’ of many psychologists that a state of mental equilibrium is desirable. Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 21”

The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 20

Today’s pages (p103-108) mark the beginning of the second part of Man’s Search for Meaning: Logotherapy in a nutshell.

After some apologies for the inevitable failures for compressing into a few pages that which ‘required twenty volumes in German’, Victor Frankl sets about explaining his therapy.

Logotherapy (as its etymology indicates) attempts to confront the patient with and reorient him towards the meaning of his life. Frankl is very insistent that this ‘will to meaning’ is the overriding motivation for human beings: we live and die for our meanings and values, he points out.


This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning. Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 20”

The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 19

Today’s excerpt is a little shorter (p96-100), as we reach the end of Part 1 of Man’s Search for Meaning. These are the final pages of Frankl’s description of the psychology of the concentration camp inmate.

Even after liberation, the former-prisoner is not out of psychological danger. For Frankl, progress from inmate to human being seems to have been slow and steady.

But for others, liberation was not so easy. Frankl describes the sudden release of mental pressure that occurred at the end of their imprisonment as similar to the bends.

Just as the physical health of the caisson worker would be endangered if he left his diver’s chamber suddenly […], so the man who has suddenly been liberated from mental pressure can suffer damage to his moral and spiritual health.

Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 19”

The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 18

Today’s pages (p91-96) address the psychology of the camp guard, and the psychology of the prisoner after his liberation from a concentration camp.

With regards to the guards, Frankl makes four observations:

  1. Some of the guards were pure sadists.
  2. These sadists were always chosen when severe treatment was ordered.
  3. The majority of guards were ‘morally and mentally hardened men’ who refused to take active part in sadistic torture, but did not prevent others from such behaviour.
  4. There were some guards who took pity on the prisoners and took active steps to ameliorate conditions for them. ‘Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.’

Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 18”

The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 17

Today’s pages (p88-91, a wee bit shorter) are recollections of a speech that Victor Frankl gave to his fellow prisoners at the end of a particularly hard day. The prisoners had chosen to go without food rather than give up one of their number to the guards, and so were particularly hungry, tired, cold and irritable.

Frankl was called upon to give some words of encouragement, and he began with a very Stoic observation, that ‘our situation was not the most terrible we could think of’. Losses of health, family, happiness and fortune were all replaceable in the future. He quoted from Nietzsche: ‘That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.’ Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 17”