During these summer vacations, I promised myself to read more books. I did not read as much as I would have liked, but I did read one book that impacted me massively. The book I will talk about in this blog is Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”.
Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and in his book, he narrates his experience in Nazi concentration camps through a psychological and existential lens. Having gone through some of the worst experiences possible and seeing the destructive capabilities of man, Frankl advocates to find meaning in suffering. While observing his fellow inmates, Frankl states that it was not starvation or overwork that killed the inmates. He explains that most of his peers gave up. They lost all purpose in life and could not bear the insurmountable suffering that they witnessed on a daily basis. In the first section of the book, Frankl describes the transformation of the prisoners from their previous life. They first went into shock and with time that shock turned into extreme apathy and disinterest in the world.
Frankl mentions this quote from Nietzsche multiple times over the course of the book, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”. The idea of finding purpose and meaning is prevalent throughout the book. He explains how love (not necessarily the romantic kind) and compassion are of supreme importance in finding purpose. I will not go into much detail about this idea since I would like to experience reading it themselves.
Later on in the book, Frankl introduces the novel concept of logotherapy. According to the author, this is another form of psychotherapy that helps patients with the existential dread that life throws their way. He explains how it works and how we can use it in our own life.
I cannot overstate the impact that this book had on me. After going through the worst semester in university yet, I felt like a complete mess and had nothing to look forward to. Even though I did not have to experience Auschwitz, I developed apathy and disinterest in everything just like the prisoners. This book helped me feel more hopeful and calmed some of the existential dread that I had been facing.
After having gone through this experience, I sometimes wonder if it would be a good idea to introduce this book into to higher education curriculum. It could perhaps help students develop gratitude and a sense of purpose which would also be helpful for them later on. I would love to hear your thoughts about this proposition in the comment section.