What’s The Meaning of All This? Viktor Frankl and Logotherapy

“Typically, if a book has one passage, one idea with the power to change a person’s life, that alone justifies reading it, rereading it, and finding room for it on one’s shelves. This book has several such passages.” – Harold S. Kushner in the Forward to Man’s Search for Meaning (1992 Edition)

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If you were to conduct a Google search with the terms “life changing books” or “books everyone should read”, Viktor Frankl’s indispensable psychological treatise Mans Search for Meaning wold no doubt appear repeatedly. In my experience, it is surely both. Written by Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl (March 26, 1905–September 2, 1997), Man’s Search for Meaning continues to influence generations, having sold over 10 million copies in 24 languages.

First and foremost, Man’s Search for Meaning is a tale of survival, chronicling Frankl’s harrowing experience in several Nazi concentration camps throughout the course of the Second World War. But this is less the tale of one man’s survival than it is a depiction of the triumph of the human spirit, as Frankl concerns himself not with the question of why some men died in the camps, but what it was that helped others to survive. The second half of this most important of books is a manifesto of Frankl’s personal brand of psychotherapy, known as logotherapy, in which he argues that to find a meaning to live for is the primary motivational force within human being, a drive which represents a powerful capacity for personal transformation.

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How to do what you love, and why it’s so fucking hard.

“Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed, and you haven’t been.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


How do you become happy? Is it a choice that you make, simply to take life as it comes, screw on your head straight, and just be happy? Or is happiness a by-product of success – an after “oh, well look at that, I’m happy” phenomenon? What does a consistently happy and peaceful person actually look like? Do I live among them? Is it even possible to be happy, consistently, given the day to day sufferings inherent to life – the fact that we get sick, break our bones and our hearts, all the while loved ones are dying around us, and in but a blink of the timescale of man, we too will soon join them death? School didn’t teach us how to become happy and well adjusted – it taught us to work – so where next does one look for these answers?

These are the sorts of “perennial questions” one asks themselves in the middle of an ego-filled existential crisis, particularly one which comes during one of life’s pivotal transition periods. As Carl Rogers mused in On Becoming A Person, “I cannot help but puzzle over the meaning of what I observe.”[1] To ask the great philosophical questions – “What is my goal in life?” “What do I strive for?” “What is the meaning of my life?” – that’s just what I do. It’s just the way my brain is wired, so I play along, and try to ride out each crisis as it comes, and I hope to learn something along the way.

Continue reading How to do what you love, and why it’s so fucking hard.