Viktor Emil Frankl, M.D., Ph.D. (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of existential analysis, the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy". His best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus, a reason to continue living. Frankl became one of the key figures in existential therapy and a prominent source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists.
- See also:
- Man's Search for Meaning (1946; 1959; 1984)
- It is true, Logotherapy, deals with the Logos; it deals with Meaning. Specifically I see Logotherapy in helping others to see meaning in life. But we cannot “give” meaning to the life of others. And if this is true of meaning per se, how much does it hold for Ultimate Meaning?
- Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning (1997)
Man's Search for Meaning (1946; 1959; 1984)
- Originally published as Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen : Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager [Nevertheless, Say "Yes" to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp] (1946), then as From Death-Camp to Existentialism (1959)
- An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior. p. 32 in the 1992 edition, ISBN 0807014265, Beacon Press
- If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.
- p. 67 in the 1959 Beacon Press edition
- There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.
- p. 126 in the 1984 Pocket Books edition
- A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. … For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."
- The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.
- Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
- What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.
- You may of course ask whether we really need to refer to "saints." Wouldn't it suffice just to refer to decent people? It is true that they form a minority. More than that, they always will remain a minority. And yet I see therein the very challenge to join the minority. For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.
So, let us be alert — alert in a twofold sense:
Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of.
And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.
- Postscript 1984 : The Case for a Tragic Optimism, based on a lecture at the Third World Congress of Logotherapy, Regensburg University (19 June 1983)
Quotes about Viktor Frankl
- Frankl writes: "There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life." Those most likely to survive the camps, Frankl tells us, were those who had a reason to keep fighting to live-a loved one, God, socialism, a vision of a future world they were fighting for. They saw a reason to keep going, so they took agency, even if only in tiny ways-like searching hard for that extra calorie to make it through one more day. Frankl writes: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
- Maslow's psychology, firmly based upon Freud and Watson, simply points out that the optimistic side of the picture has been overlooked; the deterministic laws of our 'lower nature' hold sway in their won field; but there are other laws. Man's freedom is a reality -- a reality that makes a difference to his physical, as well as his mental health. When Frankl's prisoners ceased to believe in the possibility of freedom, they grew sick and died. On the other hand, when they saw that Dachau had no chimney, standing out all night in the rain seemed no great hardship; they laughed and joked. The conclusion needs to be stated in letters ten feet high. In order to realise his possibilities, man must believe in an open future; he must have a vision of something worth doing. And this will not be possible until all the determinism and pessimism that we have inherited from the 19th century -- and which has infected every department of our culture, from poetry to atomic physics -- has been dismissed as fallacious and illogical. Twentieth century science, philosophy, politics, literature -- even music -- has been constructed upon a weltanschauung that leaves half of human nature out of account.
- Colin Wilson in New Pathways In Psychology, p 219-220
- Between stimulus and response lies a space. In that space lie our freedom and power to choose a response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.