Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl

Dr. Viktor Frankel was a prominent psychiatrist in Vienna, Austria in the 1940s and the founder of the philosophy of Logotherapy. Logotherapy is the modern-day equivalent of existential analysis. “Logos” in Greek = meaning/reason.

After being sent to a concentration camp during World War II, Dr. Frankl applied his philosophy of Logotherapy to understanding human nature and the need to find meaning. In the first part of the book, Dr. Frankl takes the reader through his experience in the concentration camp where he was stripped of everything – physically, emotionally and mentally. Dr. Frankl observes how those around him found the will to live in dire circumstances. He does this through the scientific, detached observation of a psychiatrist. The book then transitions seamlessly into the second part, where Dr. Frankl provides a “nutshell analysis” of Logotherapy and references the life of a prisoner in a concentration camp to analyze and explore the question of what empowers an individual to live.

This is not a book about the horrors of the Holocaust, concentration camps, or prisons. Rather, it is an examination of the basic needs of humankind and the drive to persevere, survive and succeed; even in the darkest of conditions. Dr. Frankl often refers to Friedrich Nietzsche’s quote: “he who has a why to live, can bear with almost any how.”

In his practice, Dr. Frankl would often start patient interviews with the question: “Why do you not kill yourself?” The patient’s answer indicates the basis for their own personal search for meaning. For Dr. Frankl, it was love. Dr. Frankl views the struggle to find meaning a fundamental need. He also sees a responsibility to the freedom of choice, regardless of its challenges. We can choose to acknowledge our struggles and suffering, while finding meaning in it. Dr. Frankl defines despair as suffering without meaning.

This book was given to me by a dear friend with high recommendations. It sat on my shelf for no less than 6 months.  It is hands down one of the most profound books I have ever read. It has guided me to the essence of being, looking forward, and embracing the struggle of finding and realizing my purpose. Finding purpose is achievable regardless of where you are in your life and it is independent of what you have or do not have.  This is one book every human being should read.

Krikor Deramerian, MD
Pediatrics Department
Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Offices