Man's Search for Meaning Questions and Answers
by Viktor Emil Frankl

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To what extent does Frankl's thoughts about his suffering translate to meaning for his existence?

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Frankl's experiences of suffering in Auschwitz caused him to think deeply about what gives human life meaning. He decided that at the core, a will to meaning is what drives people. This differs from Nietzsche's idea that a will to power is what drives people and Freud's idea that people are primarily motivated by a sex drive. In reflecting on his experiences in the concentration camps, Frankl decided that meaning derived from three sources: work, love, and suffering.

The desire to turn his suffering in the camps into something good that would be of use to other people helped motivate Frankl to stay alive. He wanted to use his camp experiences to rework his theory of logotherapy. He realized that even though luck was far and away the primary determinant of whether a person lived or died in Auschwitz, people who could hang on to hope and optimism—people who could find meaning even in the worst kind of suffering—were more likely to to survive. Those who gave up hope were doomed. He wanted to survive so could share with the world what his suffering taught him: the importance of having a purpose for living.

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