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Man's Search for Meaning

by Viktor Emil Frankl

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Viktor E. Frankl

Viktor Emil Frankl is the author of the autobiographical Man’s Search for Meaning. A psychiatrist and head of neurology at Rothschild Hospital in Vienna before World War II, Frankl was already developing the theory of logotherapy when he and his family were arrested and deported to a concentration camp in 1942. Frankl was the only member of his family to survive. In 1946, the year after his liberation, he wrote Man’s Search for Meaning in just nine days.

Tilly Frankl

Though Frankl’s first wife, Tilly, does not appear in person in Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl describes how thinking of her with love, imagining conversations with her, and cherishing the time they had spent together kept him from despair in “Experiences in a Concentration Camp.” Tragically, Tilly herself did not survive the camps.

Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud 

Frankl mentions fellow Viennese psychiatrists Freud and Adler in order to acknowledge their influence and to differentiate his ideas from theirs. While Freud, the founder of psychotherapy, believed human beings’ primary motivation in life was the “will to pleasure,” Adler theorized that the “will to power” was even more important. Frankl, however, argues that it is the “will to meaning” that is the essential driving force in a person’s life.

Jerry Long

Frankl relates the story of Jerry Long in “The Case for a Tragic Optimism.” A psychology student at the time of the postscript’s writing, Long had been left quadriplegic by a diving accident as a teenager and wrote to Frankl of the personal growth he had been able to achieve since his injury. Frankl cites Long as an example of the human ability to find meaning by facing suffering with courage and creativity. Long would later become a logotherapist himself.

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