Themes

Finding Meaning

The central theme of Man’s Search for Meaning is the possibility of finding meaning in life regardless of circumstances. According to Frankl’s theory of logotherapy, finding and fulfilling meaning is the primary motivation in every individual’s life, and it is the task of the logotherapist to awaken his or her patients to the hidden meaning in their lives. It is the “will to meaning” that drives humanity, Frankl believes, rather than Sigmund Freud’s “will to pleasure” or Alfred Adler’s “will to power.” He writes not of a universal meaning to all of human existence but of the unique meanings to be found in the real situations in which people find themselves. There are three main routes, he writes, to finding meaning: through work, through love, and, most importantly, through facing unavoidable suffering with dignity and using it as an opportunity for personal growth. Particularly in “Experiences in a Concentration Camp,” Frankl emphasizes the importance of finding meaning in the form of a future goal to achieve or task to fulfill. It was the meaning Frankl found in the thought of continuing his work as a psychiatrist and being reunited with his wife that kept him from despair during his imprisonment.

Meaninglessness

As he makes his case for the unconditional meaningfulness of life, Frankl also takes on the sense of meaninglessness and emptiness he sees as pervading society and which he terms the “existential vacuum.” This lack of meaning, Frankl believes, is a kind of...

(The entire section is 623 words.)