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How he and his fellows were stripped and shaved completely. The prisoners had everything taken away from them. They were given numbers, which were tattooed onto their skin.

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If you looked weak, you went straight to the gas chambers. Frankl himself was separated from his wife and would not know what became of her until after the war. Then, once in the camps, curiosity took over as you learned the extraordinary amount of punishment that the human body is capable of resisting. The medical men among us learned first of all: I had been convinced that there were certain things I just could not do: I could not sleep without this or I could not live with that or the other.

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The first night in Auschwitz we slept in beds which were constructed in tiers. On each tier measuring about six-and-a-half to eight feet slept nine men, directly on the boards. Two blankets were shared by each nine men. Who would have thought humans could actually endure hells as harsh as Auschwitz? And yet they did endure. The fact that many endured keeping in mind that the majority did not gives one overwhelming gratitude for not having to face the same situation.

It also gives one overwhelming confidence in the capabilities of their own mind and body. We were unable to clean our teeth, and yet, in spite of that and a severe vitamin deficiency, we had healthier gums than ever before. We had to wear the same shirts for half a year, until they had lot all appearance of being shirts. For days we were unable to wash, even partially, because of frozen water pipes, and yet the sores and abrasions on hands which were dirty from work in the soil did not suppurate that is, unless there was frostbite. Anyone can be coerced into perpetrating evil given sufficient environmental influence.

Yet this is an issue that Frankl has a problem with: In attempting this psychological presentation and a psychopathological explanation of the typical characteristics of a concentration camp inmate, I may give the impression that the human being is completely and unavoidably influenced by his surroundings. But what about human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings?

Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances? Frankl argues that we are not bound to our environments. Yes, the environment can be a harsh determiner of our actions but it is not fate. We do have a choice: The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.

Frankl saw the lowest parts of humanity while in the camps.

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He saw fellow prisoners promoted to be in-camp guards turning on their fellow prisoners. He watched sadistic guards treating them as if they were lower than animals. But he also saw individuals rising up like saints above it all: We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: You may not have a choice in your circumstances and environment.

But you always have a choice in how you react to those imposed upon you. Many of us spend our lives in the desperate attempt to completely eradicate suffering, thinking like Buddha that happiness will come when suffering is gone. Suffering does not automatically make ones life void of meaning but can actually offer meaning: An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize the values in creative work, while a passive life of enjoyment affords him the opportunity to obtain fulfilment in experiencing beauty, art, or nature.

But there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: A creative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him. But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is 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. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. How can suffering be meaningless if it is so intricately bound to life itself?

Suffering can be meaningful if we want it to be, if we handle it as such: 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. When suffering fills your life, what do you do? Do you take up your cross?

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Most men in a concentration camps believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners.

What a wonderful freedom to discover that you can choose your own meaning and that meaning with keep you filled with life. We see this often enough in our own lives. We see people who admit to having no future, no purpose, no hope. And those same people are wallowing in self-pity. They are constantly ill and constantly complaining. They are going around and around in circles, waiting to die.

Frankl saw this often enough in the camps: The prisoner who lost faith in the future — his future — was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Frankl talks about one inmate that had a dream that the war would be over on March 30th. He told this to Frankl at the beginning of the month and had hopes that his dream was a premonition that would come true.

However, on the 29th, when no sense of an ending was coming, this inmate became ill. The war was over for him. To all outward appearances, he had died of typhus. It was his loss of hope.

Man's Search for Meaning - Wikipedia

Those who know how close the connection is between the state of mind of a man — his courage and hope, or lack of them — and the state of immunity of his body will understand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect. This is hope, meaning, and a belief in a future saving them from their own illness. As a therapeutic resource, I believe that logotherapy is infinitely more useful than many other psychotherapy techniques, particularly any that come from Freudian psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis is backward-looking, self-indulgent, and unhelpful.

5 Lessons from Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”

It seems to encourage patients to put unnecessary amounts of blame on their upbringing without offering any practical solutions to dealing with their issues. But logotherapy is all about constructing a future for oneself. Frankl describes this as such: Frankl discusses the case of a patient who always perspired heavily when public speaking.

Frankl advised the patient to tell the audience directly that he was going to see how much he could sweat. He actually told them he intended to sweat and would see if he could sweat more than last time. His phobia of public speaking and the sweating disappeared. This is one of many such examples. I believe that writers can also use this technique whenever they are suffering from writers block. Simply telling oneself that you will see how bad you can write will suddenly free you from your fear of writing.

For such a short book, I can barely begin to discuss the effect it has had on my mindset. You need to read this book. If you find this kind of content interesting or insightful, you might enjoy my monthly book club newsletter.


This newsletter is built from hardcore curation. Just great stuff here. Books that will move you, improve you, and make you think. I finished it a week ago. It was truly captivating and inspiring. I am at a point in my life where, I believe, a life full of despair is staring at me.

My academic career is going nowhere, I am 31, girlfriend left me 2 years ago because she got bored. In fact, I changed my academic stream just to be with her and now I am stuck. Anyways, what I want to know from you is that do you know any more of such inspirational books?

12 Thought-Provoking Passages From Viktor Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning

You have likely already read or heard of the books I would recommend. His book detailed the psychological reactions that an inmate progressed through during their time in the camps and how their behaviour changed if they survived and were liberated. So a Nazi guard who showed kindness could be a decent man, while an inmate who exploited his fellow prisoners for personal gain, could be indecent.

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Robert Downey Jnr has been earmarked to star. The movie is about the best and worst of humanity, but how out of the worst the best can emerge. Holocaust Second world war Psychology Drama films news. Holocaust survivors like me are dying, but you can protect our memories Gene Klein. If these memories are remembered then future generations will have the knowledge and compassion to avoid the mistakes of the past.