Frankl knew that suffering somehow stops being suffering the moment we see a meaning in it. Rather you should aim for a cause greater than yourself and success will come as a byproduct. Surprisingly, not many of the prisoners attempted suicide. It was only at the last moment, his friends persuaded him to put his name on the book because his reputation as a psychology professor would make it much more influential. Some prisoners caught a disease Frankl called “Give-up-itis.” This means they simply gave up one day. Most of his patients were admitted after a suicide attempt. Not to a person, but his work.
What can you say to a man who has survived years in the camps for the sake of his family and when he comes home he finds nobody survived? Meaning is found in our small daily actions related to something or someone outside of ourselves. The book begins with a lengthy, austere, and deeply moving personal essay about Frankl's imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years, and his struggle during this time to find reasons to live.
Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. This image kept them going through the cold and suffering. It is ironic that the book he wrote anonymously ended up being his most successful commercially. Frankl begged and pleaded with a guard to let him keep a draft of a psychology book he was writing. This situation caused an inner decay in the prisoners because they couldn’t aim at any long-term goal or live with much hope for the future. 3. Even their names would be abandoned by the officers who gave them each a number. Viktor Frankl saw the situation differently. This made it very important to stop suicide attempts from happening in the first place. Speaking of gaps, here’s another quote about a different kind of gap that I think is relevant here: It was probably difficult reading about the brutal experiences in the camps. People who try too hard to be happy always miss because happiness comes as a byproduct of doing something else. The second half of his book is a practical guide on how to do this. Viktor Frankl was already a successful professor and therapist when his life was turned upside down by World War II. Mental suffering is not always a psychological disorder or disease that must be cured. They didn’t know if they would be sent to the gas chambers tomorrow or if they would spend the rest of their lives here.
Rich, poor, musician or coal miner… they would all being acting the same way based on one strong urge. There is only the best move at this moment in this situation.
Living inside a camp of suffering and dying men, Frankl saw the only doorway out. Shaving would make him look younger and the redness from the scraping might be mistaken for health. About 90% of people were sent to the left line.
Another prisoner didn’t think there was anything wrong with walking right through farmer’s fields, trampling their crops.
Viktor Frankl found out at the end of the war that his wife was dead. This is a condition where his legs and feet became so swollen that his knees could hardly bend and his shoes had to be left untied for his feet to fit. In his therapy patients, Frankl saw boredom becoming a leading cause of suffering for modern people. concentration camps, he knew that meaning keeps people alive even when all pleasure and power are taken away. He discovered there are 3 main ways most of us find meaning in our individual lives: Frankl shares the stories of two camp prisoners who changed their minds about committing suicide. These traditions gave them direction and certainty. If you don’t have the stomach to hear about that, then you should stop reading here.
This made Frankl realize that when life loses meaning, humans resort to short-term pleasure seeking. “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”. They began working many hours each day. Punishments were harsh and given for the smallest reason or even no reason at all. With many of the old traditions losing credibility among young people in developed countries, many of them struggle to feel connected to something bigger than themselves. Viktor Frankl and the surviving prisoners were told to take off their clothes and everything else. This helped, yet the marching itself was still very painful. Yet a few of the guards also rose above the influence of the camp and acted kindly to the prisoners. In this book there are some horrific details about what happened in these camps. At first the new prisoners (including Frankl) were shocked by the brutality of life inside the camp. Indeed, a couple years later Frankl would be at his father’s side when he was dying in one of the concentration camps. When this book was published, it soon became a bestseller in many languages.
Because the US government was nothing but another father image. Yet despite all the pain, beatings and suffering, the only way to continue surviving was to look fit for work. He often echoed Nietzsche’s words that humans have a “will to power” and are always “striving for superiority.”. Then they were shaved. If you do, the change in pressure can injure you. And whenever you have this kind of a meaning or a goal, there is always a gap between where you are today and where you want to be. It’s just like happiness. The man just shook Frankl’s hand and left. Even when the former prisoners came home, the suffering was not over. You won’t always feel great along the journey. For years this diplomat had felt unhappy with his work and he found it difficult to follow American foreign policy. Some psychologists in Frankl’s time also believed that the key to happiness was getting rid of all inner conflicts and tension. Most of us can probably see that meaning is found in relationships or creative work, but what about suffering? And he said meaning can be found in any life situation, even a concentration camp. The guards carried sticks and guns to beat them with. Talking with the first man, Frankl found after some digging that there was a child waiting for him in a foreign country. If one of the prisoners stopped digging the frozen ground for even a moment, they would be hit hard. Well, asking the question like that is like asking the world’s best chess player “what’s the best chess move?” There isn’t one. The guards then rushed over to beat them all hard with the butts of their guns. The second man was a scientist and after some questioning, he also saw a future responsibility he had to fulfill. As he witnessed in the concentration camps, it is meaning that keeps someone alive when all pleasure and power have been taken away. Not for himself, but for his child. For example, before Christmas in 1944, many of the men were hoping they would be home in time to spend the holidays with their families. Viktor Frankl said he was not proud of this really, nor did he consider it an achievement. Men such as these showed Frankl that a man has an inner strength that may prevail even in the worst circumstances. Yet when a man had lost hope, he would light up their cigarettes instead of saving them because they wanted to “enjoy” their last days. It is US who must respond to life’s question—not with talking and thinking—but with our attitude, conduct and actions. Yet Freud’s patients (who he drew his observations from) were all wealthy Victorians laying down on a plush couch in his office. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.”. If a prisoner had even a small blister on their foot and they were limping a little and an SS guard saw this, they would be sent to the gas chambers. Now you may be thinking: so what is the meaning of life? Then they were sent to the showers. In Frankl’s time, psychoanalysis was the most common type of therapy. Is it possible to find meaning in suffering? Some positive inner tension is essential to a meaningful life. But after some time these reactions were dulled. Prisoners who had lived in the camps longer than a few weeks had seen so many beatings, so much suffering and death that they no longer had any reaction. the lessons I picked up from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography, At first many of them experienced “depersonalization.” That’s what psychologists call when you, Long exposure to the violence of the camp also. Apathy provided an emotional barrier against the daily horrors of the camp and allowed the prisoners to focus all their energy and efforts on the most important task: surviving and helping their friends survive. Also written shortly after WW2, it provides keen insights into how people can be motivated to do unspeakable things by tapping into their frustration, hate and desire for change.). Boredom really means you don’t have meaning in your life. There’s nothing you live for and care deeply about, so life becomes boring. You want to be the bodybuilding champion of the world, but you’re just a scrawny kid from a small Austrian village.
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