Monday, September 24, 2012

Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl

Awhile back I read and quite enjoyed Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project.  Since then, I have signed up for her newsletter - where she announced her virtual book club.  Each month she sends out three book recommendations - one in children's literature, one quirky pick, and one meant to inspire happiness (or something along those lines).  This book was the recommedation in the third category for August.  Frankl is a Holocaust survivor and he spends the first half of the book recounting his experiences in the death camps.  He then discusses his philosophical theory of logotherapy.  The basic premise being that the primary drive in life is the pursuit and discovery of what we find personally meaningful - and that our survival depends on how we choose to cope with suffering, and find meaning in it.  It is impossible for me to read a book by or about a Holocaust survivor and not feel tremendously lucky for my own life circumstances, or to marvel at how one does manage to find meaning in such misery.  But, Frankl isn't about comparing misery or suffering, which I appreciate.  Instead, his book is an acknowledgement that we all have our own demons and tragedies of varying degrees, and life isn't about avoiding those experiences.  I'm not sure that I fully appreciated the way this book was actually written in terms of the psychiatric jargon - and I don't know that I completely embrace Frankl's philosophy on life, but I did find it interesting and worth reflecting on in terms of a general concept and way of focusing on the positive in life instead of dwelling on the negative.

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