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Presentation on theme: "MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING"— Presentation transcript:


2 Questions About Frankl
Why does Frank reveal all this particular bits of physical detail—what things sounded like, all the rules and regulations of the camp, etc. Whether they were allowed to keep their shoes, etc. What effect does this have on you the reader? What effect does the camp have on the prisoner initially? What are the later effects? What sort of resources/skills/abilities does Frankl draw on or believe that others draw on? How would you characterize F’s writing style? Why might Frankl write in a detached, scientific style?

3 Viktor Frankl Born in Vienna on March 26, He wrote his high school graduation essay on psychoanalysis and Schopenhauer which was published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. He corresponded with Freud. He offered free counseling for teenagers in Vienna in 1928 and In 1940 he wrote the book he refers to in Man’s Search for Meaning The Doctor and the Soul He married in 1942 and that year he and his wife, mother, and brother were send to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt. His mother and brother were killed at Auschwitz. His wife died in 1945 at Bergsen-Belsen. His sister Stella was the only survivor.

4 1945 Frankl got typhoid fever but kept himself alive by trying to rewrite his book. He wrote Man’s Search for Meaning in one day. He remarried, was made Associate Professor of neurology and psychiatry and became president of the Austrian Medical Society for Psychotherapy.

5 Reaction to the Camp He had his life work in his pocket. He told an old prisoner “I must keep this manuscript at all costs…” The prisoner answers: “Shit!” He says “at that moment I saw the plain truth and did what marked the culminating point of the first phase of my psychological reaction: I struck out my whole former life.” He also mentions curiosity “somehow detaching the mind from its surroundings, which cam to be regarded with a state of objectivity…” This is followed by surprise at what people can endure. He quotes Dostoevski “Man is a being that can endure everything.” Is that true?

6 Suicide He says the thought of suicide was “entertained by nearly everyone…born of the hopelessness of the situation…” He promises himself he won’t do that. But after the first shock of the camp, he does not fear death.

7 Strange Reactions Lessing “There are things that cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose…An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.

8 Humor/Suffering The gas analogy: “Man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber is. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore, the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.” He also says a “trifling thing can cause the greatest of joys.” People were glad when their train went to Dachau rather than Mauthausen.

9 Happiness is relative to circumstance
He says that a person who looks at people lying in the camp starving to death were having the most absolutely terrible experience. He says that perhaps the person lying there sick was happy to avoid work and that they go to sleep. “People in the photographs might not be so unhappy after all…”

10 Survival was all that mattered
Everything that was not connected with the immediate task of keeping oneself and one’s friends alive lost value.

11 Freedom Is a “human being…completely and unavoidably influenced by surroundings? What about human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to surroundings? Is that theory true that would have us believe that man is no more than a product of many conditional environmental factors…biological, psychological, sociological? Is man but an accidental product of these? Do the prisoner’s reactions to the surrounding world of the concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the influence of his surroundings? Does many have no choice of actions in the fact of such circumstances? Frankl says that “experiences of camp life show that man does have the choice of action.” Examples “of a heroic nature show that apathy can 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 distress.”

12 Meaning Dostoevsky: “There is only one thing I dread: Not to be worthy of my sufferings.” For Frankl, suffering can be part of meaning. We can give meaning to suffering. Frankl says that “It can be said that if they were worthy of their sufferings—the way they bore their suffering—was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom— which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposive.” A person’s existence is restricted by external forces. Some aspects of life are inherently meaningful (creation and enjoyment) but even without these, there can be meaning in suffering and death.

13 Acceptance of suffering
One way to find meaning is to accept suffering in a certain way. “Everywhere man is confronted with fate—with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering…”

14 Schopenhauer and Camus
Is Frankl similar to any other thinkers we’ve had? He says that when a person realizes “it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept suffering as his task. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.” However, he does find that people are deterred from suicide by thinking about the future.

15 Logotherapy Frankl used these insights in psychotherapy. A suicide could be deterred “by thoughts of the future and something life expected of them.” One major reason is our responsibility toward others. “He who knows the ‘why’ for his existence can bear almost any how.” Logotherapy differs from other psychoanalytic techniques because it is less introspective and retrospective. The patient is reoriented toward the meaning of his life. Logos is the great word for meaning. Frankl says there is a will to meaning rather than a will to pleasure or to power.

16 Man’s search for meaning
A human being’s search for meaning is “primary motivation of his life.” The will to meaning can be frustrated. There is existential frustration. In existence itself In the meaning of existence In trying to find concrete meaning. Noogenic neuroses (Noos=Greek word for mind) is the frustration fo the will to meaning. In the example of the diplomat who is unhappy it is that he doesn’t like his career.

17 Noodynamics “there is nothing in the world…that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is meaning in life.” He gives the example of losing his manuscript: “Mental health is based on a certain degree of tension between what one has already achieved and what he still ought to accomplish or the gap between what one is and what one should become.” People need struggling and striving for a worthy goal. What would Schopenhauer say about this? What would Camus say? (What would Nagel say?)

18 The existential vacuum
Why is there so much suffering in a time and place where people have what they need? There is a loss of meaning possibly because there is an excess of choice, a loss of tradition and instincts. People in that situation tend to conform (do what others wish them to do) or give into obedience to others (totalitarianism).

19 Tragic optimism How is it possible “to say yes to life” in the face of (1) pain (2) guilt and (3) death? We can (1) Turn suffering into a human achievement (2) Derive from guilt the opportunity to change ourselves for the better and (3) “Derive from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action.”


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