Viktor Frankl’s, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” isn’t just about the Holocaust but about how his traumatic experiences and suffering led to his widely shared message about his philosophy; that there is meaning in everything, especially suffering. I believe Frank’s intent wasn’t just to talk about the horrors of his own experiences or those whom which he observed, but to show the everyday lives and struggles of prisoners including himself to support his theories. I think the way that he wrote showed his origins of thinking and in doing so highlight his personal vulnerabilities and inadequacies in thinking showing his honesty that Logotherapy isn’t an exact science you have to decide what makes you happy at that time and you have to make up your own story as you go; being adaptive to your environment. His message of personal purpose and internal hope even in the worst possible situations is the basis for his therapy “Logotherapy.”
Upon learning he was going to Auschwitz he experienced Shock “Maybe it won’t be that bad.” (Frankl) Upon Arrival they were divided into two groups, about 90% were sent straight away to the gas chambers where they met there death. The remaining lucky 10% who were not killed initially found themselves immersed in a new world. “From the break of that dawn at the station until our first night’s rest at the camp.” (Frankl) They were escorted by the SS with guns drawn, forced the prisoners to “run past the electrically charged barbed wire, through the camp, to the cleansing station.” There all of their possessions, to include clothing and hair were stripped in an effort to erase their humanity. That evening they finally came to realize that the majority that they parted ways with at the beginning had been killed, this was so shocking that it had to be explained twice to Frankl when he was informed. (Frankl Pg.12-13)
Day to day life and apathy set in quickly after the shock dissipated. I see this first on Pg. 16 where he says, “the illusions some of us still held were destroyed one by one, and then, quite unexpectedly, most of us were overcome by a grim sense of humor. We knew that we had nothing to lose except our so ridiculously naked lives.” (Frankl) Because they were experiencing extreme emotions thrust into this torturous camp, from longing for loved ones and home, they experienced a numbing which is apathy.
After release and liberation the survivors first experienced timid relaxation, but did not feel they belonged to this world any longer. They didn’t even rejoice the way we would expect because they lost the ability to feel any emotion so it was a task that they had to relearn to feel pleasure and happiness. It seemed the only pleasure they could outwardly experience was indulging in eating. They were deprived for so long they ate mounds of food to fill the emptiness they were experiencing. Many faced a hard truth that suffering did not end there. They continued to wonder why them? And also the disillusionment of freedom came from the real learned traumas after liberation, such as learning the fates of deceased loved ones and lost family land. They found themselves wondering how they get out alive when so many other didn’t.
In part two we find out about Logotherapy and how is focuses on the future and meaning to fulfill it, it’s a “meaning-centered psychotherapy.” It is having the will to meaning, or placing your “why” at the center of your life, and is different and unique to every individual person. For Frankl “man is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values.”(Frankl) When a person fails to find there “why” to live for they experience existential frustration of not really feeling fulfilled. This leads to Noogenic Neuroses which comes from the Greek word noos meaning “mind,” it is not a mental disease, it is not being able to find your true “logos” or meaning, to their existence. There is a tension that happens why finding your truth, and its called Noo-Dynamics. This pressure is intentionally placed upon patients to persuade them towards their goals.
The pressure makes you feel like you have a “why” and that why is to find out what you want to live for. Patients must combat the boredom and the feeling of just existing. This is referred to as an “existential vacuum,” it’s not knowing what to do with your lives and sometimes falls into conformism where you just do what everyone else is doing or for Frankl and Holocaust victims they dealt with totalitarianism where there were told what to do and where to be and how to act by the Capos. To overcome this one must decide for themselves what is important to them at that time, and work towards it on your free time.
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