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The Themes of Hope, Optimism and Love in Man's Search for Meaning 

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Introduction

A Man’s Search For Meaning is finding a purpose in life in a bad situation. We are all guilty of looking at how bad we have it, when there are other people suffering a lot worse than us. There is meaning life, you are put on this earth for a reason. It may be hard to see it in a really hard time and keep a positive attitude, but knowing that you are meant to survive and tell your story helps keep an outlook on life and keep living. This is exactly what Victor E. Frankl did when he was in the Nazi death camp. A lot of victims had a hard time finding meaning in why they were still alive. This book explains what Victor determined what the meaning of life was during that terrible time. He helped people find a reason to live and encourage them to keep a positive outlook, when he knew what was going on in their mind. He was a great impact to these prisoners because he gave them the opportunity and the ability to choose how mentally and spiritually involved they are through tribulations in their lives. He always helped the prisoners think they may have something worse, or giving them a reason why a certain situation happened.

Three psychological themes of the book that resonated with me that are involved with Frankl’s Logotherapy theme and relate to what we have discussed in class are Hope, Optimism, and the most important of them all in my opinion, Love. These three themes explained in this book helped Frankl stay positive, help other people, and most of all survive.

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Hope

The first theme I’d like to talk about is Hope. Hope had a great role for the people in the concentration camps. It was easy to give up hope and pretty much die. But, Frankl focused on finding a meaning while they were suffering. He was able to switch around to where they could endure their pain through looking at it in a different perspective. For example, in the book Frankl describes that he would imagine seeing his beautiful wife again, giving him hope to stay alive so he could see her again. Fueling their mind with positive outcomes gives them hope of survival and hopeful that they will make it out. I believe that being hopeful takes faith as well. Having faith and hope relate in a such a way that keeps them believing that God will give them the strength to make it out alive. I believe that Frankl’s spiritual beliefs were very strong and he had faith that God wasn’t going to leave them to die. But, he also knew that it was going to take strong faith and a great test to believe that He wouldn’t leave them.

Hope ties into psychology in many ways, I believe it relates to drive states (Gearhart, 2019). Having hope takes a certain drive and people in those concentration camps needed that drive in order to stay alive. Hope also takes motivation, having a goal to make it out alive takes a lot of hope and motivation. That is exactly what Victor Frankl had in mind, make it out alive. I chose this particular theme because it relates to myself and my goals in life. I have been taught to always have faith and hope that I will succeed in life, but I’ve also been taught that I have to work for whatever I may be going for at that time. I can’t hope for A when I put in only a B effort, or I can’t hope to win when I don’t put the practice and effort into being a winner. Having hope takes a lot of work and I think if Frankl would’ve sat there and been just hoping to get out, he wouldn’t have survived.

Optimism

The next theme I would like to talk about is Optimism. Frankl stayed optimistic that he and his people would make it out alive. Staying confident about the future and seeing the good in people changes his perspective. It is quite amazing to me that Frankl stayed so positive in a very horrific event, while his people had a very negative outlook on life at that time. It is very obvious that his faith in God was very high and he put all his strength towards Him, which I believe made him survive. God gives people trials to test their faith, some bigger and some smaller. But, no matter the trials and tribulations He wants you to believe that He has control and has a plan. Victor Frankl knew that God had more power than the Nazis and would soon see freedom, he had no doubt that his God would fail him.

Victor did not question God or ask why this was happening. His philosophy of being in a concentration camp with unthinkable tribulations these people went through, he still believed that a man has a free will to live and die. He told himself that he would define himself as a “tragic optimist.” He knew that he was capable of making his suffering into a success and bring meaning into his life when he was hitting rock bottom, and most of all being happy. Being an optimistic person can change a whole person’s attitude and perspective. A quote that I took out of the book that I thought was appropriate for this theme is, “Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him-mentally and spiritually” (Frank, 2014). I chose this theme because being optimistic is so important in everyday life. Someone who is optimistic are better to be around, succeed more, and are usually happier than any other person. I’ve noticed the more optimistic I am on things that did not go as planned or my way, I do not stay angry as long or fed up with it. Staying positive and looking at the good in every outcome keeps me from losing confidence or wanting to give up.

Love

The last theme I thought was appropriate for this book is Love. This is a strong feeling people gain when they gain a relationship with someone, and that is what Victor Frankl motivated himself with while in the concentration camps. He loved his wife so deeply, he told himself to survive so he could see her once again. He said that love is “the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire” (Frankl, 2014). This particular theme to me is the most important to have. He also mentioned that finding someone to love makes them see potential in their life and meaning is found by finding that certain somebody to love. He was unsure that his wife was even still alive, but he turned that thought around by believing that she still is alive and she was also waiting for him and he didn’t want to come out of the camps dead and his wife looking for him. He wanted to be there for her when they become free. This theme ties into this class for many reasons. Love is used in psychology by sensation and perception. Those feelings do not come unless something strikes it. Love doesn’t only come with a person, but with food, hobbies, etc. When you love someone or somethings, you have sensations that strike and you grow a strong feeling for it. Love is a feeling that involve passion, intimacy, and commitment (Gearhart, 2019).

When you have that love for someone or something, you learn to thrive off of it and that’s exactly what Victor Frankl had to do to stay focused on living. He was living because he loved his wife so much. Love can be a motivator for anything and for Frankl, loving his wife was his motivation to survive. I chose this particular theme because Love is important in my life. It relates to me in many ways. One, I am a family person. I love my family deeply and it motivates me to stay close with them and make them proud. The sensation of loving my family has taught me what a close family should look like. Second, I have grown to love the sport of rodeo and it has molded me into the person I am today. Having that passion for something can motivate anyone when they find that itch. This also happens when you find that certain someone who makes you want to change or become a better person. The person you find to love is the most influential person that will step into your life.

Conclusion

Man’s Search for Meaning was a book I would recommend everyone to read. I got a lot out of it and it really opened my eyes. I am very guilty of saying, “Why?” instead of trusting God’s plan. Victor Frankl had every reason to say that the trails he went through was the worst thing a person could go through. But instead he took a good thing out of every bad situation. He easily could’ve had the attitude of having the worst life. He had the attitude of, “it could be worse” instead of saying, “I have the worst life ever.” He was truly amazing through this war and how he stayed optimistic, never gave up hope, and his heart never stopped loving. His heart never grew hard and he knew he needed to stay close with not only the people around him, but Jesus Christ as well. This book was meaningful for me because it brought to my attention that no matter what I do with my life, do it with passion.

There is meaning in life no matter what I may choose to do or the paths I may go on. The themes I chose not only fit the book great, but it is a good reminder for myself as well. Having hope, being optimistic, and love are three things I need to remember in my life. I get caught up with stressing about the future, what I should do, etc. instead of having hope and faith that everything is in God’s timing and should not worry. Getting every good thing in a bad situation is something I need to work on every day. Being optimistic is something to have to have a positive outlook in life. I look at the people who are negative and can’t look at anything good, and they are so unhappy. Being optimistic can change your perspective and ultimately make your attitude and outlook so much better. If Victor Frankl can be optimistic about his experience during World War II, I’m pretty sure I can be too when a little thing doesn’t work out in my favor. Reading about him and how he handled this awful situation embarrasses me because I have no reason to think I have it so bad after reading Man’s Search for Meaning.

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