Summary of Man’s Search for Meaning

Tough times create tough men. But have you wondered what these men have that gives them the strength not to give up, not to lose hope, despite the current circumstance? 

The answer is in Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. Hence, in this post, I’ll write a detailed summary so that you get a glimpse of the story and lessons you can learn from it. 

Let’s get started….

Blurb:

Man’s Search for Meaning is Victor Frankl’s short biography. He shared his experiences as a prisoner and slave in the holocaust and how he found meaning in that horrendous camp that helped him survive it.

The First Reaction: He struck out his former life

Key highlights:

  1. It started from the realization that the train he was on was headed to Auschwitz but it triggered when they took the manuscript of the book he was working on. 
  2. Everyone entertained the thought of suicide, except the writer. 
  3. The scenes are not as brutally described as other books about the Holocaust, but it’s detailed enough to understand its horror. For example,
    1. The daily ration was a watery soup once a day, bread, and an extra allowance. They were malnourished to such an extent that they could predict who would die next.
    2. The prisoner’s psychological condition worsened to such an extent that, once a prisoner got deliria, the author decided not to wake up cause the dream wouldn’t be worse than the current reality.
  4. He got a job as a camp doctor.

Second Stage: Apathy – the blunting of emotions

Key highlights:

  1. Beatings didn’t hurt physically but mentally – the insult, mental agony of injustice, and unreasonableness of them. For example:
    1. A railway track scene during a snowstorm.
    2. Physically weak Victor in a forest at 20F in temperature.
  2. Other factors that caused Apathy – hunger, lack of sleep, general irritability, inferiority complex, and fever (typhus).
  3. Transfer to Dachau:
    1. It’s a prison camp where religion and politics were the most talked about. 
    2. He witnessed a ‘spiritual séance’.
    3. Once a prisoner sang Italian songs and people applauded. It gave what the author called ‘negative happiness’.
    4. One day, in the winter of 1945, typhus outbreak and delirium infections infected prisoners. To avoid the symptoms, he didn’t sleep and started to work on the manuscript with the scraps of paper he could find.
  4. The prisoners were afraid to take decisions and let fate take its own course.

Third Stage: Psychology of a liberated prisoner

Key highlights:

  1. Freedom lost its meaning. They lost the ability to feel and had to relearn it.
  2. Everything felt like a dream.
  3. Some prisoners could not escape the camp’s brutality and eventually became ruthless and licentious.
  4. Two things experienced: bitterness and disillusionment.

Arguments addressed in this book:

  1. It is possible for spiritual life to deepen despite the horrendous camp life.
  2. It is possible to practice the art of living in a concentration camp.
  3. A very trifling thing can cause the greatest joys.
  4. Do the prisoners’ reaction to the concentration camp prove that he can’t escape the influences of his surrounding? Does a man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?

Quotes from this book:

‘He who has a why for living can bear almost anyhow.’

‘What does kill me makes me stronger.’

Nietzsche

Takeaways from this book:

  1. Love goes beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in its spiritual being.
  2. Man has a choice of action irrespective of the influences of his surrounding. It comes from an inner decision (hold) by having a goal to look forward to (hope for the future).
  3. It doesn’t matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.

Conclusion

Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the most impactful books you will ever read.   I hope this summary gave you a deep insight into what can you expect and learn from this book. 

If you are looking to read a detailed book review, you can click here… 

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