Man’s Search For Meaning Book Summary
Unless you were one of those imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, you can’t really speak about such an experience.
Viktor Frankl was one of those survivors and he explains how he and his fellow prisoners survived. This formed his psychological theory he named logotherapy explaining how for us to thrive, and in a situation of crisis, survive, we have to know our life purpose and what gives our life meaning.
In this summary you’ll find the author’s take on:
1. How to find what gives your life meaning.
2. How concentration camps were hell on earth for prisoners, and
3. How people can still find humor in dire situations.
With Regards To The Camps, Prisoners Felt Shock, Hope, Then Despair
Everyone today has at least some knowledge of the horrific happenings in Germany’s concentration camps during the Nazi regime.
During the great war, Nazi targets knew what would befall them when they entered the camps, but initial reactions weren’t fear. The first reaction was shock upon arrival at the camps. They were always convinced that they would have a different experience from what they’ve heard. People who arrived at the Auschwitz death camp were segregated either for hard labor or immediate execution. But none knew what the groups meant.
Prisoners were all under the delusion that they would be spared from doom. Prisoners who have not yet been accustomed to the camp were frightened by the happenings inside. New prisoners couldn’t handle the experience of being brutally punished for trivial offenses.
When faced with the brutality, they began to lose hope, and saw death as a relief. Many thought of suicide as a way out, for example, by grabbing the electrical fence around the camp.
After A Few Days, Prisoners Fell Into Apathy And Concentrated Only On Survival
Prisoners soon felt dull because of their adapting to the horror and death around them.
All their thoughts were then aligned on survival. Rather than think about feelings like desire or love, prisoners only dreamed about food and other pleasurable life activities that free people would take for granted.
The first phase was all about horror, the second phase was dull emotions which gave them the energy to live through the camp cruelties and grabbing opportunities to improve their survival.
After many people died because of a disease outbreak in the camps, prisoners entered the second phase which was apathy over the corpses that surrounded them. They saw this as an opportunity to grab any mementos people left behind like food, shoes, and clothing from the deceased prisoner.
It was only up to the guards to end the meaninglessness in the prisoners’ lives in the camp.
Normally, we live for the future. We make our lofty plans, we get excited about seeing life unfold, but camp prisoners had an astoundingly different view. There was no excitement in their future. And even after their prison term would end, there still wasn’t a future for them.
Most prisoners from the get go knew their lives were over. They just existed in the camp and no longer really lived, and goals were simply gone out the window.
Disbelief Is The Initial Feeling After Liberation, Then Bitterness
Survivors of the concentration camps were hit with a new challenge after their release. Because they’ve spent such a long time in the camps, normal life would be difficult for them.
After their release, prisoners couldn’t grasp the idea of freedom. They were always in a state of apathy, and the inability to experience joy.
Having dreamed of liberation often, after attaining it, they found it unbelievable when it finally came.
After being liberated, many thought of revenge and passing on to others the harm that was inflicted upon them. Having suffered so much inhumanity, some would have tendencies to seek out compensation, for example attacking the camp guards.
Liberated prisoners also didn’t receive the warm welcome they thought they would receive when they returned home. Many prisoners would come home to dead family members and ghost towns.
But bitterness didn’t only come from lost family and friends. People would seek out compassion, and understanding of the suffering they endured. Many people they talked to after their release, people who were never in a concentration camp, would brush it off and talk about things like rationing and bombing.
Achieving normalcy after liberation wasn’t easy for prisoners, but most managed to find happiness after surviving the unbelievable Holocaust.
Now that you know what the Man’s Search For Meaning book is all about, let’s take a deep dive into the biggest key insights and how you can apply them to get the results you truly want in your life.