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As the sun sets behind the far mountains, a stunning palette of peach, orange, and pink is created. When we relish in the splendor of a sunset, contemplate creation, or hug a loved one, it gives us purpose. We sense the value of life when we engage in creative undertakings, engage with our community, and promote a greater cause than ourselves.

Then, what is it that gives life meaning? What makes these difficult moments, nights, and never-ending struggles worthwhile? The search for the answer to “what is the meaning of life?”   has existed since the beginning of time. 

Viktor E. Frankl contributed substantially to the field of finding purpose and meaning in life. He was a psychiatry and neurology professor at the Medical University of Vienna. Born on March 26, 1905, the Austrian psychologist, neurologist, and psychiatrist is best known for his psychological biography Man’s Search for Meaning (2006) and as the founder of logotherapy.

The concept of logotherapy is predicated on the idea that each individual’s basic drive is to discover the meaning of life.

viktor frankl quote

In the subsequent sections of this article, we will learn more about the life and philosophy of Victor Frank, the origins of logotherapy, as well as its effectiveness and applications in modern neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry.

Viktor Emil Frankl was an established, renowned, and well-sought-after Austrian psychiatrist who developed logotherapy, a method of psychotherapy that considers the desire for life’s purpose or meaning of life as the primary human drive, motivation, and inspiration. Logotherapy is a component of humanistic and existential theories of psychology.

After those founded by Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud, logotherapy was pushed as the third school of psychotherapy in Vienna.

Frankl wrote 39 books. He survived the Holocaust. The best-selling autobiography Man’s Search for Meaning is centered on the author’s experiences in numerous Nazi concentration camps.

Gabriel Frankl, a civil worker at the Ministry of Social Service, and Elsa (née Lion), a Jewish family, had 3 children; Victor Frankl was the middle child. In junior high school, he started taking evening classes in applied psychology, which sparked his fascination with psychology and the significance of meaning. He began communicating with Sigmund Freud as a teen when he requested permission to publish and distribute one of his articles. After graduating from high school in 1923, he attended the University of Vienna to study medicine. During his studies, he focused on suicide and depression from a psychiatry and neurology perspective.

Frankl submitted his first scientific publication to The International Journal of Psychoanalysis in 1924. In the same year, he led the Austrian Social Democratic Party’s youth organization for students in high school. Frankl began to challenge the Freudian concept of psychoanalysis around this time. In 1925, he released his second scientific publication, “Psychotherapy and Worldview,” in the International Journal of Individual Psychology published by Alfred Adler. Frankl was ousted from Adler’s company when he argued, asserted, and insisted that meaning was humanity’s primary motivator. He started refining his idea, which he called logotherapy, in 1926.

Frankl married a station nurse at Rothschild Hospital, Tilly Grosser, in 1941. She became pregnant shortly after their marriage, but they were compelled to terminate the pregnancy. Tilly passed away in the Bergen Belsen detention camp.

Gabriel Frankl’s father, originally from Pohoelice, Moravia, died of malnutrition and disease at the age of 81 in the Theresienstadt Ghetto detention camp on 13 February 1943. Walter and his mother both perished in Auschwitz. Stella, his sister, fled to Australia.

Frankl wed Eleonore “Elly” Katharina Schwindt in 1947. She was a devout Catholic. Both attended synagogue and church and celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas. Gabriele, their only child, moved into the field of child psychology. His wife and son-in-law revealed after his passing that he would pray every day and had memorized the phrases of everyday Jewish prayers and psalms, which were not recognized for 50 years.

Frankl passed away on September 2, 1997, in Vienna due to heart failure. He is laid to rest in the Jewish part of Vienna’s Central Cemetery.

What keeps an individual going? Perhaps the purest response to this query can be discovered in the darkest of places. What does one have left to live for in a place as awful as a concentration camp? Is there a reason why you shouldn’t give up on life after they have taken away all of your freedoms and belongings and your imminent demise is virtually certain? Viktor Frankl philosophy was based on the fact that meaning and purpose in life are the foremost drives for human existence. Frankl believed that even in the harshest conditions, there is always a purpose to live: it is always significant in suffering. And if we can grasp its significance – this light in the sky – we will be able to conquer even the most agonizing conditions. As per Viktor Frankl, neither happiness nor power and success is the primary motivators for humans; rather, it is discovering a reason to live and sometimes even die for.

Frankl considered logotherapy as a means of enhancing conventional therapies by highlighting the spiritual dimension or “meaning-dimension” of humans. Frankl’s logotherapy is comprised of three psychological and philosophical concepts: freedom of will, will to meaning, and purpose of life.

Freedom of will declares that individuals are free to choose and can respond to external and internal circumstances. In this sense, freedom is characterized by the capacity to construct one’s own life within the constraints of certain opportunities. It allows for the person’s independence in the face of physical or psychological disease. In principle, we are free to pick our responses regardless of the situation.

The concept of will to meaning asserts that individuals are free to pursue goals and objectives in life. Individuals experience frustration, anger, addiction, sadness, and suicidal tendencies when they are unable to satisfy their “will to meaning.” As humans, our basic motivation is to seek purpose or meaning in our life. We are competent in transcending pleasure and embracing suffering for a worthy cause.

Meaning in life is founded on the notion that meaning is an objective fact as opposed to a mere illusion or subjective impression. Humans have both the freedom and obligation to realize the significance of the present moment in every circumstance to manifest their finest possible selves.

Can we discover meaning in all situations, including inescapable suffering? Creative clues, attitudinal values, and experiencing values can help us uncover the meaning of life.

Viktor Frankl contributed to 39 books in his lifetime. The following Viktor Frankl books list provides a summary of his most noteworthy books.

Man’s Search For Meaning

Many generations of readers have been captivated by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s account of his time in Nazi concentration camps. Based on Frankl’s personal experience and the accounts of his patients, the book contends that while we cannot end suffering, we can decide how to deal with it, derive meaning from it, and move on. Man’s Search for Meaning has sold over 12 million copies worldwide, making it among the most important works of our time.

The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy

In The Doctor and the Soul, Viktor Frankl describes his method and his opinion that the primary human motive is not sex (as in Freud) or the desire to be admired by society (as in Adler), but rather the need to live a meaningful life. Frankl’s work was a significant contribution to the area of psychotherapy, as it established the foundations of existential psychiatry. According to him, the search for meaning in life is a fundamental aspect of human nature; if unfulfilled, it develops toward neurosis. The therapist therefore must assist the patient in discovering a sense of purpose in life.

From The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy

Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl is recognized as the pioneer of logotherapy, a type of psychotherapy focused on the human desire to seek meaning in life. The author examines the approaches he does with his patients to overcome the “existential vacuum” from the perspective of other major psychotherapies.

Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning

In this book, Victor Frankl explores in greater depth the patterns of thought that helped him to survive incarceration in a prison camp and find purpose and meaning in life despite the odds. He explores life, faith, death, and suffering through the lens of his ground-breaking views. He believes there is much more to human existence than meets the eye and no one will be able to convince us that man is a repressed animal until we can demonstrate that he contains a suppressed angel.

Frankl investigates our often unconscious longing for revelation or inspiration in Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning. Eventually, he demonstrates that life has more to give than we could have ever imagined.

Recollections: An Autobiography

In these rousing recollections, Frankl explains how, as a budding doctor of neurology in prewar Vienna, his differences of opinion with Adler and Freud resulted in the creation of “the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy,” also recognized as logotherapy; recounts his horrifying trials in 4 concentration camps during World War II; and demonstrates the fame brought about by the 1945 release of Man’s Search for Meaning.

The Unheard Cry for Meaning

The originator of logotherapy investigates the singularity of man’s individuality, critiques the pseudo-humanism in contemporary psychoanalysis, and argues for reinvesting psychoanalysis with humanistic approaches while keeping the Freudian and behaviorist traditions.

Yes To Life In Spite of Everything

In Vienna, Viktor E. Frankl delivered a wide range of public lectures 11 months after his escape from Auschwitz. The soon-to-be-famous psychologist expressed his key ideas regarding resilience, meaning, and the significance of embracing life even in the midst of overwhelming adversity. First published in English, Frankl’s words resound as powerfully today as they did when they were first written. He provides a perceptive examination of the adage “Live as if you were living the second time” and reveals his fundamental belief that every catastrophe has an opportunity. Frankl learned from his fellow prisoners that it is always necessary and possible to say “yes to life” despite the awful horrors of the concentration camp; this is a profound and everlasting lesson for us all.

Logotherapy is a therapeutic strategy that assists people in discovering their purpose in life. It is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on the future and our capacity to bear adversity and suffering via the pursuit of meaning.

Dr. Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist holocaust survivor author, and psychotherapist created logotherapy after surviving Nazi prison camps in the 1940s. In his work, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he details his experiences and theories.

Frankl felt that humans are driven by a “will to meaning,” or the urge to find significance in life. He maintained that life may have a purpose even in the most dreadful circumstances, and that discovering that meaning provides the will to live.

This viewpoint was influenced by his experiences in detention centers and his need to find significance in his misery. Frankl felt that when we are unable to alter our circumstances, we are obliged to change ourselves.

Frankl felt that suffering might be transformed into achievement and success. He considered shame as an opportunity to improve oneself and life transformations as an opportunity to take responsibility.

In this approach, logotherapy aims to help you utilize your “spiritual” resources more effectively in order to survive adversity. Dereflection, paradoxical intention and Socratic dialogue are three strategies designed to facilitate this process.

Frankl came to believe that many mental health issues or physical illnesses are concealed existential angst and that people are struggling with a lack of meaning, which he termed the “existential vacuum.” Logotherapy specifically addresses this lack of meaning by assisting people in uncovering this meaning and reducing their feelings of angst.

Having a meaning or purpose in life (or actively seeking meaning) appears to be associated with one’s happiness, general health, and life satisfaction. Additionally, it has a favorable effect on your resilience. Research supports this correlation and demonstrates that certain individuals with physical or mental health issues may struggle to find significance in their life.

Frankl suggested that rather than asking about the meaning of life, a person should comprehend that they are the individual being questioned.

He asserted, “It doesn’t really matter what we expected from life, but what life expected from us” (Frankl, 1986).

Other noteworthy quotations from Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl (2006) include:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.”

“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

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