Man’s Search for Meaning


We all want to know why we were born and what is the meaning of our life.

Where does meaning come from?

The Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl, born 1905, is best-known for his indispensable 1946 psychological memoir “Man’s Search for Meaning” — a meditation on what the gruesome experience of Auschwitz taught him about the primary purpose of life: the quest for meaning, which sustained those who survived.

Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.

In his book Frankl writes as an expert about Logotherapy. “Logos” is a Greek word which denotes “meaning”. Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. Logotherapy is a meaning-centered psychotherapy.

For Frankl, meaning came from three possible sources: purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of difficulty.

Frankl wrote, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

Don’t chase happiness

Victor Frankl said that “happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’” He also said that our constant search for happiness is a big problem:

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”- Viktor Frankl

Chasing happiness is really common these days, and most of us don’t realize why being happy isn’t enough for us to be satisfied with life.
Our life must have a meaning, a purpose, a real sense.

We can’t choose our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude

In the end when we don’t like our life, we should change something.

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

We have the freedom to choose our own attitude, in given circumstances.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how,’” Frankl writes, quoting Nietzsche.

He himself had experienced the worst possible, living in the concentration camp of Auschwitz and losing his father, mother, brother and pregnant wife — everyone in his family except his sister.

Love is the ultimate bestower of meaning

Meaning can come from several different sources, but most powerful is love. Thinking of our beloved ones, we can forget everything.

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.” – Viktor Frankl

Life needs a sense for humor

“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living,” Viktor Frankl writes.

Don’t aim at success!

Frankl wrote: “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. 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. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”