Thursday, June 03, 2010

Man's Search For Meaning

The first half of this book describes Frankl's experiences in a concentration camp, while the second half goes into more detail on "logotherapy". At the opening, he states some reluctance to write about concentration camps - those that have been there already know what it was like, while those that have not will never be able to comprehend. His account focuses on the mental decisions that are made. The underlying philosophy is that we may not be able to control are circumstances; however, we can control how we experience them. We should not expect overwhelming optimism in the face of adversity; however, we can still try to maintain our humanity and not give in to utter despair.

His account seems somewhat detached. he comes across almost as an impartial observer who happens to make wise decisions and overcome the challenges of the camp. (Perhaps this is part of the philosophy of not dwelling on the bad.) He casually admits it is was a lucky decision that allowed him to survive the camp at all. He also tells the story of one inmate who expected "liberation" at the end of March - and promptly died then.

The sections on logotherapy covers more basis of his psycotherapy philosophy. Part of it involves a search for "meaning" in life. In some cases it can be to simply get work, acknowledge what good is being done, or other simple things. He also discusses overcoming self-appearing fears (such as fear of sweating) by encourage the fear. And similarly, fighting failure to realize 'intentional' pleasures by fighting them. Together it seems to be "optimistic determinism." Suffering that can be avoided should be avoided. However, that which cannot be avoided should be taken as is and used to seek out greater advantage.

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