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Theme Of Survival In The Book Man’s Search For Meaning

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In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Viktor Frankl writes his memoir and encounters during the holocaust. His experiences inside the Nazi Concentration Camp is a very horrendous experience.

Despite being away from family and having to endure the tremendous activities in camp, Dr. Frankl didn’t lose sight of himself and the world he was in. In the first part of his autobiography, he claims that his inborn optimism controlled his feelings even in the most desperate situations. Although he had moments of self-contemplations, he strived to answer all of those questions because he believes that a person doesn’t have control over life, but has control over their attitude about it. Also, he developed a sense of humor that helped him get through while seeing things in a humorous light. Dr. Frankl also states that his thoughts are what kept him from despair, including his fellow prisoners. Apart from the physical afflictions that they had to endure in camp, they also underwent deep emotional distress. As Dr. Frankl writes, ‘the majority of the prisoners suffered from an inferiority complex, we were treated like complete nonentities’. As they are all under the same situation, Dr. Frankl was able to relate himself to other people, and his surroundings as well. There was this very low mood evening in camp, where he didn’t have the energy as he was very tired and hungry. However, he tried his best as he considered it a unique opportunity because it was the only thing that was needed at that time: encouragement. Dr. Frankl was able to minimize his time in camp to build a connection not only with his fellow prisoners but with himself as well. He spent most of his time reflecting and thinking about what could have been. At that point in his life, he held tight to the thought that he must try to live for the future.

According to Existential Psychology, May (1958a) wrote that to grasp what it means to exist, one needs to grasp the fact that he might not exist. Dr. Frankl was told that he was not one of those whom the shock of being inside the concentration camp greatly depressed. His response to almost everything was to smile, despite the situation. In his stay in camp, not only that he was able to study other individuals, but he also studied himself. According to Dr. Frankl, the first stage of a prisoner’s emotional state is shock and curiosity, followed by apathy. There was this one time in the camp where they were talking about how they had gotten over their edema, and the comrade exclaimed, “I have wept it out of my system”. In response to this, Dr. Frankl agreed that either of them could guess for themselves how small their chances of survival were. But despite the hardships that they had to endure, Dr. Frankl said that he had no intention of losing hope and giving up. He didn’t fear death, instead, he responded to his suffering in a positive way – that led him to realize that there is more to life than what he is going through. Many have died in the camp due to a lack of food, medicine, or hope, and even the lack of something to live for. Dr. Frankl kept himself alive. He drew his strength and support from thinking of his beloved wife.

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May (1969b) identified four kinds of love – sex, eros, philia, and agape. For Dr. Frankl, love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Despite being away from his wife, he didn’t let their connection fade away – this kind of love depicts eros. He had conversations with his wife, though mentally, it helped him in keeping his hope – that someday, they will be in each other’s arms again. As he stated, love goes very far beyond the physical person. Alive or not, with or without, the spiritual being is what’s important. Dr. Frankl’s desire to finish his works with logotherapy also inspired him. He was driven to help people find meaning in their lives – as he successfully did. This kind of love goes with agape – the altruistic love. May (1969) explains that to care for someone is to recognize the other person as a fellow human being, identify with the person’s pain or joy, guilt, or pity. As Dr. Frankl writes his autobiography, he hopes to cure those who experienced the alienation under the circumstances that had been brought to them.

May (1981) recognized two forms of freedom which are existential freedom and essential freedom. Existential freedom is the freedom of doing, while essential freedom is the freedom of being. As people have the freedom to choose what they believe is good for them, they also have the choice to change how they view and accept things. Dr. Frankl’s transfigured his dreadful experience in the camp to a meaningful one. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Frankl states that experiences differ from man to man, and from moment to moment, thus, making it impossible to define the general meaning of life. He believes that experiences vary, and one’s destiny cannot be compared to another’s. This just proves how he let fate take its course, his optimism and strong-willed attitude contributed to his survival, alongside helping fellow prisoners survive as well by his encouragement. As Dr. Frankl put it – “Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitudes”. Myths are the stories that unify a society; ‘they are essential to the process of keeping our souls alive and bringing us new meaning in a difficult and often meaningless world’ (May, 1991). There was this time in the camp where Dr. Frankl got invited into a spiritual seance. According to him, despite the primitiveness of the life in the concentration camp, spiritual life was possible to deepen. At this point of Dr. Frankl’s life, he realized that many of the prisoners have lost hope, but there are still those who tried to have a reason to live. Their participation in the séance implicated that they still have dreams for the future.

In conclusion, Dr. Frankl writes that those people who can succumb to such hellish conditions and experiences, to find meaning to their lives, will be able to face and survive any hardship – as he did. Dr. Frankl’s dedication in his manuscript was able to shed light on him despite the suffering, as he exclaims that the real meaning of life was to help others to find the meaning of theirs.


  1. Feist, J. J., & Feist, G. J. (2008). Theories of Personality (7th ed.). The McGraw−Hill Companies.
  2. Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s Search For Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.

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Theme Of Survival In The Book Man’s Search For Meaning. (2021, September 30). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from
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