Yesterday I finished the book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. I heard of the book first time from a tweet by Keith Rabois.
It is the story of a psychiatrist who survived four Nazi concentration camps during world war II. Perfect time to read while just arriving to Germany!
The book is not the typical WWII horror story type of book. It rather focuses on the psychological aspect of being a prisoner in one of those camps, and the difference between those survived and those gave up to let themselves die.
Then the author talks about a new approach to psychiatry which he calls “Logotherapy”. Logos is a greek word which denotes “meaning”. Here is an excerpt from the book
Logotherapy, or, as it has been called by some authors, “The Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy,” focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. That is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle (or, as we could also term it, the will to pleasure) on which Freudian psychoanalysis is centered, as well as in contrast to the will to power on which Adlerian psychology, using the term “striving for superiority,” is focused.
Logotherapy regards its assignment as that of assisting the patient to find meaning in his life. Inasmuch as logotherapy makes him aware of the hidden logos of his existence, it is an analytical process. To this extent, logotherapy resembles psychoanalysis. However, in logotherapy’s attempt to make something conscious again it does not restrict its activity to instinctual facts within the individual’s unconscious but also cares for existential realities, such as the potential meaning of his existence to be fulfilled as well as his will to meaning.
Any analysis, however, even when it refrains from including the noölogical dimension in its therapeutic process, tries to make the patient aware of what he actually longs for in the depth of his being. Logotherapy deviates from psychoanalysis insofar as it considers man a being whose main concern consists in fulfilling a meaning, rather than in the mere gratification and satisfaction of drives and instincts, or in merely reconciling the conflicting claims of id, ego and superego, or in the mere adaptation and adjustment to society and environment.
I have few highlights from the book, but here is one that I really liked.
Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, before her death professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, contended, in her article on logotherapy, that “our current mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy.”
Although the book was first published in 1946, this is so true to our current world!