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Notes from "Man's Search for Meaning"

These are my notes from "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. After enduring years of unimaginable suffering at Nazi death camps, Viktor Frankl developed a new approach to psychotherapy he calls "logotherapy." His ideas are based on the idea that man's primary goal is to find meaning. These are my notes from 2015.



He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.


Even in suffering man is unique and alone in the world. No one can relieve him from his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.


Human life under any circumstances never ceases to have a meaning and that this infinite meaning of life includes starvation and suffering, privation and death.


No one has the right to do wrong even if wrong has been done to them.


Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation and his life, not a secondary rationalization of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it can and must be fulfilled by him alone. Only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning.


What man needs is the striving and struggling towards a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.


The meaning of life differs from man to man from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters therefore is not the meaning of life in general but the specific meaning of a person's life at a particular moment.


Everyone has a specific vocation or mission in life to carry out the concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced nor can his life be repeated because everyone's task is as unique as his opportunity to implement it.


Man should not ask what the meaning of his life is but rather he should recognize that it is he who is asked.


The categorical imperative of logotherapy: Live as though you were living already for the second time and live as if you have acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.


Self-actualization is possible only as a side effect of self-transcendence.


The meaning of life always changes but it never ceases to be. According to Logotherapy we can discover this meaning in three different ways. First by creating a work or doing a deed. Second, by experiencing something or encountering someone. And third, by the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering.


Through the loving person enables the loved person to actualize his potentialities.


Suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds a meaning such as the meaning of a sacrifice.


One of the main tenets of Logotherapy is that man's main concern is not to seek pleasure and avoid pain but to see a meaning to his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer on the condition that his suffering has a meaning.


Anticipatory anxiety needs to be counteracted with paradoxical intention.


Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible and of changing himself for the better if necessary.


Freedom is the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon who's positive aspect is responsibility. Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.


Happiness cannot be pursued it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy. Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically. A human being is not one in search of happiness but rather looking for a reason to become happy.


Meaning is becoming aware of the possibility against the background of reality. In other words it is becoming aware of what can be done in a given situation.


Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation facing a fate he cannot change may rise above himself and grow above himself, and by so doing, change himself.

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