An Austrian Jew, Frankl was arrested in September 1942 next to his pregnant wife and his parents and was taken to a camp where he spent the next three years. After the liberation, he discovered that his relatives had all died at the hands of the Nazis.
In his book, written in just nine days, he said he discovered that the most important factor in surviving the concentration camp was finding meaning. Those who had been more resistant to the conditions and could endure even the worst sufferings. He said that when someone knows the “why” of existence, he can set up a “how”.
During his stay in the camp, Frankl worked as a therapist and gave the example of two men who had come to his home when they thought of suicide. Believing they had no reason to live, they wanted to end their suffering, but instead of giving up, Frankl encouraged them to find a purpose or a reason to live.
He wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning: “It was about making life always wait for something from them; We expected something from them in the future. “
One man focused on a series of books he wanted to finish and the other on his child in a foreign country and Frankl claimed that it was this discovery of meaning in their life, which made them made you want to live.
This sense of purpose became a source of mental strength and helped put a value on their suffering and a reason to survive through it. In this way, a life with meaning, less concerns the person and more the higher self and what it can accomplish. This is contrary to the pursuit of happiness, which is a selfish approach that does not guarantee that happiness will be achieved.
Frankl claimed that it was impossible to “pursue” happiness and that it was something that had to be “followed” as a consequence of a person’s action rather than purpose. He felt that just looking for happiness “disturbed” achievement and made people less happy in the long run.
In a recent survey, Gallup found that while 60% of Americans feel happy, without stress or worry, 40% said they did not find a satisfying life goal.
Frankl did not argue that happiness was not important, but that the pursuit of meaning was of greater value to a person’s life. The emphasis on meaning is proven to improve the well-being and satisfaction of a person’s life, making them physically and mentally healthier.
It helps make someone more resistant to life’s problems, which means they are less susceptible to depression and improve their self-esteem.
70 years after the first publication, Frank’s Man’s Search for Meaning has sold millions of books and remains an important and relevant work. In fact, many psychologists encourage people to search for a more meaningful existence.
A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology that looked at 400 Americans between the ages of 18 and 78 to find out if they had led a meaningful or happy life, found that while there is an overlap between the two finally, they were very different.
Those who sought a happier life were considered “takers” while those who had found meaning were “donors”, who eventually became more successful and more satisfied with their existence, and at the end account, happier.
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