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Mans Search For Meaning Essay

Survival and Fully Living

Viktor Frankl’s concept regarding survival and fully living was developed through his observations and experiences in the concentration camps. He used his psychiatric training to discern the meanings of observations and to help himself become a better person. He uses analysis to develop his own concepts and describes them in steps throughout the book.

When the prisoners first arrived at the camp most of them thought they would be spared at the last moment. The prisoners believed they had a chance of surviving, but this belief was eventually eliminated and it was at this time when the prisoners began to learn how to survive by using their internal strength. A sense of humor had emerged among the prisoners. This humor helped to get through some difficult situations they faced.

Viktor also observed how much a person could really endure and still live. Even though the prisoners could not clean their teeth and were deprived of warmth and vitamins, they still were able to survive. The sores and abrasions on their hands did not suppurate despite the dirt that gathered on them from the hard labor. The challenge of staying alive under these wretched conditions was to have and maintain strong internal strength.

During the time he spent in the camps, Viktor learned what was needed to survive and how to keep his internal strength despite his weakening external strength. During the second stage of Viktor’s psychological reaction, prisoners lost their sense of feeling and emotion toward events that would be emotional to people outside the camps. This was a result of the violent environment, which consisted of beatings of prisoners and the death of many others.

The prisoners could no longer feel any disgust or horror since these emotions where very common. From Viktor’s professional point of view, this observation surprised him and also gave him a different point of view of the whole situation. The pain that hurt Viktor the most was the pain he felt when he received punishment for no reason. The punishments were of an insult, and hurt the prisoners on the inside more than on the outside. Viktor also acknowledged the fact that since the prisoners lacked the primary needs, they would dream about them and put all other needs aside.

Since there was a lack of food Viktor depended greatly on his inner thoughts to get himself through the suffering. He needed some hope and a reason to live. He thought about his wife and the love that they shared. Every chance, he got he thought about pleasant events from the past to help get through all the hard times. The prisoners had a life of their own in their minds.

At one point Viktor gave up on trying to control his life and in sending himself into the path he wanted. He decided to let fate take its course. After a while he found out that he could not allow this to happen, his inner emotions could not stand being helpless. He had to make decisions for himself if he wanted to have some control over his life and if he wanted to get out of the camp alive.

When the camps were closing Viktor became the emotional leader of the remaining prisoners. He raised their hopes, and by doing this he was looking at the situation from a different point of view. He believed that life expected more from them and that they had to live in order to accomplish the unfinished work they had left behind when they left their home.

When Viktor and the prisoners were released everyone except Viktor had no sense of direction. They did not know what was right and what was wrong. They went around and copied the actions of the SS, not knowing that it was wrong. Victor was fortunate and did not end up like the other survivors, since he had more knowledge than they did and was able to see his opportunity to live his life again.

Viktor’s concept applies to my life during the times when I am feeling bad or when I just don’t know what to do. When I am have tremendous amount of work and I don’t know when or how I will get through it I think about how it will turn out in the future. I know that I will get through the difficulty alive, unlike the situation that Viktor and the other prisoners were going through. I just look forward to the future and acknowledge the fact that even if I do a bad job there will be other things to make up for it afterwards.

Sometimes when my environment is unpleasing to me I like to get out of reality and think about the things that I enjoy. When I have much work to do and I don’t know why I am doing it at all I think of my parents. I want a good education and a good career to be able to thank my parents for the sacrifices they have made for me. I hope that someday I will be successful and make my parents proud of me. I would like to pay them back for their sacrifices give something back to them and show that their sacrifices did not go to waste.

Word Count: 884

Critical Analysis of Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning

Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is a book about pain, anguish, suffering, but that's not all that it is about; it is also about dealing with these problems as it talks about how the writer was able to survive the holocaust. The first part of the book describes the many problems that the prisoners had to face at the hands of the Germans, and how they had to avoid death, from being sent instantly to the gas chambers to succumbing to the extreme cold weather. This part describes 'what' happened to the prisoners. The second part of the book focuses on 'how' the prisoners were able to survive. This is the inspirational part of the book that shows that if someone facing such precarious conditions as being in a Nazi concentration camp can survive, then people who have much minor problems to deal with should not have to try so hard.

It is no secret that the German concentration camps were a place of great torture and misgivings. Many people were killed and others tortured both mentally as well as physically. Only a handful of people (1 in 28, according to Frankl) were able to survive. The author describes three things that were the most important factors that contributed to the survivors' survival: love, work, and suffering (Frankl, 2006). It was because of these things that the people were able to survive. The love of their loved ones and the hope of meeting them someday was one of the foremost reasons that they had the will to live. Prisoners, when immersed in work, also had little time to think about something else, and that is why they were able to put their pain aside and continue surviving. The third and most interesting thins is the suffering. One might wonder how this could be a source of sustenance for the prisoners. It would be useful to consider the philosophy of Kierkegaard (1936) in order to understand how this suffering and despair helped the prisoners.

The feeling despair refers to the feeling of a loss of significance. Frankl uses this as the basis of social reflection to devise his concept of despair. This feeling can be related to the subject feeling the full impact of what has been passed upon him or her. Thus the person feels the full weight of the situation and this feeling is the basis for Kierkegaard's concept of despair. In lieu with this, this feeling is mostly associated with negative feelings. Frankl thus regard despair as a negative feeling that happens when one finds that he has actually lost something of significance due to an act that could or could not have been avoided. Thus a death of a loved one, the loss of a lover, destruction of wealth, and dismissal by the parents or children all would contribute to the person's state of despair. According to this, what the person is feeling inside is fundamentally different from what is going on in the society.

This is why Frankl's ideas are so relatable to his readers. He talks about all the hardships that he and his fellow prisoners had to go through in the tough times of being in Nazi concentration camps. Yet, these people extricated all their strength and their hopes from pain, suffering, and despair. This is what makes Frankl's account truly astounding. People reading his book absorb the atrocities that the prisoners had to go through and they compare it to the comparatively trivial problems that plague them in their common lives. These problems seem to be extremely minute compared to what the prisoners had to go through. And when people read about how the survivors were able to gain their strength from their trials, it gives the readers the proper motivation and the nudge in the direction of finding their own peace with their problems. Frankl's account is a remarkable tale that has worked to inspire and help many people who have read the book. 


References

Frankl, Viktor E. (2006). Man's Search for Meaning. Beacon Press.

Kierkegaard, Soren. (1936). Philosophical Fragments. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 

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