Book Review: "Man's Search For Meaning", by Viktor E. Frankl

He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.

Friedrich Nietzsche

This quote aptly describes Frankl's "autobibliotherapy", or his story of how his time spent in four Nazi concentration camps helped sharpen his psychotherapeutic techniques. Frankl, who turned down an American visa offer before the war started to be with his elderly parents, forced himself to live by thinking of reuniting with his pregnant wife (who died in the camps) and lecturing on surviving the camps after the war was over. With those techniques (and quite a bit of luck and guile), he survived and went on to pioneer the technique of logotherapy, or the idea that people are driven to find some meaning or purpose in life.

As a meditation practitioner, I can really see how his experiences lend credence to his later arguments on logotherapy as opposed to meditation for mental and emotional health. The best teachers are not geniuses who naturally comprehend all the material, but rather those who do not and have to force themselves through to that goal. This makes them relatable to ordinary students and gives the teacher valuable perspective and empathy to pass on. That Frankl's belief in logotherapeutic techniques only strengthened during his time in the camps, after everything else was stripped away from him (including the manuscript for his book), gives us hope that logotherapy will work for our (much more minor) sufferings and experienced injustices as well.