Viktor Frankl is a renowned psychiatrist, who survived the holocaust and transformed his traumatizing experiences to something positive. It is through his experience that he came up with the concept of logotherapy, which emphasizes the will to find meaning in life as the ultimate goal in one’s life. This paper shall express how Frankl addressed the problem of meaning or lack of thereof while in concentration camp.
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How Frankl addressed the problem of meaning or lack of thereof while he spent time in the concentration camp
Frankl, alongside with his entire family, were deported into a concentration camp known as Theresienstadt. In the camp, he worked very hard as a psychiatrist to help people cope with grief.
After sometime, he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp where he was supposed to stay for six months and a number of days laboring as a slave. His mother and wife had been moved to different camps where they perished. The father also died in one of the concentration camps. He was lucky to have escaped from the torment of these camps when he and his sister, who was the only relative alive, were freed by the Americans in 1945.
His suffering at the camps, as well as those of the other people they were with, led him to a conclusion that there is still a possibility of one finding meaning in life, even in the most painful and dehumanizing situations. To validate his belief, there are several instances in Frankl’s life when he was able to overcome despair in the midst of very tough situations and made a choice to find meaning in life.
For example, he talks of an incident which occurred while they were working in harsh conditions in the concentration camps. During this time, he talks of the inhuman conditions they were subjected to as they moved from one place to another under the strict surveillance of their guards. The guards would treat them without any human dignity, shouting at them and beating them for no reason.
It is during this journey that one of the fellow prisoners expressed to Frankl a concern about their wives in the camps. This struck Frankl in a manner that he had never imagined and he started seeing the truth in what song writers and poets said in their works concerning the power of love.
He understood that even in the worst situation, it is possible for a person to experience a moment of bliss by just thinking about their loved ones. The thought of his wife brought him a lot of consolation, despite the harsh conditions that were surrounding his life. It is through thinking about her that he found meaning in life, and therefore came to the conclusion that there is a way that everybody, despite what life has to offer, can find meaning in life.
Moreover, he also found meaning in life through overlooking the realities in his current life and living in a spiritual world. According to Frankl (47), was a way of finding meaning in life because no one had the capacity to access one’s spiritual life and destroy it.
By choosing to dwell in the spiritual rather than the real as a prisoner, he was able to adapt to the harsh conditions and this gave him an advantage over the rest because his chances for survival were higher than a prisoner who was yet to adapt. He has captured his arguments about the possibility of finding meaning in life in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’.
Frankl has been a positive influence to many people’s lives through his experiences of being able to find meaning in life in unimaginable situations. He is a believer of the fact that it is possible for every human being to find meaning in their life, despite what they are going through in life. He has learnt this from his past experiences.
Frankl, Viktor. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.