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In A Man’s Search for Meaning Dr. Frankl demonstrates the way the “meaning of life” affects a person’s drive and will. Frankl’s main argument is a prisoner’s struggle to find a purpose for his suffering within a concentration camp. However, this idea can be applied to everyday situations the average person experiences. A man may endure any level of suffering, if only he has a reason to do so.
The author defines the “meaning of life” as a “‘why’ for his existence”. If a man discovers a reason for accepting his sufferings, he will be much more successful in doing so. A person who is aware of “why” he should endure it will be much better equipped to continue on and succeed. Pointless suffering of any sort is nearly unbearable to anyone.
Long after Dr. Frankl is released from the concentration camps, and has returned to practicing, an elderly gentleman was admitted to his care. The man had lost his wife, and could not overcome the grief he held. This man could not comprehend why he should attempt to deal with this tragedy. He didn’t understand what the worth was in enduring it. The doctor began to discuss with him. He guided the conversation towards the idea that, had he died first, the man’s wife would have been struck with a similar depression. Upon coming to this, Dr. Frankl offer the man a conclusion; “such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who spared her this… At the price that now you have to survive and mourn her”. The realization gave the gentleman a reason for having to suffer this. He was saving his wife’s happiness, so to speak. Without a purpose for his struggles, he was hopeless. He saw no upside to his predicament, no silver lining. Once he found his reason, he gained a comfort in that fact. The idea that his struggling now seemed noble as opposed to pitiful was enough reason for him to accept his task .
Dr. Frankl himself found a purpose for his sufferings, even within Auschwitz and other camps. He recollects one moment where the act of walking bright so much pain that he was in tears, and his thoughts were only centered around concentrating on surviving through the rest of the week. He became appalled with his current difficulties, which followed him day after day. In an attempt to distract himself, he imagined giving a lecture about the psychology of the concentration camps. He imagined a future beyond the camp. This method worked for him – his pain became a device for which to use in the future. When he imagined a future for himself, and therefore a goal to achieve, Dr. Frankl was able to feel hope for what was beyond his “provisional existence”. For, as he states, “the prisoner who had lost faith in the future … was doomed” . This person would begin to rapidly succumb to both physical and mental decay.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” provides many examples for the effects of purpose on an individual’s personal drive. Without a meaning, life becomes futile and unimportant. Whether it be within a life – or – death scenario, or feeling the, more commonly felt, loss of a loved one, meaning provides the necessary drive for perseverance. A man may endure any level of suffering, so long as he has a reason to continue on.
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