Mans Search Essay

This essay has a total of 2484 words and 18 pages.

Mans Search

Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning



"On the average, only those prisoners could keep alive who, after years of trekking from
camp to camp, had lost all scruples in their fight for

existence; they were prepared to use every means, honest and otherwise, even brutal force,
theft, and betrayal of their friends, in order to

save themselves. We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles -
whatever one may choose to call them - we

know: the best of us did not return."

(p. 7)

The Three Phases of the Inmate's Mental Reactions to Camp Life:

a) the period following his admission

Symptom = shock

"Delusion of reprieve": "The condemned man, immediately before
his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprieved at the
very last moment. We, too, clung to the shreds of hope and
believed to the last moment that it would not be so bad."

(p. 14)

1) a grim sense of humor
2) cold curiosity
3) thoughts of suicide

"An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior."
(p. 30)

b) The period when he is well entrenched in camp routine

a) Relative apathy, a kind of emotional death

"Disgust, horror and pity" were "emotions" one could "not really
feel anymore. The sufferers, the dying and the dead, became such
commonplace sights to him after a few weeks of camp life that they
could not move him anymore."
(p. 33)

"...the prisoner soon surrounded himself with a very necessary
protective shell."
(p. 35).

b) Extreme hunger from undernourishment & preoccupation with food

c) Absence of sexual urge

d) "Cultural hibernation," with the two exceptions: politics and religion

"In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of
life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to
deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life
may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate
constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They
were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of
inner riches and spiritual freedom."
(p. 56).

On love while thinking on his wife while marching:

"...for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into
song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so
many thinkers. The truth - that love is the ultimate and the
highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning
of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and
belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in
love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world
still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the
contemplation of his beloved."
(p. 59)

"A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still
alive, I knew only one thing - which I have learned well by now:
Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved.
It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self.
Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still
alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance."
(p. 60)

"Intensification of inner life" (p. 61): "escape into the past"
"As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense,
he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before."
(p. 62)

a) Intense appreciation for beauty

b) Humor: "another of the soul's weapon in the fight for self-
preservation." (p. 68).

"...the 'size' of human suffering is absolutely relative."

"Gas" analogy: (p. 70). Also, the relativity of joy. See examples.

c) Loss of values

"...everything that was not connected with the immediate task of
keeping oneself and one's closest friends alive lost its value.
Everything was sacrificed to this end. A man's character became
involved to the point that he was caught in a mental turmoil
which threatened all the values he held and threw them into
doubt. Under the influence of a world which no longer recognized
the value of human life and human dignity, which had robbed man
of his will and had made him an object to be exterminated (having
planned, however, to make full use of him first - to the last ounce
of his physical resources) - under this influence the personal ego finally suffered a loss
of values. If the man in the concentration camp did not

struggle against this in a last effort to save his
self-respect, he lost the feeling of being an individual, a being
with a mind, with inner freedom and personal value. He thought of
himself then as only part of an enormous mass of people; his
existence descended to the level of animal life."
(p. 78-79)

d) Thoughts on fate, including parable of death in Teheran.

e) Freedom

"Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence
of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical

"...everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last
of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
(p. 104)

"Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a
decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would
not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your
very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not
you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing
freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the
typical inmate."
(p. 104)

" the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person
the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not
the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any
man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become
of him - mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity
even in a concentration camp."
(p. 105)

DOSTOEVSKI: "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be
worthy of my sufferings."

"It is this spiritual freedom - which cannot be taken away -
that makes life meaningful and purposeful." (p. 106)

"If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning
in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate
and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be
(p. 106)

"The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it
entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample
opportunity - even under the most difficult circumstances -to add
a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and
unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may
forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.
Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forego the opportunity of
attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may

afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy
of his suffering or not."
(p. 106-107)

Prison life: a "provisional existence of unknown limit" (p. 111)

Latin, finis, has two meanings:

a) the end or the finish

b) a goal to reach

"A man who could not see the end of his 'provisional existence'
was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living
for the future, in contrast to a man in normal life. Therefore the
whole structure of his inner life changed; signs of decay set in...

" Altered experience of time: (p. 112)
Continues for 9 more pages >>