Man's Search for Meaning By Viktor E. Frankl
August 2019Rating: 9 / 10
The book is written by a psychiatrist who got impresoned in a nazy-German concentration camp. The book focuses on how humans could finding still meaning in their life under such extreme conditions. When we remove all the physical possessions, what really gives our life meaning.
The author comes to a conclusion that meaning can be found through three ways:
- Creating work or doing a deed.
- Experiencing something or encountering someone (through love).
- Attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
Meaning in life differs from one person to another. The attitude to find meaning is to think that everyone is questioned by life and we must answer by being responsible.
It also beautifully demonstrate that humans are adaptive. A quote that stuck in my head after reading the book was:
Having a Why to live for enabled them to bear the How.
The book also highlighted about the importance of acknowledging our ability to make choices regardless of the environment.
It wasn’t an easy read considering some of the details of his story but I really enjoyed reading this book, I highly recommend it!
- Having a Why to live for enabled them to bear the How.
- An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is a normal behavior.
- The salvation of man is through love and in love.
- No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
- Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already
- Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time so wrongly as you are about to act now.
- When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.
- Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.
- It didn’t really matter what we expected from life but what life expected from us.
- Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible and of changing himself for the better if necessary.
- Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
- Man have a choice of action
- Humans have the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances , to choose one’s own way .
- there are always choices to make.
- Any many can decide what shall become of him mentally and spiritually.
- We are never left with nothing as long as we retain the freedom to choose how we will respond.
- There is a danger inherent in teaching of the theory that man is nothing but the result of biological, psychological and sociological conditions or the product of heredity and environment. That denies that man is free.
- Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.
- The more a man tries to demonstrate his sexual potency or a woman her ability to experience orgasm, the less they are able to success. Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree which it is made a goal in itself.
- You see that in the long run.
- The burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy.
- Negative happiness - “freedom from suffering”
- Optimism feeling - clung to the shreds of hope and believes to the last moment that it would not be so bad.
- Picturing freedom all in detail.
- Waited for things to take their course.
- They tried to save themselves but they only sealed their own fates.
- Fate was one’s master
- I decided to take fate into my own hands for once.
- How uncertain human decisions are
- Everywhere man is confronted with his fate with the chance of achieving something through his own sufferings.
- We hardly recognized each other. We knew that we had nothing to lose except our so ridiculously naked lives.
- One literally became a number: dead or alive- that was unimportant.
- Surprised that we did not catch a cold in that harsh environment.
- Textbook tell lies
- We were unable to clean our teeth but we had healthier gums than ever before.
- I have been convinced that there were certain things I just could not do but I was wrong.
- A man can get used to anything but do not ask us how.
- After freedom we found it so different from all he had longed for
- I only smiled
- Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.
- There were songs, poems, jokes, some with underlying satire which all were meant to help us forget.
- We all tried very hard to make fun both about ourselves and about each other.
- At critical moments I felt curiosity whether I should come out of it alive or with a fractured skull or some other injuries.
- We were grateful for the smallest of mercies.
- The neurotic who learns to laugh at himself may be on the way to self-management, perhaps to cure.
- Transform personal tragedy into a triumph.
- Easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive in the camp life.
- Good in people
- Someone smuggled himself into our hut. He wanted to calm and comfort us.
- Human kindness can be found in all groups.
- Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.
How to survive
- Look fit for work to survive
- Shave, stand and walk smartly
- Don’t be conspicuous
- I generally answered all questions truthfully . But I was silent about anything that was not expressly asked for.
- One thought only: keep himself alive for the family waiting for him at home, and to save his friends.
- Imagine someone looks down on each of us in difficult hours - a friend, a wife, somebody alive or dead. and they would not expect us to disappoint him.
- Capacity for detachment.
- Mental agony caused by the injustice
- We appreciated fairness more.
- most painful part of beatings is the insult.
- He had taken a liking to me because I listened.
- Claim a fictitious name or profession. - I struck out of my whole former life.
- The stages: the period following his admission, the period when he is well entrenched in the camp routine; and the period following his release and liberation.
- First phase is shock
- Boundless longing to his home and family.
- Disgust with all ugliness with surrounded him.
- General irritability was most intense when these mental tensions were added.
- Second phase Emotional death.
- The 2nd stage his feelings were blunted
- No dream no matter how horrible could be as bad as the reality of the camp.
- The connection between the state of mind and immunity of his body.
- How we envied those of us who had the opportunity to get into a factor and work in a sheltered room.
- We sheep thought of two things only - how to evade the bad dogs and how to get little food.
- The feelings of the guards were dulled by time, some didn’t take part but didn’t stop the actions either.
- A day lasted longer than a week but a week passed faster than a day.
- Lifelessness intensified by “time” & “space”.
- We couldn’t grasp that freedom was ours.
- Lost the ability to feel pleased.
- they were now the oppressors instead of the oppressed.
- Bitterness and disillusionment
- He can no longer understand how he endured it all.
- Hunger made us unable to think of anything other than food.
- The sexual urge was generally absent.
- Politics and religion were discussed often .
- The religions interest was the most sincere imaginable. The depth and vigor of religious belief often surprised and moved a new arrival.
- Is it not conceivable that there is still another dimension, a world beyond man’s world.
- Bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.
- Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain but damage to their innerselves was less.
- Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom.
- The consciousness of one's inner value is anchored in here, more spiritual things, and can’t be shaken by camp life. But how many free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?
- External situations gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond their inner strength.
- Achievement in enduring his sufferings By the help of loving contemplation fo the image he carries of his beloved.
- Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self.
- Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality.
- By making him aware of what he can be and what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.
- The intensification of inner life let him escape into the past.
- Experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before.
- How beautiful the world could be.
- Passive life of enjoyment affords him fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art or nature.
- Suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.
- To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.
- Worth of their sufferings.
- Without suffering and death human life can’t be complete.
Meaning in life
- If I had to die there might at least be some sense in my death.
- Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
- Three different ways to find meaning: - By creating a work or doing a deed - By experiencing something or encountering someone - By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
- One should not search for an abstract meaning of life.
- In no way is suffering necessary to find meaning. I only insist that meaning is possible even in spite of suffering.
- Meaning of life differs from man to man.
- No generic meaning of life but a specific meaning of a personal life at a given moment.
- Each man is questioned by life. answering by being responsible .
- What he makes out of both his life and himself.
- The more one forgets himself the more human he is.
- Self actualisation is possible only as a side effect of self transcendence.
- Viewing her life as if from her deathbed, she bad suddenly been able to see a meaning in it.
- Life’s meaning is an unconditional one.
- There must be meaning in suffering.
- The uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love.
- There is always a purpose in that life.
- Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a secondary rationalization.
- Man’s search for meaning may arouse inner tension rather than inner equilibrium. Precisely such tension is an indispensable prerequisite of mental health.
- The existential vacuum.
- No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism)
- State of boredom
- Two extremes of distress and boredom.
- Many of these won’t know what to do with all their newly acquired free time.
- Crises of pensioners and aging people.
- Vicariously compensated for by a will to power, including the most primitive form of the will to power, the will to money.
- He is not only unhappy, but also ashamed of being unhappy.
- Life of people who preferred to close their eyes and live in the past became meaningless.
- Existential frustration
- What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.
- Though experiences in the past, we have brought it into being. Having been is also a kind of being.
- Instead of possibilities. I have realities in my past, not only reality of work done and love loved but sufferings suffered.
- An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize values in creative work.
- Inferiority complex
- Not knowing how long his terms of imprisonment would be.
- A man who could not see the end was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future.
- The right example was more effective than words could ever be.
- His despair was no disease and I could not change his fate.
- What reasons has he to envy a young person? for the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “no, thank you”
- Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings ? Is man but an accidental product of these?
- The striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal.
- The tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish.
- Logotherapy focuses rather on the future. Meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future.
- Not every conflict is necessarily neurotic: some amount of conflict is normal and healthy.
The Courage to Be Disliked - The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness By Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga
May 2019Rating: 10 / 10
I really enjoyed the format of the book. It was a dialogue between a philosopher and a young man in a Socratic dialogue style. I found the audio version to be excellent.
The book introduces Adlerian psychology and what kind of philosophy can be based on it.
Adlerian psychology seems to deny the effect things from our past such as trauma on our present and future. It arguses that we all use our own (subjective) perspectives to interpret our life and we have the option to choose different perspectives if we have the courage to change.
It also denies certain traits that we think of ourselves as unchangeable "personality" but instead labels it as lifestyle that we can decide freely to change.
The book discusses the importance of accepting oneself and being part of a community. It tries to expand the traditional definition of a community such as a school or work place to include the whole universe.
Adlerian psychology has some common traits with stoicism. For example the book highlights the importance of focusing on ones own tasks that they can control and dismiss any influence we may have on others tasks that we can't control. An excellent example mentioned in the book is "You can take a horse to the lake but only the horse decides for itself to drink."
An interesting point I found was the recommendation to avoid praising or rebuking others but instead focus on encouraging others. The book suggests that praising and rebuking enforces a vertical hierarchy in our society instead of a horizontal one.
Another interesting point was how according to Adlerian psychology humans seek superiority and try to avoid a feeling of inferiority. The book dismisses the idea of living in a competition among others but instead aiming to compare to oneself and think of others as "comrades" instead of "enemies".