Man's search for meaning


In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.

By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system ...

Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself ...

In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice ... In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end ... My comrades' ... question was, "Will we survive the camp? For, if not, all this suffering has no meaning." The question which beset me was, "Has all this suffering, this dying around us, a meaning? For, if not, then ultimately there is no meaning to survival; for a life whose meaning depends upon such a happenstance as whether one escapes or not ultimately would not be worth living at all."




Viktor Emil Frankl M.D., Ph.D. "Man's search for meaning." excerpt from Man's Search for Meaning (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992).

It is deemed that this short excerpt did not require permission of the copyright holder.


Viktor Emil Frankl M.D., Ph.D. (1905-1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory — known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning") — holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. Viktor Frankl is the author of Man's Search for Meaning, Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, and The Will To Meaning.

Copyright © 1946 Viktor Emil Frankl

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