According to a survey conducted by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress, Man's Search For Meaning belongs to a list of "the ten most influential books in [the United States]." (New York Times, November 20, 1991). At the time of the authors death in 1997, the book had sold 10 million copies in twenty-four languages.
Frankl concludes that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living; life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death. In a group therapy session during a mass fast inflicted on the camp's inmates trying to protect an anonymous fellow inmate from fatal retribution by authorities, Frankl offered the thought that for everyone in a dire condition there is someone looking down, a friend, family member, or even God, who would expect not to be disappointed. Frankl concludes from his experience that a prisoner's psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also from the freedom of choice he always has even in severe suffering. The inner hold a prisoner has on his spiritual self relies on having a faith in the future, and that once a prisoner loses that faith, he is doomed.
He also concludes that there are only two races of men, decent men and indecent. No society is free of either of them, and thus there were "decent" Nazi guards and "indecent" prisoners, most notably the capo who would torture and abuse their fellow prisoners for personal gain.
His concluding passage in Part One describes the psychological reaction of the inmates to their liberation, which he separates into three stages. The first is depersonalization—a period of readjustment, in which a prisoner gradually returns to the world. Initially, the liberated prisoners are so numb that they are unable to understand what freedom means, or to emotionally respond to it. Part of them believes that is an illusion or a dream that will be taken away from them. In their first foray outside their former prison, the prisoners realized that they could not comprehend pleasure. Flowers and the reality of the freedom they had dreamed about for years were all surreal, unable to be grasped in their depersonalization.
The body is the first element to break out of this stage, responding by voracious eating and sleeping. Only after the partial replenishing of the body is the mind finally able to respond, as “feeling suddenly broke through the strange fetters which had restrained it” (111).
This begins the second stage, in which there is a danger of deformation. As the intense pressure on the mind is released, mental health can be endangered. Frankl uses the analogy of a diver suddenly released from his pressure chamber.
He recounts the story of a decent friend who became immediately obsessed with dispensing the same violence in judgment of his abusers that they had inflicted on him. Upon returning home, the prisoners had to struggle with two fundamental experiences which could also damage their mental health.
The first is bitterness at the lack of responsiveness of the world outside—a “superficiality and lack of feeling...so disgusting that one finally felt like creeping into a hole and neither hearing nor seeing human being any more” (113). Worse was disillusionment, which was the discovery that suffering does not end, that the longed-for happiness will not come. This was the experience of those who—like Frankl—returned home to discover that no one awaited them. The hope which has sustained them throughout the camp was now gone. Frankl cites this experience as the most difficult to overcome.
As time passed, however, the prisoner's experience in a concentration camp finally became nothing but a nightmare. What is more, he knows that he has nothing left to fear any more, "except his God" (115).
Those hoping for an early spring -- much like those hoping for a speedy conclusion to the political talks -- have been left disappointed.
Feb 03, 2010; Those hoping for an early spring -- much like those hoping for a speedy conclusion to the political talks -- have been left...