Man’s Search For Meaning

A quote heavy post today! I thought that I’d share possibly one of the most thought provoking pieces of writing that I’ve ever come across. It is deserving of a place in my rainbow bookcase. Indeed, after I first read it I treated myself to a posh hard covered version as a keeper. Man’s Search for Meaning   by Viktor Frankl is pretty famous.  It says on the cover that 11 million copies have been sold. No doubt, some of you might have already read this incredibly wise book.

 ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ tells the story of Frankl’s time in concentration camps including Auschwitz during the second world war.  His experiences  shaped his perception of the human psyche and went on to inform his therapeutic practice. For after the war this man did not only go on just to survive. He thrived, becoming a psychiatrist, neurologist and philosopher.

Compassion springs from every page. This wise man saw the value in every human being. “But today’s society is characterized by achievement orientation, and consequently it adores people who are successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the young. It virtually ignores the value of all those who are otherwise, and in so doing blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness.  This is one of many quotes that demonstrates why Frankl was a role model for my own practice in mental health with people, including prisoners, with debilitating mental illness.

In spite of the grim subject matter the book embodies hope. It tells of the capacity for individuals to survive and learn from the bleakest experiences.  Wherever you turn in the text there is wisdom. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” says Frankl.

With my exit from professional life as an occupational therapist Frankl’s words about success and crucially how to go about attaining it hits home. It’s a perspective that might have been lost on my younger self . I was more stereotypically driven in the past. For the older, and hopefully wiser person that I think I’ve become, it makes a lot of sense.

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” 

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