Man’s Search for Meaning
How Meaning Can Enrich Our Lives
I recently reread Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. I first read the book when I was in a time of deep depression and it had a great impact on me. In it, Frankl shares his experiences in a concentration camp during World War II. It was through that suffering that he developed Logotherapy, a therapeutic approach in which meaning is used to combat mental illness.
Throughout the book, Frankl fleshes out a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” We live in a culture that is constantly seeking happiness, but misses the essential step of determining what will make us happy and why. We look for the solution without knowing the problem or the means of solving the problem. Or, as Frankl puts it another way, we chastise ourselves for not laughing when we do not understand or have a joke to make us laugh.
I am often asked about the meaning of suffering. Frankl is hesitant to define the meaning of suffering universally, but does comment that everyone can find meaning in their own lives.
He challenges his readers with the example of a monkey being subject to tests and suffering numerous needle sticks a day in order to find a cure for disease. Can this test subject know that his suffering has meaning? Of course not, because the animal cannot understand the greater meaning we see. But could it not be the same with a higher power over us, such as God or another being, who has meaning above ours?
This week, find your why for the tedious, painful and mundane that you are encountering in your life. Learn to befriend your suffering and see it as valuable and an opportunity for growth. If there is meaning, life can be beautiful.