In the past year, depression and anxiety rates have significantly increased because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During a time in which there are limited social activities and events, life can feel meaningless and hopeless for some people. While we cannot escape the pandemic, we still have the freedom to embrace a more positive attitude. This is the main argument the psychologist Viktor Frankl makes in his bestselling novel, Man’s Search for Meaning. An Austrian Jew, Frankl survived the Holocaust and lost all his family members, including his pregnant wife. His experience in the concentration camps made him grapple with one of life’s biggest questions: what is one’s purpose of living despite harsh conditions?
The book begins in a slow-paced manner as he describes the brutal and grueling conditions of life in the concentration camps. Although the matter-of-fact tone caused the book to not be as engaging as I hoped to be, I still appreciated the fine observations Frankl made about the psychological changes he underwent during the war. His observant and contemplative nature inspired me to incorporate that practice into my daily life. From appreciating the beauty of nature to finding the determination to live, his words felt empowering.
Another thing I enjoyed about the book was that the author gave unique pieces of advice throughout the whole book, allowing readers to piece the whole puzzle of life over time. As a result, his story coupled with words of wisdom makes the readers indirectly have their own revelations. For instance, the major contrast between his life and mine made me realize how ungrateful I was. This motivated me to reconsider how I thought of my current situation and my relationship with others.
Unlike other self-help books that I read in the past, the writing style in Frankl’s memoir felt distinct. Instead of providing information that could be summarized into actionable items on a bullet list, Frankl wants the reader to go through the journey with him that comes in the form of philosophical musings and psychological theories. Whether it was commentaries about the state of modern society or anecdotes about his past patients, his elevated writing influenced me to think about these issues and attempt to answer these complex questions.
While I found Frankl’s theory of logotherapy to be insightful, the jargon and complicated terminology made it difficult at times to fully comprehend the concepts. If I had read more about Freud’s theories and other theories beforehand, then I may have enjoyed the book more.
Despite not being the most absorbing book, I still loved the important lessons I learned from this book about the meaning of life. Although it may be early for us teenagers to consider these questions, it is never too late to think about the bigger picture in life. In fact, I recommend that you read this book as early as possible in the hopes that it may provide more guidance in the coming years. One main issue in the modern age is that certain people spend so much time focusing on other matters like money and prestige while neglecting greater issues like self-actualization. This book is a reminder that if we want greater satisfaction in life, then it is time for us to consider why we are here on Earth.