Viktor Emil Frankl, M.D., Ph.D. (March 26, 1905 - September 2, 1997) was
an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust
survivor. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of
existential analysis, the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy". His
best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning (published under a
different title in 1959: From Death- Camp to Existentialism, and
originally published in 1946 as Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen: Ein
Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager, meaning Nevertheless, Say
"Yes" to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicles
his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, which led him to
discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence,
even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living. Frankl
became one of the key figures in existential therapy and a prominent
source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists. (Click
here for full Wikipedia article)
A human being is a deciding being.
A life of short duration... could be so rich in joy and love that it
could contain more meaning than a life lasting eighty years.
A man who could not see the end of his 'provisional existence' was not
able to aim at an ultimate goal in life.
An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.
As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a
problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may
actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of
his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In
a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life
by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being
As the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged:
survival for what? Ever more people have the means to live, but no
meaning to live for.
At any moment, man must decide, for better or for worse, what will be
the monument of his existence.
At such a moment, it is not the physical pain which hurts the most (and
this applies to adults as much as to punished children); it is the
mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all.
At the beginning of human history, man lost some of the basic animal
instincts in which an animal's behavior is embedded and by which it is
secured. Such security, like paradise, is closed to man forever; man has
to make choices... No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no
tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know
what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people
do (conformism) or he does what other people tell him to do
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lays our
freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our
growth and freedom.
Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the
more you are going to miss it.
Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must
carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he
cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone's task
is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human
freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to
choose one's own way.
Fear makes come true that which one is afraid of...
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.
For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse
unless each of us does his best.
For too long a time- for half a century, in fact- psychiatry tried to
interpret the human mind merely as a mechanism, and consequently the
therapy of mental disease merely in terms of technique. I believe this
dream has been dreamt out. What now begins to loom on the horizon is not
psychologized medicine but rather those of human psychiatry.
For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential
at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to
turn one's predicament into a human achievement.
Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except
one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.
Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose
positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of
degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of
responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on
the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West
Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it
is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the
Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of
Responsibility on the West Coast.
Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let
it happen by not caring about it.
Having been is also a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind.
Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the
opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation
may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings
Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole
it would be easy to condemn.
Human potential at its best is to transform a tragedy into a personal
triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know
bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his
In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a
meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.
It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the
It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.
It is this spiritual freedom- which cannot be taken away- that makes
life meaningful and purposeful.
Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of
meaning and purpose.
Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted
wrongly the first time.
Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved.
Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core
of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of
another human being unless he loves him.
Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be,
what he will become in the next moment.
Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of
changing himself for the better if necessary.
Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather determines
himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them. In other
words, man is ultimately self-determining.
Man is originally characterized by his 'search for meaning' rather than
his 'search for himself.' The more he forgets himself- giving himself to
a cause or another person- the more human he is. And the more he is
immersed and absorbed in something or someone other than himself the
more he really becomes himself.
No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether
in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.
Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we
know what is at stake.
Sunday neurosis... that kind of depression which afflicts people who
become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the
busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.
The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from
hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in
general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given
The meaning of life is to give life meaning.
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
The point is not what we expect from life, but rather what life expects
These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man,
and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning
of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never
be answered by sweeping statements. 'Life' does not mean something
vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life's tasks are
also very real and concrete. They form man's destiny, which is different
and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared
with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself,
and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the
situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own
fate by action. At other times it is more advantageous for him to make
use of an opportunity for contemplation and to realize assets in this
way. Sometimes man may be required simple to accept fate, to bear his
cross. Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is
always only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at
Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.
To suffer unecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.
Ultimate meaning necessarily exceeds and surpasses the finite
intellectual capacities of man... What is demanded of man is not, as
some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of
life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional
meaningfulness in rational terms. Logos is deeper than logic.
What is to give light must endure burning.
When we are no longer able to change a situation- we are challenged to
(March 26 is also the birthday of Leonard
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