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 Man’s Search for Meaning—Book Report 

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Michael Santos

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We invite members of our community to write book reports, and we received a report from TIMOTHY HERMAN, who described his reaction to Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. With his permission, we published the report.

Why I read Man’s Search for Meaning:

I read Man’s Search for Meaning a few weeks after I began serving a sentence of 6.5 years for a crime I did not commit. I refused a plea deal but lost at trial. I am a strong Christian but I wanted to gain some insight from a non-Christian source. I needed more wisdom on the purpose of suffering injustice.

What I learned from reading Man’s Search for Meaning:

  1. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless;
  2. we give our suffering meaning by the way we respond to it.
  3. The man, whose self-esteem has always depended on the respect of others, is emotionally destroyed.
  4. There are three phases of an inmate’s mental reaction to prison; the period following incarceration; the period of an entrenched routine; and the period following release.
  5. People who are strong intellectually or spiritually are less likely to suffer damage to their inner self.
  6. Humor is one of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. 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 decided whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.”

“Instead of taking the (concentration) camp’s difficulties as a test of the inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless.”

“The prisoner who lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis.”

“It does not matter what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us…life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

“When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

How reading Man’s Search for Meaning will contribute to my success upon release:

Reading Man’s Search for Meaning helped to establish my purpose while I am incarcerated: it was important that I not see this as wasted time, but instead it was a valuable lesson to prepare me for something more important.

Preparations I am making for success: I have started writing a book and I have prepared dozens of speeches (sermons) which I will use as opportunities are presented.

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