“Man’s Search for Meaning” is a book not only about an incredible personal experience, but it is also a book of one’s will to survive under the most tragic conditions. Viktor Frankl speaks about his experience at numerous concentration camps during the heartbreaking time of the Holocaust. He continues to refer to the idea that “He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How.” Frankl watched a prison life destroyed most people. He refused to let the Holocaust break him down mentally, even if the constant work wore his body down physically.
We would all like to think that we are in control of our possessions and that no one can take them away from us. However, Frankl points out that there are “forces beyond your control [that] can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” This freedom, the freedom of response, can truly change our lives. In order to change how we respond to situations, we must change our thoughts. We are our thoughts and this is evident by the prisoners at the concentration camps. Those who gave up on life and felt they did not have a purpose or that their purpose was taken from them often died. Frankl decided to take a different approach stating that no matter the conditions, even the worst of conditions, life holds a potential meaning. He used the idea of love, the idea of thinking of his beloved wife or things in his past that brought him joy, to get through the Holocaust. Even under the most tragic conditions, conditions that no human being should ever have to endure, he believed “that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire.” Upon this realization, Frankl tried to share his theories with others to uplift their spirits in the hopes of finding meaning in their lives and a will to survive. As Frankl helped out in the sick bays, he found a purpose while in concentration camps.
Imagine for a moment that everything you have is taken away from you: your family, house, career, clothes, and your entire life. Imagine being crammed into a train car not knowing where you are going. Imagine landing in a concentration camp, being given a number instead of a name and having to work for little to no food. Your body whittles down to skin and bones and you are given a piece of wood to sleep, but you have to sleep sideways on it and you crammed with others. You experience brutality and see death everyday. You dig graves for the people you used to share a wood board with. Would you choose to let your mind wander to the darkest places and seal your inevitable death? Or would you choose to find a meaning to your life in the worst and most tragic conditions? To choose love, above all else, to push you through this horrid experience?
Our thoughts are what we inevitably become. They can build us up or tear us down. So why not choose the thoughts that create a strong mind filled with compassion and kindness? Why not choose the thoughts that uplift the lives of others? Why not choose love? For if you choose love, you have found your Why to live and you can bear almost any How.