In September of 1942 Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and nuerologist from Vienna was deported to a Nazi concentration camp along with his elderly parents and pregnant wife. After three brutal years at the camp it was liberated and Frankl walked out of the camp alone as his parents and wife perished in the camp. Upon leaving the camp Frankl wrote his renowned book “Mans Search for Meaning.”
Frankl was utilized as a therapist while in the death camp and came to believe that finding meaning could make all the difference including life and death. The camp’s prisoners sometimes became very despondent and those that could not find meaning in the simple interactions of daily life sometimes ended their own lives. The inhabitants of the camp lived with the daily threat of bodily harm or death. They suffered all manner of indignities and perhaps the worst pain was suffered by those that were separated from their children or loved one upon entering the camp.
Still, many found meaning, not happiness in daily life. A recent study released in the Journal of Positive Psychology asked hundreds of Americans between 18 and 78 whether they thought their lives were meaningful or happy. Leading a happy life was defined as being a “taker “ or someone that put their energies into satisfying themselves and stayed away from situations that could be troublesome or complicated.
A meaningful life was defined as being a “giver” or someone that derived meaning from giving to others and also did not avoid complicated or difficult situations or people. Frankl believed that ” happiness without meaning would lead to a life that was characterized as a shallow, self-absorbed or selfish life in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied and difficult or taxing situations are avoided.”
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net