skip navigation bar phoenix 5 - to help men and their companions overcome issues created by prostate cancer
main menu   -   prostate   -   stories   -   articles   -   sexuality   -   resources   -   glossary   -   search

photograph of Viktor Frankl
cover of Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning
Remembering Victor Frankl

by William N. Grosch, M.D., M.Div.

Dr. Frankl, one of the last great Viennese psychiatrists, died at 92 on September 2, 1997.

His Man's Search for Meaning, completed in 1946, and originally titled in German From Death Camp to Existentialism, remains one of the most influential books I have ever read. Even though he lost his parents, brother, and pregnant wife in the camps, he left us with some enduring truths: that we are still "free to choose our attitude' toward our plight and 'if we have a why to live, we can endure almost any how." This book, the first of 34 books, was reprinted 73 times, was translated into 24 languages, and sold more than 10 million copies. A 1991 Library of Congress survey found that Man's Search for Meaning was one of the ten most influential books ever read by general-interest readers.

According to Dr. Frankl, behavior is driven by a need to find meaning and purpose. His ideas have been especially appealing to those who complain about emptiness or the meaninglessness of their lives. In the concentration camps, between 1942 and 1945, he discovered a link between prisonersí loss of faith in the future and a dangerous giving up. He found the only meaning for him was to try to help his fellow prisoners restore their psychological health.

"We had to learn ourselves, and furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us," he wrote. "We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, but instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life, daily and hourly."

"Our answer must consist not in talk and medication, but in right action and in right conduct. 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."

One specific action, in which he found "the tender beginnings of a psychotherapy," were attempts by himself and those who were able to fight off depression, to help prevent suicides among others.

During his later years as a psychotherapist with severely depressed patients, Dr. Frankl said he pointedly asked, "Why do you not commit suicide?" The answers he received - love of one's children, a talent to be used or perhaps only fond memories - often were the threads he tried to weave back, through psychotherapy, into the pattern of meaning in a troubled life.

He developed a school of existential psychotherapy called Logotherapy and contributed to the development of humanistic psychotherapy and existential philosophy in Europe and the United States.

He was a visiting professor at Harvard, Stanford, Southern Methodist, and other American universities, and lectured in the United States and around the globe.

Click here to go to the Viktor Frankl Institute Web page.


main menu   -   prostate   -   stories   -   articles   -   sexuality   -   resources   -   glossary   -   search

Unless otherwise stated and credited, the content of Phoenix5 (P5) is by and the opinion of and copyright © 2000 Robert Vaughn Young. All Rights Reserved. P5 is at <>. P5's policy regarding privacy and right to reprint are at <>.