In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl defines three specific ways man finds meaning in life, which are through achievement and work, love, and suffering. Achievement and work is an excellent way for man to find meaning for fairly obvious reasons. Whenever we are proud of an achievement, happy to wake up and go to work every day, or want to achieve something, we become determined. This determination drives us, giving us a purpose in life. In Frankl’s life, finding meaning through achievements and work is evident in his scientific manual.
Because he cared so dearly about it, Frankl tried to hide the manual from the guards, hoping he would not lose it. Unfortunately for him, he was forced to give it up. However, there was a positive side to it because through the loss of his, “mental child,” as he calls it, Frankl was able to find a reason to survive through the horrors of the concentration camp.
He needed to reconstruct the manual, and his determination to survive through the Holocaust to give him the opportunity to rewrite it gave him a meaning in life.
The second way for man to find meaning in life, love, helps man see himself through another person. As Frankl explains, having someone to love helps man see potential in himself that has not yet been uncovered, but can be brought out through this love. Frankl is able to find meaning through love in his life by thinking about his wife. The image of his wife in his mind and the potential to see her again allows him to persevere through the struggles of life in the concentration camps.
In addition, through a surreal moment in which Frankl believes he saw his wife come to him in the form of a bird, Frankl is filled with his wife’s presence more than ever before, which helps him find even more meaning through her.
The third way for man to find meaning in life is suffering. Although Frankl emphasizes that suffering is not necessary to find meaning in life, he sees it as a viable way for people to find meaning. Using the story of a man mourning the death of his wife, Frankl makes it clear that through unavoidable suffering, man can find meaning in his suffering. When the man comes to Frankl distressed over the loss of his wife, Frankl is able to comfort him by telling him that his suffering has more meaning than he realizes. This is because through the man’s suffering, he is able to prevent his wife from suffering. If he had been the one who passed away, his wife would have been the one suffering his death, so the man was thankful that his sacrificial suffering relieved his wife from having to suffer. Overall, Viktor Frankl’s message in a Man’s Search for Meaning has enlightened me because it has taught me that no matter the circumstances I face, I can find meaning in my life.