Post event update:
This was one of our most harrowing reads; Victor E Frank’s account of his life in a concentration camp, and how he and his fellow prisoners survived the torture, the cold and the starvation and lived to tell the tale.
The clue is in the title; Frankl – a psychotherapist who studied human behaviour, observed that it was those who had something to live for on the other side who lasted the longest. For him, it was wanting to recreate some work he had been researching for years, and the thought of being reunited with his wife.
Those who had something beyond the camp they wanted to live for stayed hopeful for their survival where others gave up. They gritted their teeth and did the sometimes inhuman things asked of them because they had something to look forward to. They somehow or the other survived starvation, frostbite and disease, illustrating the capacity humans have to endure the most horrific conditions if they had hope, a purpose, something to aim for on the other side.
When Frankl left the camps, he built a whole psychotherapy practice (called logo therapy) based on this. Helping people find their meaning, he found, helped them live.
We were convinced of this premise at the book club, with some drawing on Frankl’s life as proof and others his research. Our discussion centred around how big that ‘meaning’ has to be. People can be quite daunted at the thought of ‘finding their purpose’ because something – social media, peers, family or upbringing – might make them think it has to be dramatic, public, fame-acquiring…something Luther-like or Oprah-like, Beckham-like or Rowling-like.
But what if doing a good job at your 9-5 job, coming home and feeding your cats before you cook dinner for your husband brings you meaning? The beauty of a simple life can be grossly underestimated. Research shows that most people, when asked at the end of their lives what has brought them joy, remember the moments that we often take for granted; the feel of a lover holding their hand, the taste of beans on toast, the blossom of the daffodils as spring comes around.
I’ve found that people are vulnerable around times when their meaning comes under question – job redundancy, retirement, career change, bereavement and empty nests are all times when people need extra support. This book really brought home to me the importance of watching out for signs of hopelessness in yourselves and others, and getting help in finding new meaning in your life through such changes.
We found the discussion so interesting that we’ve chosen a similarly titled ‘Start with Why’ for our next book club, which deals with how to apply these concepts to organisations.
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Come and discuss this book on 9th January 2018, 7-9pm, Fountain Harvester, Milton Keynes
Click here to join. Event is free.
To start the new year, this bestseller memoir and personal development book from Viktor E. Frankl who lived through the Auchwitz Concentration Camps and observed what differentiated those who survived from those who didn’t.
Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
At the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, Man’s Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life” found Man’s Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.
Come and discuss at the Harvester. New members always welcome.