The book is narration of author’s life as a prisoner in nazi concentration camp.
Experiences in the concentration camp
The book talks in detail about various adversities which the author and other prisoners in the camp faced. Emphasis has been made on the fact that despite of adverse conditions, some people were still able to find a meaning to their life (via imagination or hoping for a better future). Those who lost the meaning decided to kill themselves via touching the electric fence or by letting their body and spirit weaken (leading to death by Typhus). Even in the camp, occasional insults (at the hand of guards) left a stronger mark on author than the physical adversities. The mental state regresses to more primitive form (bread, cigarettes and warm bath – the things most missing from the camp), sexual thoughts completely went away. Those with rich intellectual life were able to preserve their inner self and survive physical atrocities better than others. Imagination, humour, dreaming about better future, complete apathy towards miserable condition of others were different ways which people used as psychological defence mechanisms to avoid mental breakdown.
“He who has a why to live can bear with any how”.
“The most fundamental freedom which can never be taken away from a man is his ability to choose his attitude towards any circumstances”.
“Live as if you were living for the second time and have acted wrongly the first time as you are about to act now”.
“What you have experienced, no power on earth can take away from you”.
“Attitude can convert a suffering to opportunity”.
Immediately after release, a lot of prisoners went through a phase of “depersonalization”, where they felt as if every thing is a dream. Some felt bitter because those who are outside did not appreciate their suffering, some felt disillusioned because all the dreams they had of a beautiful life (after release) did not turn out as expected.
While Freudian psychology focused on “pleasure”, Logotherapy focuses on “meaning”.
It implies that humans live to find a meaning to their life, and life just like sometimes a movie does not reveal its entire plot till the last scene.
The meaning of life can be discovered in one of the following ways
- By doing work – the way of achievement
- By experiencing something or encountering someone – the way of love
- By the attitude taken towards unavoidable suffering
Once the individual’s search for meaning is fulfilled, it not only makes him happy but gives him courage to face the suffering as well.