How to Find Meaning When All is Lost

Lessons from a Holocaust survivor

Elvira Yuzbay

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Photo by Moritz Schumacher on Unsplash

It’s easy to add value to your life when everything is going well; if not with your personal life, then your career, hobby, or at the very least your health.

But, what to do when it seems that difficulties surround you from all sides and are insurmountable?

The answer to that may be found in Viktor Frankl’s memoir Man’s Search for Meaning.

Viktor Frankl was a well-known Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust — a crime that will forever be an indelible stain on human history.

Despite the tragedy that befell him and his family, he didn’t give in to despair and sadness.

He believed that there must be a purpose to so much suffering. And, although he didn’t see it at the time, he chose to devote his life to the search for meaning.

Frankl realized that having ideals and something to live for meant keeping a part of his freedom that no one can ever take away from him.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

So, after the liberation of concentration camps, he developed logotherapy — a form of psychotherapy focused on the future and our capacity to overcome hardship and suffering.

What is logotherapy?

In contrast to classic Freudian psychoanalysis, logotherapy deals with the purpose of human existence and one’s search for meaning, which is viewed as the primary motivation in life.

If you think that the quest for meaning is reserved only for those inclined to think about life philosophically, well, you’re mistaken.

Frankl understood that a person suffers more from the loss of meaning in his life than from experiencing inferiority and tragedy, since having a purpose as well as something worth living for is one of the basic human needs.

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Elvira Yuzbay

Translator, educator and artist with many interests. Exploring, embracing, and growing. 🌻