Dr. Viktor E. Frankl of Vienna, Psychiatrist of the Search for Meaning, Dies at 92
By HOLCOMB B. NOBLE
Published: September 4, 1997
Viktor E. Frankl, sed his experiences as a prisoner in German concentration camps in World War II to write ”Man’s Search for Meaning,” died at 92. He was considered to be one of the last of the great Viennese psychiatrists.
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He died of heart failure, the International Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy said yesterday. Viktor Frankl’s mother, father, brother and pregnant wife were all killed in the camps. He lost everything, he said, that could be taken from a prisoner, except one thing:
”the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
”Every day in the camps, he said, prisoners had moral choices to make about whether to submit internally to those in power who threatened to rob them of their inner self and their freedom. It was the way a prisoner resolved those choices, he said, that made the difference.”
Our rectified one. The houses in gold are emtpy of major planets so you can clearly see the temperament type.
In ”Man’s Search for Meaning,” Dr. Frankl related that even at Auschwitz some prisoners were able to discover meaning in their lives — if only in helping one another through the day — and that those discoveries were what gave them the will and strength to endure. Dr. Herbert E. Sacks, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said Dr. Frankl’s contributions shifted the direction of the field, especially in existential psychiatry, adding: ”His interest in theory galvanized a generation of young psychiatrists.”
Decades later after its initial publication in 1946, psychiatrists across various schools of therapy were still recommending the book to their patients, especially those who complained about emptiness or the meaninglessness of their lives. It also is used by teachers of ethics and philosophy. In a 1991 survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, people who regarded themselves as lifetime general-interest readers called ”Man’s Search for Meaning” one of the 10 most influential books they had ever read.
Dr. Frankl’s writings, lectures and teaching, along with the work of Rollo May, Carl Rogers and others, were an important force in reterming older concepts of a repressed sexual identity and inability to exert oneself in society at large to a conscious need to find meaning and purpose.
After graduating from the University of Vienna Medical School in 1930, Dr. Frankl evolved the theory, while he was serving as chief of the university’s neurology and psychiatric clinic, that the search for value and meaning in the circumstances of one’s life was the key to psychological well-being. He devoted much of his life in the years before the war to developing this theory and writing a book about it.But the three years he spent in Auschwitz and Dachau, from 1942 to 1945, reinforced his thinking, he said, more dramatically than he could have imagined.
Viktor Emil Frankl was born in Vienna on March 26, 1905. His father held a government job administering children’s aid. As a teenager he did brilliantly in his studies, which included a course in Freudian theory that prompted him to write the master himself.
A correspondence ensued, and in one letter he included a two-page paper he had written. Freud loved it, sent it promptly to the editor of his International Journal of Psychoanalysis and wrote the boy, ”I hope you don’t object.””Can you imagine?”
Frankl recalled in an interview before his death. ”Would a 16-year-old mind if Sigmund Freud asked to have a paper he wrote published?”
In December 1941 he and Tilly Grosser were among the last couples allowed to be wed at the National Office for Jewish Marriages, a bureau set up for a time by the Nazis. The next month his entire family, except for a sister who had left the country, was arrested in a general roundup of Jews.
Dr. Frankl’s wife sewed the manuscript of the book he was writing on his developing theories of psychotherapy into the lining of his coat.After their arrival at Auschwitz, they and 1,500 others were put into a shed built for 200 and made to squat on bare ground, each given one four-ounce piece of bread to last them four days. On his first day, Dr. Frankl was separated from his family; later he and a friend marched in line, and he was directed to the right and his friend was directed to he left — to a crematory.
He took an older prisoner into his confidence and told him about the hidden manuscript: ”Look, this is a scientific book. I must keep it at all costs.’ The prisoner cursed him for his naivete.
They were stripped and sent to showers, and then a work detail. Their own clothes were replaced with prison clothes, and the manuscript was never returned. There was a link, he found, between the other prisoner’s loss of faith and giving up. He began to that the only meaning in his prison life 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 and prevent among themselves, at least, suicide.
The Germans allowed prisoners to commit suicide and they were punished if they interfered. A good example, Frankl gives in his book is that No one could cut down a man attempting to hang himself. Instead, Frankl believed that the goal was to try to prevent the act. The healthy prisoners would remind the despondent that life expected something from them: a child waiting outside prison, work that remained to be completed, a legacy that should not be ignored. When they could not find anything, he would “talk” (the Greek word logos) and explore something that meant a lot to them before the war that rekindled their love of life.
After the war, he earned his doctorate in psychiatry, in 1948, and remarried after the Red Cross was able to verify that his first wife was dead. He and his second wife, Eleanore, had a daughter, Dr Gabriele Vesely both who survive him as well as two grandchildren.
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