Sunday, 8 January 2012

Thoughtful Sunday - Viktor Frankl

Viktor Emil Frankl M.D., Ph.D. Is one of my favourite writers. He was born in Vienna in 1905 and died in the same city in 1997. An Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of Existential Analysis. In September 1942 he and his new bride (with whom he was very much in love), his mother, father, and brother were all arrested in Vienna and taken to a concentration camp in Bohemia.  It was events that occurred there and at three other camps that led the young doctor - prisoner 119,104 - to realize the significance of meaningfulness in life.

His best-selling book, 'Man's Search for Meaning', chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate based on his psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. Frankl was one of the key figures in existential therapy and a prominent source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists.

Here are some of my favourite extracts from his books:

"The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved."

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how.'”

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

"Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it."

"Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time."

“Being tolerant does not mean that I share another one’s belief. But it does mean that I acknowledge another one’s right to believe, and obey, his own conscience.”

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."
"Success like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself." 

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but 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.”

And a similar quotation in different circumstances:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one's freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

I first came across Viktor Frankl just a few weeks after David died in infancy nearly 25 years ago and these quotations from 'The Doctor and The Soul' were particularly apt at the time.

“We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it, we must judge by the richness of the contents.”

“... Sometimes the unfinisheds are among the most beautiful symphonies.”


  1. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  2. What a beautiful thoughtful post, Scriptor.
    So many wonderful quotations to ponder.
    Thank you.


  3. Thoughtful indeed, and beautiful, too. Thank you.

  4. "Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time."

    What a splendid thought.


  5. Sciptor,
    A very thoughtful post indeed.
    I've not done any posts regarding the books that I have read of men held as prisoners and the way that they have been able to survive and cope with life afterwards. When I am able to write about them, may I please do a link back to this post?

  6. What a powerful post! I have also been a fan of Frankl although have not read his books -- but love his idea that the space between stimulus and response give us the ability to chose our attitudes even in the worst of circumstances.

  7. I have this book still to read - You have made me desire it more.

    Beautiful, Sir. Beautiful words and a beautiful boy x


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