Saturday, April 02, 2005

Man's Search for Meaning

I recently finished listening to the audiobook of Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It's an interesting contrast to Elie Wiesel's Night. I didn't completely follow all the existentialism, but it's a great read (listen). The first half of the book recounts Frankl's time in Nazi prison camps with several insights into the psychology of prisoners. Particularly striking to me was a story of a man who had a dream indicating he would be freed on a certain date. As the day approached and freedom didn't, the man fell sick and died, too hopeless to carry on (and fulfilling the dream in a sense).

The second half is about Logotherapy, Frankl's branch of psychotherapy, and the importance of finding meaning in your life. Good quote: "Live as if you were living for the second time and acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now."

A couple of interesting concepts of Logotherapy:
1) Anticipatory anxiety -- the fear of something tends to bring it about. Reminded me of my insomniac days as a kid where the more I wanted to sleep and worried about not sleeping, the less I was able to sleep. Only when I quit worrying it about it (or got too exhausted to worry about it) could I zonk out.
2) Paradoxical intention -- basically, the more you want something to happen, the less likely it is to happen. Conversely, if you don't want something to happen (like nervous sweating) you should convince yourself you really, really want it to happen and that will make it less likely to occur.


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