Andrew James Lodge MD

A Review of a Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

This post relates to Andrew James Lodge MD and his reactions to a book he recently read – Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. The book was originally written in 1959 but has been updated several times since then. It is divided into two parts; the first of the two is the first-hand account of Frankl’s experience as a concentration camp prisoner. Frankl was a psychiatrist. He spent time in several Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz. He does not spend a lot of time detailing the many and varied atrocities that occurred in the camps but does describe his observations on the conditions as they relate to the effect on the human psyche. As a psychiatrist, Frankl advocated for a type of therapy called logotherapy, which Andrew James Lodge MD gathers was new at that time. Logotherapy is based on the belief that identifying the meaning in life is a critical, if not the most important, human drive. The second part of the book details some of Frankl’s thoughts on and theories behind this novel therapeutic concept.

This book made an impact on Andrew James Lodge for a number of reasons. First, it was a somber reminder of the evil of which man is capable. Descriptions of the conditions in the concentration camps and the pain and suffering to which the prisoners were subjected made it necessary for Lodge to contemplate the terrible things that human beings can do to each other. Yet, when Andrew Lodge tried to think of it from the perspective of a Nazi leader, he was compelled to consider the fact that at least some of them likely thought they were doing the right thing. In hindsight, their actions were extremely heinous, but Frankl does describe kind actions from some of the SS guards who took pity on the prisoners, indicating that not everyone in a seemingly homogeneous group thinks and acts the same way.

Second, Lodge was forced to remember that it has been only 80 years or so since these events took place – not a particularly long time in the grand scale of history. Additionally, despite the relatively universal condemnation of the concentration camps and the ideas behind them, there are parts of the world where certain groups of people are still being treated similarly. And, in Lodge’s own country, state and city, news about racist acts or unfair treatment of individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation can be seen in headlines every day. In his book, Frankl does not focus on how to correct these large-scale systemic injustices, but rather how the individual can respond to his or her own situation. In Andrew Lodge’s mind, these lessons can help us all in our approach to life on a daily basis.

Finally, throughout Man’s Search for Meaning there is an underlying message of human strengths and the ability of the human spirit to overcome even the most dreadful conditions. Although Frankl acknowledges that many of the concentration camp prisoners succumbed to hopelessness and despair, often even noting that it was easy to tell when a fellow prisoner had given up, that even the few that did not are evidence that humans can make decisions that can positively impact their circumstances.

One other thing that struck Lodge about Frankl’s book was the apparent contrast between today’s trend of mindfulness teaching, which focuses on being grounded in the present, and the premise of logotherapy, which is that something to look forward to – some meaning, is a critical part of personal well-being. Andrew James Lodge MD can reconcile these two things in the following way: Frankl points out that the search for meaning does not have to be a cosmic all-consuming single meaning of life but can focus on finding meaning in the present. This is reflected in the following quote: “What matters therefore, is not the meaning of life in general, but the specific meaning of a person’s life at any given moment”. In this way, the “meaning of life” can be different for every individual, and even for each individual instant, since it is a dynamic, rather than a static, concept, and therefore logotherapy is not inconsistent with the practice of mindfulness.

These are only some of Lodge’s initial thoughts on this amazing book. There are many pearls of wisdom and impactful messages throughout the text. Andrew Lodge may share and reflect on some of those in a future post.

By Andrew Lodge MD

Andrew James Lodge MD