Survival Bookshelf – Viktor Frankl
“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
-Viktor E. Frankl
Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning is an irreplaceable element on my survival bookshelf. It has been called “one of the ten most influential books in the United States” and is used by the military as part of officer training curriculums.
Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote the book as an attempt to explain how life in a concentration camp was reflected in the mind of the average prisoner. While being held captive from 1942 to 1945, Frankl came to believe that people can, and should, choose to find meaning in events and that so choosing is a valuable survival skill.
“The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.”
Frankl observed fellow prisoners who made the choice to exercise discipline in their thinking. They could not control their environment, so they learned to control their thoughts, emotions, and reactions in those horrific conditions.
At less than 200 pages, Man’s Search For Meaning can be a quick read, and with some reflection a reader can reframe events in their own life using Frankl’s ideas. If a reader of this book can learn to “learn to control their thoughts, emotions, and reactions,” they can immensely improve their survival skill set. They will likely find that all of their skills improve as result of this one, elemental change. In fact, it is time for me to reread Frankl’s classic to reveal how it can help my evolving skill set.
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