Viktor Frankl on the Meaning of Suffering

“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now, how could I help him? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?” “Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering—to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

from “Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust” by Viktor E Frankl

15 thoughts on “Viktor Frankl on the Meaning of Suffering

  1. The ideas Frankl presented in Man’s Search for Meaning completely changed my life. He will always be one of my faves.

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    1. I find his ideas bear some resemblance to Stoicism, would you agree? He’s a favourite of mine too 🙂

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      1. I do agree. Frankl seems very Stoic to me. He is highly focused on one’s inner choices, even when one has no control over their external choices.

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  2. I guess it is good for me to think about that statement. I always tell my husband and others that I wish to die before him (my husband) to spare myself the misery of being without him, but I guess that is kind of selfish. I know that my husband would suffer my loss greatly. I’m not sure if it would ruin him, like I think I would be ruined without him, but it would torture him, as well. I love my husband very much and would not wish to hurt him.

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    1. It’s a sad truth that love and loss go hand in hand; reassessing the meaning of both might make it less painful to experience in the end. Thank you for your comment as always

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  3. This is so beautiful. 🙂

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  4. One of my favorite books and thank you for this post. Great reminder

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  5. Hi there, I am a great fan of Frankl as well and had not remembered this passage from the book. It is a good way to handle grief in this case. The masters are so because of their quick thinking and brilliant minds!

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  6. Wow. I had never heard of Viktor Frankl until Repsychl started following my blog at (http://mikesmilitaryblog.wordpress.com/). The topic of loss resonated with me as I lost 2 of my four best friends to war in Iraq. I would say that suffering may not cease to be suffering altogether, but assigning a meaning to it certainly helps! Awesome stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for following TheAfteGraff.com! When Frankl was in a Nazi concentration camp, he came to this conclusion:

    “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.”
    ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Can’t believe I mispelled the name of my blog! It’s TheAfterGraff.com

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  8. Logotherapy carries one of the most interesting ways of perceiving life. Thanks for sharing this. It prompts me to find the meaning of my sorrows…

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  9. I also found this book to be very inspiring and comforting. I read it years ago, and had put it in the back of my mind. I think it’s time to read it again. 🙂 Thanks for posting!

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  10. Reblogged this on Survivor's Guide to Sanity and commented:
    I read this book years ago, and remember it gave me a new perspective. It’s worth reading. In fact, I am going to read it again.

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