A PSYCHIATRIST WHO SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST EXPLAINS WHY MEANINGFULNESS MATTERS MORE THAN HAPPINESS
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SOME RELEVANT EXCERPTS:
"In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents.
"Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished — but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived ..."
"In his bestselling 1946 book, "Man's Search For Meaning", which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life.
"As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing," Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way" ...
"Frankl worked as a therapist in the camps, and in his book, he gives the example of two suicidal inmates he encountered there. Like many others in the camps, these two men were hopeless and thought that there was nothing more to expect from life, nothing to live for.
"'In both cases,' Frankl writes, 'it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them.'
"For one man, it was his young child, who was then living in a foreign country. For the other, a scientist, it was a series of books that he needed to finish"...
"Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to the following resarch report: "The Problem with Happiness," by Todd Kashdan.
"'After all, it is the very pursuit of happiness,' Frankl knew, 'that thwarts happiness' ...
In fact, Baumeister and his colleagues would agree that the pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human:
By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to "giving" rather than "taking" — we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness!