Dr. Viktor Frankl – life of

by Dean Lindsay, from The Progress Challenge : Working and Winning in a World of Change

Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D. (1905-1997), was an Austrian neurologist, a Holocaust survivor, and one of the greatest European psychiatrists of the twentieth century.  The U.S. Library of Congress named Dr. Viktor Frankl’s enlightening masterpiece, Man’s Search for Meaning, one of the 10 books that “made the most difference in people’s lives.”

Dr. Viktor Frankl is the founder of logotherapy, which he derived from the words: logos – Greek for reason or meaning, and therapy – Greek, meaning I heal.  Logotherapy therefore means “Reasons I heal” or “Healing the Meaning” (trippy, profound, and enlightening both ways).

 The basic philosophy of logotherapy is that people have a will to find meaning and that life can have meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable.  Each of us has the freedom, under all circumstances, to choose to find reasons to endure and progress.

We have freedom to find meaning in what we do and experience.  We have freedom to take a stand when faced with an unjust and possibly unchangeable situation.  We each have the power of choice to find our unique meaning in life.  Frankl believed we all have more of a desire to feel powerful than to obtain power (and there is a big difference).

Dr. Viktor Frankl first used the term logotherapy in 1926, and had developed some of its basic tenets before he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp in 1942.  He even had a manuscript devoted to his views sewn into the clothes he wore when he was sent there.  However the Nazis found the manuscript, so Frankl’s life’s work went up in flames.

Dr. Viktor Frankl knew he had valuable ideas, but no way of actually sharing them with the world.  Early on in his time in the camps he decided to recreate the manuscript, and did so on scraps of paper hidden from guards.  He also used the harsh camp environment as his field study.  Frankl worked passionately to prevent inmate suicide and alleviate gloom and depression in fellow prisoners.  The Nazis did not allow anyone to actively intervene in an actual suicide attempt, so Frankl’s efforts were preventative and kept secret.

He found that very few of his fellow inmates said, “I want to die.” Most said that they wanted to live, but the ones who eventually survived the camps were those who had focused reasons attached to their survival wish – loved ones to reunite with, something to work for or to look forward to.  Frankl theorized that when we have enough meaning attached to an outcome, we are able to withstand the suffering related to achieving it.

Dr. Viktor Frankl’s meaning, his strong reasons for surviving, were connected not only to his hope of reuniting with his young wife Tilly, as well as his mother, father and brother, but also to his work.  He wanted to survive, had to survive, partly because he had powerful and helpful beliefs about the human condition that he needed to recreate and share with the world.

Freed after three years at Auschwitz, Dachau, and other concentration camps, he returned to Vienna and began work on a book with the literal English translation: From Death Camp to Existentialism: A Psychiatrist’s Experiences in the Concentration Camp.  (In the U.S, we call it Man’s Search for Meaning.)  In the book, Frankl describes (from the unique perspective of a psychiatrist) the horrific life of a concentration camp inmate.

With this desire to feel autonomous and powerful, and to work and win in a world of change, we can benefit greatly from a look into Dr. Viktor Frankl’s teachings…so next up a look into the teachings of Dr. Frankl.

Link to part one of Dr. Viktor Frankl, life of

“As friend, colleague and assistant to Dr. Viktor Frankl for over twenty years, I can confidently share with you that Dean Lindsay gets it!  His ability to integrate the inspirational theories of Dr. Viktor Frankl with contemporary business needs is extraordinary.  Dean’s application of Frankl’s concepts of “freedom of choice” and “the defiant power of the human spirit” to modern business/sales is powerfully motivating.  The Progress Challenge goes beyond telling us to “just do it” and, in a very readable way, tells us how to do it – or, in Dean’s words, how to be progress.  A must read for business success!”
 – Jay I. Levinson, Ph.D.
Former Special Assistant to Dr. Viktor Frankl

Be Progress.