Without a doubt, my generation has learned that life is brutally and unapologetically unfair.
From my point of view, this correlates with an epidemic of mental health issues. I don’t believe this is due to an outbreak of chemical imbalances in the brains of young people that can only be treated with drugs.
I think many of these mental health issues are due to unfortunate life situations. This is not to say that it’s a non-issue, or that it shouldn’t be taken seriously.
The inability to handle the inevitable suffering in our lives is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. In my opinion, the current mental health crisis is due largely to the influence nihilism has in popular culture.
During my own nihilistic phase, where I realized things will always suck and that I seemingly couldn’t do anything about it, I fell into a place of deep depression and anger.
Like most of my peers in similar positions, I self-medicated with various forms of escapism.
My line of thinking was this: Nothing really mattered, therefore my decisions really didn’t matter because the idea I could change the world or myself was an illusion. I fell into a state of mind where I only cared about my current experience.
After going through another round of trials and tribulations, I found myself struggling with the question “Why? Why is this worth it and why should I care?”.
Man’s Search For Meaning answered that question. Or to put it better, it gave me the tools to answer it for myself. If you could relate to any of my experiences described above, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
This is not a self-help book. This is about how to approach living your life formed by a psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz. If you feel that you are happy and your life is going great, you will learn valuable insights. If you’ve fallen deep into despair and see no way out, this book just might change your life.
Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist held in Auschwitz who actively analyzed his own mental state and that of the prisoners and guards around him. The conclusions he came to are a must-read.
I’m not doing it justice, but to summarize it in one sentence, if you live your life with purpose than you have a much better chance at overcoming your personal struggles.
I wish I could take this book and jam it into everyone’s head. I truly believe it would make the world a better place, if not happier.
He also makes a number of observations not necessarily related to how one should live their lives, but of human nature in general.
One that comes to mind, that is so important to hear in our polarized world, is that good and evil people exist in all groups (even your own social circle, political party, religion etc.)
Rather than talking about how the Nazis were evil and the prisoners were good, he points out that some Nazis did their best to save as many lives as they could, or at least reduce the prisoner’s suffering were they could. And some prisoners were as cruel as any camp guard.
Although there is no moral equivalency here between the prisoner and the guard.
The book advises that we should not be on guard for an abstract evil (white patriarchy, SJWs, republicans, globalists, whatever you prefer).
Instead, we have to be vigilant against the dark part of human nature present in each and every one of us.
I found this to be a strong rebuke to viewing life from a postmodernist worldview.
A Passage Worth Reading
“First of all, there is a danger inherent in the teaching of man’s “nothingbutness” the theory that man is nothing but the result of biological, psychological and sociological conditions, or the product of heredity and environment. Such a view makes a neurotic believe what he is prone to believe anyway, namely, that he is a pawn and victim of outer influences or inner circumstances.
This neurotic fatalism is fostered and strengthened by psychotherapy that denies that man is free. To be sure, a human being is a finite thing, and his freedom is restricted. It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.
As I once put it: “As a professor in two fields, neurology and psychiatry, I am fully aware of the extent to which man is subject to biological, psychological and sociological conditions. But in addition, to be a professor in two fields I am a survivor of four camps – concentration camps, that is- and as such I bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable.”
Man’s Search for Meaning confirmed something I learned the hard way in the last couple years of my life.
A life based on nihilism is impractical at it’s best, destructive at it’s worst.