Every other month, the print version of Counseling Today includes a section called Pages of Influence in which counselors discuss the books that have shaped them personally, professionally and philosophically. Since the section’s debut roughly a year ago, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl has repeatedly been named on these counselors’ lists of “most influential” books.
Edward L. Oriole understands why.
“Although Man’s Search for Meaning is well known, I often return to it when I need to be reminded about the indomitable human spirit,” says the licensed clinical professional counselor of the masterwork first published in 1946.
Read Oriole’s argument for why Man’s Search for Meaning belongs on the bookshelf of most influential books for counselors, and then share what books have most influenced your thought and development as a counselor by posting a comment to this article.
Picture yourself browsing the titles at your favorite bookstore. One title in particular catches your eye and piques your curiosity: Man’s Search for Meaning. Who among us has not wondered privately about that search?
If your interest persists, pick up the slim volume and scan its table of contents. Depending on the edition you have chosen, the first important entry may be the preface by the eminent Harvard University professor Gordon Allport. He writes, “I recommend this most readily. For it is a gem of a narrative focused on the deepest of human problems.”
If you continue, you will note that Man’s Search for Meaning has endured to see more than 100 printings in English — in addition to having been printed into 21 languages. If your interest in the “deepest of human problems” persists, you will want to learn more about the book’s author, Viktor Frankl.
Frankl was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1905. He and his wife were arrested and interned by the Nazis in 1938. Eventually Frankl was transferred to death camp Auschwitz and then the infamous Dachau. The first part of the book is a compelling narrative of the events that took the lives of Frankl’s wife, mother, father and brother. Part One ends with Frankl’s liberation by the American army in 1945. Part Two examines what Frankl did with his seared sense of self after the liberation.
If you find that a narrative on the indomitable human spirit interests you, follow Frankl’s creation of logotherapy. Consider the model’s premise that “When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
This book is for those individuals who are tired of the phony, insincere Hollywood depictions of heroism. Man’s Search for Meaning is for those eager to engage in an authentic heroic experience and the inherent life lessons taken from unspeakable horror.
Frankl concludes that “The world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us do our best.” When I first read this book, I was at once comforted and then challenged. Buy this book if shallow thinking and consumerism disturb you. Underline the parts that move you. Ponder what the quotes by Spinoza and Nietzsche mean. Reread it next year and ask yourself if you have lived up to the responsibility that Frankl says is the other half of freedom.
Edward L. Oriole is a licensed clinical professional counselor and nationally certified counselor on the staff at the Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center (lighthouseemotionalwellness.com) in Arlington Heights, Ill.
Is Man’s Search for Meaning on your “must read” list of books for counselors? What other books belong on that shelf? Leave your comments below.