Friday, June 7, 2013

"Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl

Kindle edition here.

  • "it is not the physical pain which hurts the most . . . it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all"
 More quotes below . . .

  • "This tale is not concerned with the great horrors, which have already been described often enough, but with the multitude of small torments . . . How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?"
  • "This story . . . is not so much concerned with the sufferings of the mighty, but with the sacrifices, the crucifixion and the deaths of the great army of unknown and unrecorded victims."
  • "There was neither time nor desire to consider moral or ethical issues. Every man was controlled by one thought only: to keep himself alive . . ."
  • "To attempt a methodological presentation of the subject is very difficult, as psychology requires a certain scientific detachment. But does a man who makes his observations while he himself is a prisoner possess the necessary attachment? Such detachment is granted to the outsider, but her is too far removed to make any statements of real value. Only the man inside knows. His judgment may not be objective; his evaluations may be out of proportion. This is inevitable. An attempt must be made to avoid any personal bias, and that is the real difficulty of a book of this kind. At times it will be necessary to have the courage to tell of very intimate experiences."
  • "the psychology of prison life, which was investigated after the First World war, and which acquainted us with the syndrome of "barbed wire sickness." We are indebted to the Second World War for enriching our knowledge of the "psychopathology of the masses" for the war gave us the war of nerves and it gave us the concentration camp."
  • "When we saw a comrade smoking his own cigarettes, we knew he had given up faith in his strength to carry on, and once lost, the will to live seldom returned."
  • "three phases of the inmate's mental reaction to camp life become apparent: the period following his admission; the period when he is well entrenched in camp routine, and the period following his release and liberation."
  • "The engine's whistle had an uncanny sound, like a cry for help sent out in commiseration for the unhappy load which was destined to lead into perdition."
  • "Slowly, almost hesitatingly, the train moved on as if it wanted to spare its passengers the dreadful realization as long as possible: Auschwitz!"
  • "step by step we had to become accustomed to a terrible and immense horror."
  • "In psychiatry there is a certain condition known as "delusion of reprieve." The condemned man, immediately before his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprieved at the very last minute. we, too, clung to shreds of hope and believed to the last moment that it would not be so bad."
  • "He had assumed and attitude of careless ease"
  • "I just waited for things to take their course, the first of many such times to come."
  • "I tried to take one of the old prisoners into my confidence. Approaching him furtively, I pointed to the roll of paper in the inner pocket of my coat and said, "Look, this is the manuscript of a scientific book. I know what you will say; that I should be grateful to escape with my life, that that should be all I can expect from fate. But I cannot help myself. I must keep this manuscript at all costs; it contains my life's work. Do you understand that?"    . . .    Yes, he was beginning to understand. A grin spread slowly over his face, first piteous, then more amused, mocking, insulting, until he bellowed one word at me in answer to my question, a word that was ever present in the vocabulary of the camp inmates: "Shit!" At that moment I saw the plain truth and did what marked the culminating point of the first phase of my psychological reaction: I struck out my whole former life."
  • "While we waited for the shower, our nakedness was brought home to us: we really had nothing now except our bare bodies - even minus hair; all we possessed, literally, was our naked existence."
  • "the illusions some of us still held were destroyed one by one, and then, quite unexpectedly, most of us were overcome by a grim sense of humor. We knew that we had nothing to lose except our so ridiculously naked lives."
  • "Cold curiosity predominated even in Auschwitz, somehow detaching the mind from its surroundings"
  • "In the next few days our curiosity evolved into surprise; surprise that we did not catch cold.
  • There were many similar surprises in store for new arrivals. The medical men among us learned first of all: "Textbooks tell lies!"
  • "I had been convinced that there were certain things I just could not do: I could not sleep without this or I could not live with that or the other. The first night in Auschwitz  . . .  And yet sleep came and brought oblivion and relief from pain for a few hours."
  • "surprises on how much we could endure"
  • "The thought of suicide was entertained by nearly everyone, if only for a brief time. It was born of the hopelessness of the situation, the constant danger of death looming over us daily and hourly, and the closeness of the deaths suffered by many of the others."
  • "I made myself a firm promise, on my first evening in the camp, that I would not 'run into the wire'"
  • "There was little point in committing suicide, since, for the average inmate, life expectation, calculating objectively and counting all likely chances, was very poor."
  • The prisoner of Auschwitz, in the first phase of shock, did not fear death. Even the gas chambers lost their horrors for him after the first few days - after all, they spared him the act of committing suicide."
  • "If you want to stay alive, there is only one way: look fit for work."
  • "I think it was Lessing who once said, "There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose."
  • "An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior."
  • "The prisoner passed from the first to the second phase; the phase of relative apathy, in which he achieved a kind of emotional death."
  • "Most of the prisoners were given a uniform of rags which would have made a scarecrow elegant by comparison."
  • "the mortification of normal reactions was hastened"
  • "But the prisoner who had passed into the second stage of his psychological reaction did not avert his eyes any more. By then his feelings were blunted, and he watched unmoved."
  • "Disgust, horror and pity are emotions that our spectator could not really feel anymore. The sufferers, the dying and the dead, became such commonplace sights to him after a few weeks of camp life that they could not move him any more."
  • "Apathy, the blunting of the emotions and the feelin that one could not care anymore, were the symptoms arising during the second stage of the prisoner's psychological reactions"
  • "it is not the physical pain which hurts the most . . . it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all"
  • "The guard did not think it worth his while to say anything, not even a swear word, to the ragged, emaciated figure standing before him, which probably reminded him only vaguely of a human form. Instead, he playfully picked up a stone and threw it at me. That, to me, seemed the way to attract the attention of a beast, to call a domestic animal back to its job, a creature with which you have so little in common that you do not even punish it."
  • "The most painful part of beatings is the insult which they imply."
  • "I was past caring. But I had to take his threat of killing me seriously"
  • "Apathy, the main symptom of the second phase, was a necessary mechanism of self-defense. Reality dimmed, and all efforts and all emotions were centered on one task: preserving one's own life and that of the other fellow"
  • "Such a state of strain, coupled with the constant necessity of concentrating on the task of staying alive, forced the prisoner's inner life down to a primitive level . . . His wishes and desires became obvious in his dreams."
  • "I became intensely conscious of the fact that no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp"
  • to be continued . . .

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