Nursing Knowledge In The Novel Man's Search For Meaning By Victor Frankl
The book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” written by Victor Frankl in 1946, is an impressive autobiography about his own experiences as a prisoner in a concentration camp during World War II. The book is broken up into two parts. The first part of the book is where Frankl talks about his life as a prisoner. The second part of the book is where Frankl describes his own philosophy, logotherapy.
“Man’s Search for Meaning”
In the first part of the book, Frankl explains his lengthy stay at Auschwitz’s concentration camp. He talks about never having enough food or clothing, working in extreme weather conditions, and people getting killed all around him (Frankl, 2006). Frankl struggled during this time in his life and fought to find reasons to keep on living. His main motivation for survival was his wife. They were both separated before their imprisonments. However, not even knowing if she was still alive, he would imagine talking to her and touching her often.
In the second half of the book, Frankl focuses on his own theory logotherapy. He explains that his theory focuses on the “will to meaning” (2006). In definition, it means to find your own purpose and meaning in life. This definition should vary person to person. Not every person should have the same purpose in life. One of my main takeaways from this book is that you must find a meaning in suffering and in your life. For example, Frankl found that the prisoners who lost faith and hope in their challenges ended up passing away or getting killed. The prisoners who found a why to live were more likely to survive (2006). You can either get success out of your challenges in life or you can forget about your challenges and end up fading away. The choice is up to you.
Relevance to Nursing Knowledge and Practice
Nurses are not trained on Victor Frankl’s theory of logotherapy but we do care for patients who are suffering. Patients that lack meaning in their life can ultimately get stuck in an existential vacuum which can lead to mental health disorders (Frankl, 2006). These disorders include depression and anxiety. These disorders most always cause them frustration which in turn, doesn’t allow them to find a meaning in life. As nurses, it is our job to help our patients find their meaning, even on their worst days. We can do this by helping to relieve their symptoms and providing them with the resources necessary to guide them in their journey to finding their purpose in life.
As nurses, we have many decision thrown our way and it is our choice to decide how we react to them. For example, at the beginning of your shift, you get report on all your patients and you can already tell how your day is going to go. Instead of complaining how bad and busy your day is going to be, you can turn it into a positive by focusing on your goal of helping others and making their day a little better. See how the situation didn’t change but the response did. This is one of the many lessons I learned from Frankl. I understand that the second option is the more difficult route, but logotherapy claims that it will bring more meaning to your life.
Another reason “Man’s Search for Meaning” relates to the nursing practice is because Frankl’s theory, logotherapy, goes hand and hand with nurse burnout. From the viewpoint of Riethof and Bob, the nurse burnout causes pain by loss of existential meaning. Existential meaning is important for your mental health and losing this meaning can cause a loss of interests and a lack of initiative (2019). Ultimately, these are two large reasons why nurses tend to become burnt out. When you’re exhausted by the end of your shift every day or you’re overstressed by the amount of work you have to get done by the end of your shift, you lose your passion and your purpose for becoming a nurse in the first place. Using logotherapy to remind us of why we became nurses and ways we can change how we respond to things could help nursing evolve and promote retention.
Relevance to Theory
Logotherapy, or the will of meaning, can be used as a guide for all nurses or anyone in the medical field. It gives us different techniques that we can use throughout our nursing career. Allowing us to realize that sometimes the only way to survive is to surrender to death, meaning living in the present and not spending time thinking of the future (Frankl, 2006). Being in the now allows you to give your full potential to your patients or that procedure instead of thinking of what is to come.
Frankl also taught us that life has its own meaning and it is up to us to find it in any given moment. For example, he found meaning when walking through the night, barefoot, across ice and puddles by simply thinking of his wife in the clouds and finding peace in that moment (Frankl, 2006). Lastly, he used paradoxical intention to make his fears go away. Trying to force your fears to come true will result in you not having a fear anymore. His own theory, logotherapy, helped many prisoners at the concentration camp and I believe it is helping the development of nursing overall.
Overall, I believe “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl to be one of the most inspirational books I have ever read. It has made me realize the meaning and purpose of my own life. The lessons I have learned have been instilled in me and I will use them as I continue to grow as a nurse. I will never forget the powerful word logotherapy and its meaning. I believe everyone deserves that chance to read this book once in their life.
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