Man’s Search for Meaning

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2013 Summer Reading Assignment for IB Psychology I:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Upon returning to school for the 2013-2014 school year, your questions will be due on the first day of Psychology class. On the second day of class, you will also be participating in a Socratic Seminar. If you would like to record your answers in a composition notebook then please number and label each assignment and questions. Or you may print the documents out, answer them on the worksheet and turn them into me in a folder with your name on the folder. Below are the questions you are responsible for answering in YOUR OWN words and you will also find the requirements for the Socratic Seminar.


Assignment #1: Reading assignment: Forward (pages IX-XII)

Questions for reflection:

  1. What does the quote, “He who has the WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW” mean to you?

  1. As far as why we live life, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Viktor Frankl had 3 opposing perspectives. Which do you agree with? Provide examples or justification for your reasoning.

  1. Frankl believed that you find meaning through three sources, what were they? Which one do you think is the easiest to find meaning? Justify your answer.

  1. What do you think Frankl meant when he said, “Suffering in and of itself is meaningless?” Do you agree? Why or why not?

  1. Think about a situation in your life that may have been challenging. Apply that situation to the quote,

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”

How did you respond to your challenging situation and how has that shaped you into the person you are today?

  1. Explain what logotherapy is (you may have to do some internet research):


Assignment #2: Reading assignment: Part 1 (only pages 3-12)

Questions for reflection:

  1. Define capo (you made need to do a little research on the internet):

  1. When discussing the idea of detachment, Frankl writes, “Only the man inside knows. His judgments may not be objective; his evaluations may be out of proportion. This is inevitable.” What point do you think he is trying to make?

  1. What is the significance/value of a cigarette? What does the action/decision of smoking a cigarette show about a prisoner’s faith?

  1. What does the psychiatric condition, “delusion of the reprieve” mean? How does this apply to Frankl’s personal experience when being transported to the camp?

  1. With details, explain the “finger game” and the outcomes of each side.


Assignment #3: Reading assignment: Part 1 (only pages 13-middle of 23 stop at…little feeling involved in it.)

Questions for reflection:

  1. Think about your most prized possession; would you be willing to risk your life to try to keep it or would you give it up without hesitation if you knew it would spare your life? Why do you think some prisoners (or people in general) would be willing to risk their life for some personal possessions?

  1. Outside of the strange sense of humor, what other sensation did the prisoners experience? When/why have you been seized by this experience and how has it shaped you?

  1. Do you agree with the statement, “Textbooks tell lies?” Use examples from the reading to explain what this means. Have you ever experienced a situation that supports this statement, if so explain?

  1. One of Frankl’s colleagues gave the prisoners some very important advice, what was it? How does this apply to the fact that our visual perceptions impact the way we treat someone? As humans, why do you think we do this?

  1. According to this book, what is a “moslem”?

  1. According to Frankl, “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal.” What is the paradox (irony) of this statement? How can you relate it to a time in your own life?

  1. What event marked the culminating point of Frankl’s 1st phase of his psychological reaction? What is the 2nd phase and what do you think he means by an “emotional death?” As humans, why do you think we tend to remember events that we have emotional attachment to?


Assignment #4: Reading assignment: Part 1 (begin at the middle of page 23 atApathy, the blunting of the emotions…” and stop at the top of page 39 at “ is as strong as death.”)

Questions for reflection:

  1. Why do you think apathy was a necessary mechanism of self-defense for the holocaust victims?

  1. Frankl recalls about the times when victims would discuss food and even go to the extent of exchanging recipes and planning menus for what they would eat when they returned home. Have you ever participated in this similar behavior of illusionary indulgence? Did it give you a moment of psychological relief? Do you think this action is helpful or detrimental to one’s psyche?

  1. The victims experience a test of will-power with a piece of bread. Frankl describes two routes that they would take; which routes did Frankl take? Which route would to take?

  1. Think of a time in your life when your will-power was tested. What was the situation and what was the outcome (did your will-power last or did you give into the temptation?)

  1. Frankl discusses many times about how love is a powerful emotion and he makes the following 2 statements, “…that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which one can aspire.” And then he continues with, “The salvation of man is through love and in love.” Do you agree or disagree with him? Be sure to justify your reasoning and if you disagree what do you think is our ultimate goal?


Assignment #5: Reading assignment: Begin at page 39 (Starting at “This intensification of inner life helped…”) and stop at page 56 (Ending with “…meet him tonight in Teheran, said Death.”)

Questions for reflection:

  1. According to Frankl, rewards within the prison were given through two ways, what are they? By describing the situations explain which one spared Frankl’s life.

  1. What analogy was used to explain a man’s suffering? Do you agree with Frankl’s statement, “Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative?” Justify your response with a personal example.

  1. What does Frankl mean when he said “meager pleasure of camp life provided a kind of negative happiness--- ‘freedom from suffering.’?” What experiences in your life can be considered negative happiness?

  1. Do you agree with the following quote? “No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.” Justify your response.

  1. While in Auschwitz, Frankl laid down one rule for himself, what was this rule and what was his fate by following this rule?


Assignment #6: Reading assignment: Begin at bottom of page 56 (starting with “The camp inmate was frightened of making decisions…”) and stop at bottom of page 75 (“…and thus the voice of his dream was right after all.”)

Questions for reflection:

  1. Explain a time/situation when you have experienced a drastic change of emotions like Frankl did when he went from hope and then despair. (Your example does not need to use theses exact emotions, just a shift from two extreme emotions)

  1. Explain all three of the following concepts: “inferiority complex,” “nonentities,” and “miniature delusions of grandeur.” Explain a time when you have experienced one of these three concepts.

  1. Frankl discusses incidents during prison life when general irritability became intensified when mental tensions were added and therefore these tensions resulted in violence. Why do you think this is the case and have you ever witnessed a situation where you (or someone else) became irritable to the point of aggression/violence?

  1. Frankl made the claim that even during difficult situations such as camp life that apathy could be overcome and irritability suppressed. He stated, “Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.” Do you agree with this statement, why or why not?

  1. What two meanings does the Latin word finis have? How does this relate to the concept of “provisional existence?” What point does Frankl make regarding “provisional existence” in relation to external situations and growing spiritually and at what point do people allow life to become meaningless? Do you agree with Frankl, why or why not and please try to use personal examples to justify your opinion.

  1. Do you agree with what Spinoza said in his book Ethics, “Affectus, qui passio est, desinit esse passio simulatque eius claram et distinctam formamus ideam.” Justify your response.

  1. Do you agree with Frankl (and other psychoscientific researchers) with the claim that there is a connection between the state of mind of a person and the state of immunity of one’s body can have a deadly effect (in other words, losing hope.\/courage can lead to actual physical death.) Justify your answer.


Assignment #7: Reading assignment: Pages 76-93

Questions for reflection:

  1. Do you agree with Frankl when he said, “Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual?” If you do not agree what you think life means. Justify your answer.

  1. As a culture we often view tears as a sign of weakness. Frankl however believed that tears displayed a man’s greatest courage, the courage to suffer. What do you believe tears say about a person?

  1. There is a common argument that behavior is more effective than words and for the most part Frankl believed this is true except when mental receptiveness is intensified by some outer circumstance. Have you experienced a time when words meant more than actions/behavior? What was the outer circumstance that may have caused this to be true? If you disagree, explain your answer.

  1. There was a moment when Frankl felt that providing encouragement was more necessary than ever, what were the five points he discussed in hopes to provide encouragement? Of these five which one would you find most helpful if you were in a similar position?

  1. What are the two “races” of men in this world that Frankl discusses? Do you agree that there are only two races and that no group of people consist of just one race, but rather than a mixture? Provide an example to support your claim.

  1. Explain the concept of “depersonalization.” Explain a time when you may have personally experienced this or know someone that has.

  1. Apart from the moral deformity resulting from the sudden release of mental pressure, EXPLAIN what other two fundamental experiences threatened to damage the character of a liberated prisoner. In your opinion, which one would you find more damaging? Explain your response.


Assignment #8: Reading Assignment: Pages: 97-111 (Stop at The Meaning of Love)

Questions for reflection:

  1. Compared to psychoanalysis, logotherapy is less of two concepts we have learned about at the beginning of the year, explain this two concepts. Also, what does logotherapy focus on and do you think this focus is important? Justify your response.

  1. Frankl states that some people argue that meanings and values are “nothing but defense mechanisms, reaction formations and sublimations.” And then he continues to say “But as for myself, I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of ‘defense mechanisms’ nor would I be ready to die for the sake of my ‘reaction formation’” Do you agree with “some people” of Frankl; support your response.

  1. In what three ways is the term existential used? Of the three, which one do you think is most fitting and why?

  1. Doing outside research, explain the difference between psychogenic neuroses and noogenic neuroses (this is discussed in your book).

  1. Frankl states, “…some amount of conflict is normal and healthy” Explain why you agree or disagree with this statement. Also explain what Frankl says suffering is and once again explain if you agree or disagree with his statement.

  1. According to Frankl, explain in DETAIL what mental health is based on.

  1. Explain Frankl’s argument on the misconception of mental hygiene. Do you agree with his argument and be sure to justify your answer.

  1. Frankl uses the term “existential vacuum” is what state does it manifest and what masks and guises does existential vacuum appear?

  1. What does logotherapy attempt to make the patient aware of? What are the three W’s that are used to explain responsibility? Which one is most important to you and why?

  1. Do you agree with Frankl’s statement, “The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.” Explain if you agree or disagree with this statement.

  1. Through logotherapy, what three ways can we discover meaning in life? Of the three, which one is most important to you and why?

  1. Without reading ahead, what do YOU think the meaning of LOVE and SUFFERING is?


Assignment #9: Reading Assignment: Pages 111-134

Questions for reflection:

  1. What does Frankl believe the meaning of love and suffering is? How does that compare to your personal meaning of love and suffering?(question #12 from assignment #8)

  1. Frankl makes a bold statement by saying, “No one can become fully aware of the essence of another human being unless he loves him.” Do you support his statement, why of why not?

  1. Have you experienced a time when you “transformed a personal tragedy into a triumph or a predicament into a human achievement?” If so explain, if not do you think this is possible, why or why not?

  1. In the past people would turn to clergymen (rabbi, priest, pastor, etc.) to answer life’s questions such as “What is the meaning of my life?” but now people are more likely to seek out a psychiatrist. What do you think has caused this shift? Who would you turn to answer that very question? Explain your reasoning.

  1. Explain what Frankl means by a “super-meaning” and do you believe in a “super-meaning?” Explain your response.

  1. Explain Frankl’s concept of Pan-Determinism. Then decide if you agree with this concept or not.

  1. Frankl states, “A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining.” Explain whether you agree with statement or not.


Assignment #10: Reading Assignment: 137-165

Questions for reflection:

  1. Before the postscript begins the last paragraph on page 134 reads, “Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.” What point do you think Frankl was trying to make by making this statement and do you agree with this point? Justify your response.

  1. What is the tragic optimism, and the three parts if the tragic triad? In your opinion, which of the three are the hardest to deal with and why?

  1. From the European perspective, what explanation does Frankl use to explain how the American culture views happiness?

  1. Explain what Frankl means by hyper-intention (be sure to explain his example regarding this term)

  1. Explain the term, “give-up-itis.” Explain a time when you have experienced this or witnessed someone that has. What caused you or them to experience this?

  1. Why do you think Frankl uses the term “no future” generation to label those that use drugs? Do you agree with this statement, why or why not?

  1. What was Frankl’s twofold explanation that he uses to explain the unemployed? Do you agree or disagree with this explanation?

  1. What are the three facets of the mass neurotic syndrome that the young generation often goes through? What causes people do go through these facets and what personal experiences do you have with one, two, or all three?

  1. Frankl gives advice about the third tragic triad through the following quote, “Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.” How does this quote make you feel?

  1. At what age did Frankl decide he wanted to become a physician? Do you find this interesting that he perused a career in a similar field from this early age decision? Do you know what you want to do when you “grow up?” and when did you make this decision? If not, what will help you decide?

  1. What advice does Frankl give to those feeling “empty?” What have caused you to feel empty and how did you overcome this feeling?

  1. What is the correlation between positive attitude and your immune system? What do you think about this finding?

  1. Frankl is quoted, “The world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.” How does this make you feel and do think the world will ever become a better place? Justify your response.

  1. What is the one sentence response Frankl gives to express the meaning of his life? What do you think about this sentence?

  1. Over 12 million copies of Man’s Search for Meaning have been sold including in twenty-four languages, it is consider one of the top ten most influential books in America, and it is assigned to college, graduate, and high school students in psychology, philosophy, history, religion, and theology courses. Why do you think it is so popular yet we still have societies that are in strife? Why do you think I assigned this book to you? (And no it is not because I want you to experience the very essence of this book, meaning through suffering! )

MSFM Pre-Seminar Question-Writing:

  Before you come to a Socratic Seminar class, please write at least one question in each of the following categories:

        Write a question connecting the text to the real world. 

        Example:  If you were given only 24 hours to pack your most precious belongings  in a back pack  and to get ready to leave your home town, what might you pack?  (After reading the first 30 pages of NIGHT).

        Write a question about the text that will help everyone in the class come to an agreement about events or characters in the text. This question usually has a "correct" answer.

         Example:  What happened to Hester Pyrnne's husband that she was left alone in Boston without family?  (After the first 4 chapters of THE SCARLET LETTER).

         Write an insightful question about the text that will require proof and group discussion and "construction of logic" to discover or explore the answer to the question.

          Example: Why did Gene hesitate to reveal the truth about the accident to Finny that first day in the infirmary? (After mid-point of A SEPARATE PEACE).

          Write a question dealing with a theme(s) of the text that will encourage group discussion about the universality of the text.

           Example: After reading John Gardner's GRENDEL, can you pick out its existential elements?

Guidelines for Participants in a Socratic Seminar

  1. Refer to the text when needed during the discussion. A seminar is not a test of memory. You are not "learning a subject"; your goal is to understand the ideas, issues, and values reflected in the text.

  2. It's OK to "pass" when asked to contribute.

  3. Do not participate if you are not prepared. A seminar should not be a bull session.

  4. Do not stay confused; ask for clarification.

  5. Stick to the point currently under discussion; make notes about ideas you want to come back to.

  6. Don't raise hands; take turns speaking.

  7. Listen carefully.

  8. Speak up so that all can hear you.

  9. Talk to each other, not just to the leader or teacher.

  10. Discuss ideas rather than each other's opinions.

  11. You are responsible for the seminar, even if you don't know it or admit it.

Expectations of Participants in a Socratic Seminar

When I am evaluating your Socratic Seminar participation, I ask the following questions about participants. Did they….

  • Speak loudly and clearly?

  • Cite reasons and evidence for their statements?

  • Use the text to find support?

  • Listen to others respectfully?

  • Stick with the subject?

  • Talk to each other, not just to the leader?

  • Paraphrase accurately?

  • Ask for help to clear up confusion?

  • Support each other?

  • Avoid hostile exchanges?

  • Question others in a civil manner?

  • Seem prepared?

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