Viktor Frankl was a well-known neurologist, psychiatrist and also a philosopher. Of Austrian origin belonging to the 20th century, he lived from 1905 to 1997 and was well known as the founder of speech therapy and existential analysis .
His exceptionality lies in the fact that he lived for almost four years (1942 – 1945) in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwiz and Dachau.
Viktor Frankl’s 70 Most Famous Quotes
As a result of these hard experiences, Vicktor Frankl wrote a book entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning”, which soon became a bestseller.
Man’s Search for Meaning was published under two different names: in 1959 it was published as From Death-Camp to Existentialism and in 1962 as Man’s Search for Meaning.
But the truth is that throughout his life he published more than 20 books. His legacy of thoughts, famous quotes and ideas is extensive and rich and in this article we leave you the 70 best phrases of Viktor Frankl , most of them taken from his best seller “Man in search of meaning”.
1. When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
A phrase that means that facing up to situations lies in ourselves, not in the situations themselves.
2. Success, like happiness, is the unexpected side effect of personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.
Here Viktor Frankl talks about altruism and thinking of others.
3. Decisions, not conditions, determine who we are.
Deciding and defending our decisions will shape our ‘self’, beyond the external circumstances.
4. Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.
Here, Frankl emphasizes once again the sense of will and the decisions of one’s self.
5. It is not the past that stops us, it is the future; and how we weaken it, today.
Sometimes the future scares us and doesn’t move us forward.
6. Our greatest human freedom is that, despite our physical situation in life, we are always free to choose our thoughts!
Freedom lies in essence in choosing and thinking the way we really want.
7. Live like you’re living a second time, and like you acted wrong the first time.
Make the most of life, learning from your mistakes.
8. No man should judge unless he asks himself with absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
Frankl here values empathy.
9. The meaning of my life is to help others find meaning in theirs.
Here he speaks again of altruism and generosity, as a way of achieving one’s own happiness.
10. Being tolerant does not mean that you share someone else’s belief. But it does mean that I recognize another’s right to believe and obey his own conscience.
In this sentence Frankl talks about respecting and tolerating the opinions and actions of others.
11. Humor is another of the soul’s weapons in the struggle for self-preservation.
Humor as a resource for being oneself.
12. There are two races of men in this world, but only these two: the race of the decent man and the race of the indecent man.
In this sentence Frankl talks about two opposite polarities of the human condition: decency and indecency.
13. Between the stimulus and the response there is a space. In that space we have the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
In this sentence Frankl talks again about the value of deciding.
14. Pain is only bearable if we know it will end, not if we deny it exists.
Frankl accepted that pain was part of life, but if we know how to deal with it, we can better manage happiness.
15. Suffering unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.
Here Frankl tells us that it is not worth suffering just to show heroism or courage.
16. When a man discovers that it is his destiny to suffer… his only chance lies in the way he bears his burden.
Again, Frankl talking about managing decisions around us to be happier.
17. The existential void manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.
Boredom as a prelude to feeling empty.
18. Love is the only way to capture another human being in the deepest core of your personality.
Frankl said that love and its essence, are the basis of the human being.
19. Logotherapy considers man as a being whose main concern is to fulfill a meaning and update his values, rather than the mere gratification and satisfaction of impulses and instincts.
In this sentence Frankl talks about one of his contributions to science; logotherapy, which teaches us to have values and fullness in what you do.
20. Every human being has the freedom to change at any time.
In this sentence Frankl talks again about the power of freedom to be who one really wants to be.
21. At last I understood the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: man’s salvation is through love and love.
Once again Frankl makes an apology for love as the essence of life and of the human being.
22. Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.
In this sentence Frankl again values freedom as one of our most precious assets.
23. I do not forget any good deed done to me, and I do not bear a grudge for a bad one.
A phrase that teaches us how not to deny the past, considering it a vehicle to become who we are today.
24. Forces beyond your control can take away everything you own except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.
Again Frankl talking about the weight and value of freedom.
25. When a person cannot find a deep sense of meaning, he is distracted by pleasure.
In this sentence Frankl criticizes pleasure as a way of escaping when we don’t really want to face certain things about ourselves.
26. You don’t create your mission in life, you detect it.
In this sentence Frankl says that the purpose of your life is intuited, seen, not simply created.
27. An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.
In this sentence Frankl talks about coherence with our behaviour.
28. We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: 1. by writing; 2. by experiencing a value; and 3. by suffering.
In this sentence Frankl reveals his ideas about existentialism; doing something creative and introspective like writing, living something of value, and suffering for something.
29. If there is any meaning in life, then there must be meaning in suffering.
Life is also made up of suffering and this does not have to be in vain.
30. Trying to develop a sense of humor and see things with humor is a kind of trick learned while mastering the art of living.
Here again Frankl talks about humour as a way of salvation while we manage certain things that happen to us.
31. Life is not primarily a search for pleasure, as Freud believed, nor a search for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a search for meaning. The best task for any person is to find meaning in his own life.
In this sentence Frankl speaks to us again about the search for the meaning of life.
32. And then, after taking a few silent steps, one prisoner said to another: “How beautiful the world could be!
A sentence that refers again to the concentration camps, and that despite these horrible circumstances, the contemplation of beauty could still persist.
33. Somehow, suffering stops suffering the moment it finds a meaning, like the meaning of a sacrifice.
In this phrase Frankl puts suffering back into value; he gives it a meaning in life.
34. Death can only cause terror to those who do not know how to fill the time that is given to them to live.
In this sentence Frankl teaches us that we must make the most of life. If we don’t, we will probably be more afraid of death.
35. Man is the son of his past but not his slave, and he is the father of his future.
The past should not be a burden to us, and one should be able to choose one’s future.
36. Being responsible means being selective, choosing.
In this sentence Frankl again emphasizes the value of choice.
37. In other words, self-realization cannot be achieved when it is considered.
This phrase from Frankl tells us that self-fulfilment must occur when it is done without a will or a prior interest.
38. Only to the same extent that man commits himself to the fulfillment of the meaning of his life, does he realize himself.
When there is commitment to oneself and one’s sense of existence, there is then self-realization.
39. If it is not in your hands to change a situation that causes you pain, you can always choose the attitude with which you face that suffering.
Again through this phrase Frankl speaks to us of the courage to choose how to face the adverse circumstances of life.
40. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of mental independence, even in the terrible circumstances of psychic and physical tension.
Even in adversity, man remains free of thought.
41. Literally speaking, all we possessed was our naked existence.
Our true essence does not consist of anything material, but of everything more spiritual.
42. Love is as primary a phenomenon as sex can be. Normally sex is a form of expressing love.
Both sex and love are part of the human being as something essential, and one manifests itself through the other.
43. Love is the highest and most essential goal to which a human being can aspire…the fullness of human life is in love and is realized through love.
In this sentence Frankl talks again about love and its importance and how to reach fulfillment through it.
44. Fear makes what one fears happen.
Being afraid, unfortunately we end up attracting what we are afraid of.
45. Ultimately, living means taking responsibility for finding the right answer to the problems it raises and fulfilling the tasks that life continually assigns to each individual.
In this phrase Frankl speaks to us of realization, of sacrifice, of accepting and fulfilling life.
46. Experience can be turned into victory, life into an internal triumph.
Again Frankl tells us how through lived experiences we can find satisfaction and success.
47. Freedom is only the negative aspect of any phenomenon, the positive aspect of which is responsibility.
All freedom is subordinated to the responsibility we have to possess it.
48. Who could blame them for trying to get high under such circumstances? (…) They knew very well that any day they would be relieved by another consignment and would have to give up their obligatory role as enforcers to become victims.
In this sentence Frankl tells us about the concentration camps, and that in the end they would all end up being victims of heartbreaking experiences.
49. Love is the only way to apprehend another human being in the depths of his personality.
Here Frankl talks about love as a way of apprehending, in the sense of feeling deeply what the other is like.
50. The person who knows the “why” of their existence will be able to endure almost any “how”.
In this sentence Frankl tells us that the ‘why’ and the sense of things justifies the circumstances.
51. What a person becomes – within the limits of his faculties and his environment – he must do for himself.
Once again Frankl highlights the freedom to choose and be oneself, and the importance of this.
52. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
In this sentence Frankl tells us that it is essential to change our perception of things as well as our way of thinking, when necessary and before difficult situations.
53. Those of us who were in concentration camps remembered the men who went from barrack to barrack comforting the others, giving them the last piece of bread they had left. They may have been few in number, but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from man except one thing: the last of human liberties – the choice of a personal attitude in the face of a set of circumstances – to decide his own path.
Again Frankl refers to the concentration camps; to the personal freedom that remains intact before all adverse circumstances.
54. Human goodness is found in all groups, even in those which, in general terms, deserve to be condemned.
In this sentence Frankl speaks of goodness as a human condition.
55. And at that moment the whole truth became apparent to me and I did what constituted the high point of the first phase of my psychological reaction: I erased from my consciousness all previous life.
In this sentence Frankl refers again to the concentration camps and how to manage his emotions in order to move forward.
56. The most painful aspect of the blows is the insult they include.
In this sentence Frankl says between the lines that hitting someone is a way of belittling them.
57. Those who have not passed through a similar experience can hardly conceive of the soul-destroying mental conflict or the willpower conflicts experienced by a hungry man.
In this sentence Frankl refers again to the concentration camps and the management of emotions there.
58. In spite of the physical and mental primitivism that forcefully prevailed, it was still possible to develop a deep spiritual life in the life of the concentration camp.
Again, another reference to concentration camps and spiritual strength.
59. I did not know if my wife was alive, nor did I have the means to find out (during all the time I was confined there was no postal contact with the outside), but by then I had stopped caring, I did not need to know, nothing could alter the strength of my love, my thoughts or the image of my beloved.
In this sentence Frankl refers again to the concentration camps and how in those hard times, reality did not alter his perception of love and his beloved woman.
60. We should not seek an abstract meaning to life, for each one has his own mission to fulfill in it; each one must carry out a concrete task. Therefore, he cannot be replaced in the function, nor can his life be repeated; his task is unique as is his opportunity to implement it.
In this sentence Frankl speaks of the will of each one to develop the life he desires.
61. Luck is what you don’t get to suffer.
In this sentence Frankl said that luck is the set of circumstances experienced – whether good or bad.
62. Life demands a contribution from every individual, and it is up to the individual to discover what that contribution is.
In this sentence Frankl speaks of the fact that every human being has a mission and objectives in life, which he must find and fulfil.
63. All of us had once believed that we were “someone” or at least had imagined it. But now we were treated as if we were nobody, as if we did not exist.
In this sentence Frankl again references the concentration camps and how he felt as a nobody, and in a common feeling, despite all the construction of personality and character previously developed.
64. Man realizes himself to the same extent that he commits himself to the fulfillment of the meaning of his life.
In this sentence Frankl talks again about self-realization and how this leads to giving meaning to existence.
65. I understood how man, dispossessed of everything in this world, can still know happiness – even if only momentarily – if he contemplates his loved one.
In this sentence Frankl talks again about the essence of love. Love as salvation, when there is nothing else left.
66. I am but a small part of a great mass of human flesh… of a mass enclosed behind the barbed wire, crowded into a few earthen barracks. A mass of which, day after day, a percentage is decomposing because it is no longer alive.
In this sentence Frankl talks again about the concentration camps; about the nobody that was felt there, about the loss of one’s essence.
67. As the inner life of the prisoners became more intense, we also felt the beauty of art and nature as never before. Under its influence we came to forget our terrible circumstances.
In this sentence Frankl again talks about the concentration camps and how under those circumstances, they were able to develop an inner world that made them feel alive and capable of continuing to feel beauty in the world.
68. Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it runs away. But if you turn your attention to other things, it comes and gently lands on your shoulder. Happiness is not an inn on the road, but a way of walking through life.
In this sentence Frankl speaks of happiness as an attitude towards life, not as an end.
69. The conscience of self-love is so deeply rooted in the most elevated and spiritual things that it cannot be torn out even by living in a concentration camp.
Here Frankl again talks about the concentration camps. He says that love, as an expression of spiritual things, remains intact even in a place as terrible and harsh as a concentration camp.
70. The ruins are often the ones that open the windows to see the sky.
With this last sentence by Viktor Frankl, we are told about suffering as something useful, and a previous step to the good things in life.