Searching for Meaning in Chaos: Viktor Frankl’s Story


  • Hanan Bushkin
  • Roelf van Niekerk
  • Louise Stroud


The existential psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (1905–1997) lived an extraordinary life. He witnessed and experienced acts of anti-Semitism, persecution, brutality, physical abuse, malnutrition, and emotional humiliation. Ironically, through these experiences, the loss of dignity and the loss of the lives of his wife, parents and brother, his philosophy of human nature, namely, that the search for meaning is the drive behind human behaviour, was moulded. Frankl formulated the basis of his existential approach to psychological practice before World War II (WWII). However, his experiences in the concentration camps confirmed his view that it is through a search for meaning and purpose in life that individuals can endure hardship and suffering. In a sense, Frank’s theory was tested in a dramatic way by the tragedies of his life. Following WWII, Frankl shaped modern psychological thinking by lecturing at more than 200 universities, authoring 40 books published in 50 languages and receiving 29 honorary doctorates. His ideas and experiences related to the search for meaning influenced theorists, practitioners, researchers, and lay people around the world. This study focuses specifically on the period between 1942 and 1945. The aim is to explore Frankl’s search for meaning within an unpredictable, life-threatening, and chaotic context through the lens of his concept of noö-dynamics.