Casting Out Fear

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Depression is deeply tedious for all concerned; the depressive, their family, friends and acquaintances. In Britain today about 20 per cent of adults suffer depression and/or extreme anxiety in the course of a lifetime. We seem to be in a depression epidemic. And that’s very boring, too.

All kinds of things can trigger depression. In my case it was being made redundant twice in as many years, and worrying about how I would support my family. My ‘cure’ – it’s always tentative – was a combination of therapy, pills and exercise. But I also needed to find something to read that would give me hope, something that would lift me beyond my own petty obsessions – and I have learned that they are all petty. Mapp and Lucia, maybe . . . No, too whimsical. I needed something meaningful, something that would, with luck, stop me being a complete bore – or at least, less of a bore. Then I stumbled across Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (1946). How had I missed it?

Man’s Search for Meaning has apparently sold more than 10 million copies and been published in 24 languages. It is, according to the Library of Congress, one of the ‘ten most influential books in the United States’. When you are happy, E. F. Benson or some other undemanding text is enough; when you torture yourself, you need to find ways of coping. Frankl’s book is unlike any other Holocaust memoir I have read. From the darkest degradation he brings hope. He finds meaning amid the meaningless. It would be an exaggeration to say that his book saved my life – but it did help me find meaning.

Viktor Frankl was born into a Jewish family in Vienna in 1905. The course his life followed in the 1940s was thus all too familiar. In an act of wonderful defiance he married Tilly Grosser in December 1941. In September 1942 he was forced out of the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna, the only one that still admitted Jews

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About the contributor

Gary Mead has been a journalist with the BBC, Granada TV and the Financial Times. He now works with Jericho Chambers. His fourth book, Victoria’s Cross, was published in 2015.

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