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Man’s Search for Himself Summary

Recently I read the book, Man’s Search for himself, by Rollo May. He was an existential psychologist and reading the book gave me some interesting things to think about. In this short summary, I’ll share with you three lessons that I found interesting.

Key Lesson #1: Emptiness is the biggest problem most people face

Most people don’t know what they really want or what they really feel. And when some traumatic change happens, they become aware of the fact that all the desires and goals that they have been following all through their lives, doesn’t bring any sense of security or give them a sense of direction. In other words, they feel empty inside. It’s like an inner void while you are facing challenges on the outside. Most people in such situations look around at other people and just follow what the majority are doing but this not only doesn't get rid of inside emptiness but also creates loneliness.

Key Lesson #2: Loneliness is caused by not being true to ourselves

Rollo May says that another characteristic of modern people is loneliness. It’s a feeling like you are on the outside, isolated, or as some people say that they feel alienated. This happens because most of us don’t have a clear sense of direction, we don’t know what is it that we want, that brings us fulfillment. And even if we know we don’t follow that desire. And ultimately we end up living lives of quiet desperation and feel we are in the wrong time in the wrong place. As if we don’t belong to the time we live in and no one can really understand us. The key to navigating through these feelings is to be true to what your heart desires and follow that.

Key Lesson #3: Anxiety is associated with creativity

Rollo May doesn’t think of anxiety as a symptom to be removed but rather as a gateway for exploration into the meaning of life. Instead, he says that anxiety is associated with creativity. When you’re in a situation of anxiety, you can of course run away from it, and that’s certainly not the best option. What anxiety means is it’s as though the world is and you need to create, you need to make something, do something. So for people who have found their heart's desire, anxiety acts as a stimulus toward creativity. It is what makes us human beings.

And here we have it. Hope we can all find a sense of direction that comes from our hearts and stay true to it. And remember that anxiety is not always a bad thing and it can be channeled for creativity.

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