Frankl tells the story of a woman who had two sons, one of whom was crippled. The healthy son died, and she could not bear her grief. When she tried to commit suicide along with her crippled son, the son stopped her plan because he did not want to die. Frankl asks why life was worth living for him, but not for her, even though both had suffered a major loss?
In this section of the book, Frankl gives examples of how logotherapy has helped people find meaning in their lives. In this situation, a boy who seems to be much worse off than his mother is actually happier and finds more meaning in life.
Frankl asked the woman to pretend that she was on her deathbed and had lots of money but not children. When she did this, she discovered that she would be sad without her children, and that they are her reason for living. She further realized that by taking care of her crippled son, she prevented him from having to live in an institution, and thus her struggle had made his life better and was worthwhile.
By following the logotherapeutic categorical imperative and imagining her life as if it were over, the mother discovers that she is happy she had children. She has made sacrifices to improve the life of her child, and those sacrifices have made her life worthwhile.
Frankl then asked the group in which he met this woman if they believed that a monkey would be able to understand his own suffering fully. The group decided that only humans are able to comprehend real pain. Frankl challenged this by saying that if the monkey could not access the human dimension of understanding suffering, then perhaps humans are unable to understand a further dimension of the meaning of life.
Frankl sets up an analogy in which he compares a monkey to a human and a human to something like God. A monkey, he claims, is not aware of that which he does not know, and neither is a human. Frankl then suggests that there is an even greater meaning to life that we cannot understand or access.