Thursday, June 2, 2011

Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning

If you’ve never read this book, it’s well worth the $6.99 on Amazon.

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist from Austria who was forced into a Nazi concentration camp in 1942. This book is ½ about his experiences there, and ½ about the form of therapy (logotherapy) he developed while imprisoned.

What’s amazing about his story is how he found meaning in life surrounded by tremendous suffering. He and the other prisoners still laughed and joked with each other under those horrible conditions. He discovered how his thoughts (of his wife, who was killed in another camp) were more important than the tragic situation he was in. He describes: “A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.

So many lessons can be taken away from this book. If you are having a bay day, Frankl’s words are strong reminders that the love we have in our life is more important than the things we have or the stressful situations we might be in. He teaches us that everyone’s life has meaning, and even people who feel their life has no meaning can make good of whatever life has dealt them. And, he shows how attitude can go a long way when it comes to surviving any hardship.

Even though I’ve never been forced into a slave-labor camp, I can draw parallels with things I have suffered though and Frankl’s book. Even though my experience with Crohn’s, cancer, and drinking were all very difficult, I’m glad I went through them. They made me who I am, and they allow me to relate with and hopefully help people who are going through similar struggles.

People have asked me how I plan to skate and play hockey for 24 hours straight. I tell them that a lot of it is going to be mind over body. If I start getting tired or achy, I plan on thinking about Viktor. I will think about Justin, Danny, Greg, and all the Hope Lodge guests who have passed away over the 4 years I’ve been here. They have all given me meaning to my life, and they are going to keep me going…

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