By Gerry Murray. 25-10-2020
(Scroll down for a laugh)
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
~ Viktor E. Frankl
In his book, Man’s search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl advocates that the primary human drive is not pleasure (Freud) or power (Adler) but the pursuit of what we find meaningful.
The book is a riveting and often disturbing read as Frankl describes the horrors of life in Auschwitz and the other camps he was in. He explains how he survived partly through luck or fate but also by focusing on the meaning of his life and how it would be after he would be set free. This sense of meaning strengthened his resolve to live. Many around him died he said not just because of their torture and physical ailments (he experienced similar things) but also because they lost a sense of meaning. This set the scene for and informed his theory and practice, which is known as logotherapy, something he had been developing prior to World War II.
Not only did Frankl survive the holocaust, but he also went on to develop his therapy practice and teaching and lived to the ripe old age of 92. Many accredit his work as foundational to human potential and positive psychology.
Why is this relevant today?
Frankl posits that we can find meaning in three positive ways:
- In work - in doing something significant
- In love - by caring for another person
- In suffering - having courage during difficult times
In the words of another author, Harold S Kushner, Frankl’s most enduring insight is:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
As we approach the end of 2020, where things may get worse before they get better, I hope that this insight alone might carry many of us through.
Where do you find the meaning of life?
In the dictionary
Some men are sitting around discussing the meaning of life.
One turns and asks the others, "If tomorrow all your loved ones found themselves at your funeral, gathered around your casket, what would you want to hear them say?"
The first man starts off saying, "I hope they would say I was a good father and husband".
The next man says "I want them to say I was not only successful but a kind and generous man too".
The last man says "I'd want them to say”
"Hey look, he's moving!"