We often feel that we have a monopoly on suffering, or that what we are currently going through is the worst experience man has encountered in his history. This will lead us down the path of isolation and feeling that our circumstance is insurmountable. One figure who famously approached this theme is the psychological historian Viktor Frankl. He summarized his thoughts and observations from being interned at the famous Auschwitz camp during the Holocaust of World War II. In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl uncovers insights to how we find hope when there is nothing but despair. Through his observations he lets us into his mind through a powerful narrative where every possible torment existed and there was truly no reason to carry on but yet, some how he found himself with the resolve to do so. These parables highlight what is to truly endure some of the worst conditions faced by modern man.
1. ” When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. “
In many cases the tribulation we face is one that is actually beyond our ability to effect. In those instances we must make practice of developing a coping mechanism or alternate perspective on what is coming. The ability to accept our fate can be more valuable than the power to alter it.
2. “Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.”
We like to think about what we want as what propels us and as often as that is true sometimes what stimulates us is not our desire for what is to come but simply a relief from what currently is. Never underestimate the value of discomfort as a motivator.
3. “Fear may come true that which one is afraid of. “
We are only able to see what is significant to us. This is why we can’t remember all of the faces that we see in a day or all the details of a building even though we had to walk through it to get to our destination. The same goes for suffering, if we pass fear into our periphery then we are better able to move towards our goal. Drivers often hit the things they are staring at.
4. “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. “
If we take a moment to think about what we are doing, and imagine the result often times we find that we already know what is to come. We have the opportunity to step outside ourselves and make better decisions that we would other wise if we are able to rise above the moment.
5. “There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.”
There will always be storms, there will always be hard things to push through but it is not so much important that you survive them for the sake of survival but for the sake of a greater purpose that will make survival worthwhile.