I was thinking about the amazing Viktor Frankl, and his incomparable book, Mans Search for Meaning. Frankl was an Austrian-born neurologist and psychiatrist, living in Vienna at the time of the Nazi takeover. Initially he was able to continue his work, but in 1944 he was sent, along with his family, to a concentration camp. Tragically, his wife, both parents and his brother were not to survive their incarceration. During his time there, as he fought for survival, he developed his theory on logotherapy and on his release, wrote his book, which has now been published into dozens of languages and has sold millions of copies.
Frankl believed that, no matter how awful, how terrifying, how dehumanising, how painful and how tragic life may be, life continues to have meaning, so within that, suffering has meaning too. If we can find that meaning, we can come through anything.
“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living”
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”
During my ‘bad times’, I had the choice to react in any one of a million ways. The most obvious response was anger, fear or despair. But I knew that if I chose that route, I would become like my stalker, consumed with hate, venom, and ultmately fear and hopelessness. As long as I stayed true to myself and my ideals, I had won, even if ultimately I was to die. No matter what happened, as long as I kept smiling and held onto my compassion, I would be a winner to the end.
Mans Search for Meaning is a book I recommend to everyone, as within its pages, there is true wisdom from which we can all learn, and gain meaning. We all have hard times in our lives, and often we can lose our faith in life, in ourselves and in our view of the world. At those times, its worth reaching for Frankl, and remembering his words;
“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.”
There is always meaning to life. There is always meaning in our lives. That can never be taken away. We always have a choice. We can always smile, no matter how bad things become. We have the choice.
We can all be Viktor Frankl.