"We, who lived in concentration camps, can remember the men who walked through the huts of 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 away 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."
- Viktor Frankl
What is Freedom?
I recently reread the book "Man's Search for Meaning" by renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, and thought I'd share some of his insight with you. In case you don't know his story, Frankl survived several years in concentration camps, including Auschwitz, only to discover that his parents and wife did not make it out alive. While in the camps, he further developed his theory that man is happy only when he finds meaning in life. After the war he remarried, wrote another twenty-five books, founded a school of psychotherapy, built an institute bearing his name in Vienna, lectured around the world, and saw "Man's Search for Meaning" sell at least nine million copies.
One of Frankl's most powerful ideas is that we have the ability to choose our attitude, even in the most difficult of situations. This is, essentially, what true freedom is. The world will not always hand you roses, but it's your decision how you react to trial that determines your own happiness. People can take many things from you, but they can never control your thoughts, emotions or behaviors. YOU are the one in control of these things.
So what connection does Frankl's theory have to our everyday lives? First, it can help us to put our own concept of "misery" into perspective - in the camps, he discovered that even amongst the most horrid conditions of human suffering, people were capable of the giving, humane acts. We can learn that, no matter how our troubles might weigh us down, we are still capable of joy and generosity. Second, Frankl emphasized the importance of meaning: evaluating our own lives and finding what makes life worthwhile can give us hope and serve as a catalyst for action rather than despair. Last of all, we can feel inspired by the way Frankl emerged from a horrible, life-changing event to remain, at heart, a positive man who appreciated life no matter the circumstances. Frankl passed away in 1997 (at the age of 92), but we can all learn valuable lessons from the inspirational life he lead.
by T.L. Scribe