“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” ~ Viktor Frankl
After surviving the holocaust, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, a detailed, psychotherapeutic account of his tragedy in the concentration camps, in which he examines how finding meaning can transform even the most absurd form of suffering.
He exemplified, through his own experience, the notion that survival and, ultimately happiness, demand meaning.
He later developed Logotherapy, sustained by the belief that the need to find meaning is the primary, most powerful and motivating force in humans.
Hand in hand with Meaning comes Responsibility. Our ability to face life and respond to it—in essence, the human capacity of being response-able—is an integral part of Frankl’s message.
If our thirst is quenched by Meaning, our hunger would be fed by Responsibility.
“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.
That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”
Man’s Search for Meaning is considered as one of the top most influential books of all times, and it makes for a compelling and inspiring read in psychological self-examination (cat purring by your side totally optional).
If you can keep three essential ideas on life’s most unsettling and unsettled subjects—handwritten by Fankl and delivered as sidenotes to your coffee (or tea)—turn on your wisdom camera and photograph these thoughts. (You’ll need them at some point.)
The true meaning of Life.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
The (self) actualization of Love.
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.
By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized.
Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”
The inverse nature of Success.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge.
Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”
More Compact Wisdom from our Literary Parents:
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