Most women will not suffer the kind of treatment that Frankl received in the several Nazi death camps; nevertheless, our struggles are real and can be very debilitating at times. What can be gleaned from Frankl's wisdom to give us strength in adversity?
Powerful Points To Ponder
1. No matter what your circumstance in life, you choose your own thoughts and attitude.
Frankl is a very vivid example of the premise that everything can be taken from a person except 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. You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can choose how you will respond to the situation. He states that apathy can be overcome, irritability suppressed and that one can have a vestige of spiritual freedom through the independence of mind.
I have learned that this is true. This is a mental exercise for the most part; for as we think, we feel and do. When times are tough it is hard to view life in a positive way. It is hard to get up in the morning and put on a happy face. But if we can discipline ourselves to look for something good in each day, we will find it, even if it is a very small thing. Over time looking for the good will become a choice that we will make because it strengthens us and lifts us, even when life's struggles want to tear us apart. It may not remove our struggle, but it will help us endure a little better and even grow from the experience.
I know a wonderful woman who has endured major health problems for over twenty years. Physically she is very weak and unable to do the things she used to do. Mentally and spiritually, she is one of the most joyful and strong women I know. It's a choice on her part to look for the good in each day and to choose to be happy when in the same situation, most would be depressed. She chooses to be grateful as she endures the constant pain and limitations that her affliction has placed on her. She has an attitude of thankfulness for the small things in life. She has personally been strengthened in her affliction because of the choices she has made. Does she still have awful days that are hard to endure? Of course she does. However, that is not her chosen focus. Choose wisely your own thoughts and attitudes.
2. Turn life into inner triumph and outer triumph will follow.
Frankl found it helpful to envision his troubles as if they were already past. This may take significant effort. Sometimes when life is very difficult you must force your mind to the task. Have faith in the future. It is important to be hopeful that the future will hold a better situation for you.
Have a goal. Envision yourself being successful. Take action, step by step to improve your life. Look for meaning in your experiences. Trials can make us stronger and teach us much. There is meaning in struggle. It is part of life. Learn from it and use it to strengthen yourself. Those who choose to ignore the challenge and to simply vegetate suffer more that those who have a goal and in whatever way they can move toward that goal. Remember it starts first in the mind.
Life is meaningful and we can choose to view it that way despite our challenges and circumstances. Listen to what your conscience instructs you to do. Then go forward and carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Frankl encourages us to seek a hint from Heaven. I personally find this very helpful and at times, that has been literally a lifesaver for me.
3. Love yourself and others.
Frankl's experiences taught him that the salvation of man is in and through love. Love can take many forms.
Love of self is critical during the most trying of times. One must love one's self and nourish and care for the spirit and the physical body. When your trials are getting you down, be kind to yourself. Take a few minutes to care for your own needs. Just allowing yourself to do something you enjoy for a short time can strengthen you when the demands of life are about to swallow you up.
I can remember times in my own life where I felt like I was being buried alive by the things I needed to do for others and so I neglected loving and caring for myself. I justified that in my mind by thinking, "I don't have time, strength or energy to love and take care of me." One such time involved working, caring for a sick parent, raising small children, and fulfilling some major responsibilities in my church. After a few months of this, I felt empty. I had given all my strength away and had none left for myself. I was totally drained. I felt tired and resentful. I just wanted to give up.
I have learned from experiences like these that 'an empty well bringeth forth no water'. When women don't take time to love themselves enough to care for their own needs, they will eventually run out of strength to love and care for others. Just taking a few minutes daily to meditate, pray, read, go for a walk, paint your nails or any other simple thing that nourishes you will pay big dividends in the long run. Give yourself at least 30 minutes per day to do something that makes you feel good.
You may feel that you don't have time for 30 minutes. Ok, start with 10 minutes and work up. You will find that when you nurture yourself, you will be happier, stronger, and better able to fulfill the things you need to do in your life and be able to more effectively deal with your problems. Then you will have more strength and love to share with others.
Remember, you are a valuable person no matter what your abilities or your limitations. Just being alive on this planet gives one value. Don't judge yourself by what you can or cannot do at this time in your life. You are a human being and not a human doing. Choose to see yourself in a positive way. Control your thoughts. Make them work for you rather than against you. Enjoy victory in your mind first and then allow your actions to move you toward your goals and to create a victory in the physical world. Everyone has something of value to share. Nurture and care for yourself that you will have the strength and desire to lift yourself to a higher place and then to lift other people in your life as well.
* Vicktor E. Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning, trans. Ilse Lasch; foreword Harold S. Kushner; afterword William J. Winslad. (Beacon Press, c2006)
Book Club Link