Often times, we focus so much on changing our circumstances that we forget the enormous power we have to enjoy the present no matter what. One of the biggest supporters of this idea was Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl.
Based on the account of his experiences in a concentration camp, this author explains in his book The man in search of meaning the experience which led him to create logotherapy, a psychotherapy from which the will to meaning is proposed as the primary motivation of the human being. Viktor Frankl, a longtime prisoner, felt in his own being the meaning of a naked existence.
How could he accept that life was worth living? A man who had lost everything, who had seen everything worth destroying, who suffered from hunger, cold, endless brutality, and who was so often on the verge of extermination. And yet Frankl has managed to make sense of his existence.
According to this psychiatrist, the search for the meaning of life is the essence of life. In realizing this sense, man aspires to meet another human being in the form of a you and to love him.
When the sense of existence is frustrated, the desire for power or pleasure occupies the most important place in motivating behavior. In this way, the pursuit of happiness becomes an end in itself and therefore frustration arises.
How can we transform our existence?
Happiness is obtained as a consequence of having a goal, and not by the direct pursuit of it. The door to happiness opens outward, and those who try to break it are locked away.
Optimism is a key part of Frankl’s design. In his philosophy, life appears as an opportunity to which we must respond ; we must seek the best option to preserve it and thus keep the promise of survival. In this sense, once the why is defined, the focus is on the how.
Love is the highest goal to which human beings can aspire. This fundamental faith allows us to reclaim any effort, decision or action that someone has made in their life. What is fundamental for Frankl is what man answers the questions life asks him, not what he asks him. Happiness is the result of having meaning.
Values play a key role in this commitment. Particularly important are those of attitude, creation and experience, being particularly noteworthy in the latter case the experience of love.
Values make possible an interior journey from which is born faith in the future, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the search for resources of love and meaning in the history of one’s own personal life.
The relationship between inner strength (values, faith, love, meaning) and future goal is the link that integrates the individual and allows him to recognize himself as a unique and irreplaceable being.
What is the inner attitude?
The inner attitude to circumstances is the result of personal choice. It’s the freedom to become the kind of person you want to be. To be beyond material or physical limits is a human possibility where man knows the experience of heroism.
In order for people to develop the best possible inner attitude, Frankl spoke of a number of basic teachings. The nine most important are:
- Choose to have hope. We can’t always change circumstances, but we can always choose our attitude in any situation. When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
- Know your why. Ask yourself: Why am I living? Every day we should ask ourselves why we get up and why we are here. Those with a “why” can tolerate almost any “how”.
- Learn to cry. Tears are not a sign of weakness, they emanate from a soul that is not afraid to break. There is no need to be ashamed of tears, because they testify that a man had the greatest courage, the courage to suffer.
- Don’t just be part of the herd. The world is upside down. Sometimes doing what everyone else is doing is crazy. An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal.
- Live with meaning. We give meaning to life by answering the questions it asks us. Life presents each person with a challenge and the person can only respond with their own actions. What is expected of its existence does not matter; what matters is what she expects from us.
- Fill your day with acts of kindness. Kindness has a purpose, the hundreds of little selfless acts we have the opportunity to do each day help make sense of our lives.
- Go beyond yourself. We find real meaning when we transcend our own limitations and needs. The more a person forgets himself, by giving himself to a cause or to another person, the more human he is and the more he grows.
- Feel the pain of others. Suffering is painful, even though the problem may seem trivial to the rest of us. Understand the pain of others, even if it is not a tragedy in the whole perspective of life.
- We can change even when life is difficult. We can create a meaningful life full of meaning, love, and purpose.