Tag Archives: Viktor Frankl

Nothing To Live For

Did you ever get to a point in life where you thought the best of your life was in the past and that there was nothing much to live for? Or, have you known someone who has been at that point?
Last night I continued reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning. I usually keep several books of this nature open and slowly read them, kind of like meditations. For some reason last night I was beckoned to pick up Frankl’s book. Viktor Frankl was a psychologist who was imprisoned in a Nazi Concentration Camp for several years. His book describes firsthand what it was like to be a prisoner in such a setting and how, from Frankl’s perspective, people coped with this horrid situation. Frankl saw prisoner after prisoner die . . . after they had lost hope. He describes a lack of hope almost as a death sentence. What struck me in what he said is the way that such a lack of hope was turned around.

Most who lost hope thought that life had nothing more in store for them. But Frankl renewed hope not in thinkng about life having nothing more in store FOR him, but in what life was still asking OF him. Some unforeseen contribution to life or loved ones was still to be made. And this kept him going.

Life may at times bring us down and we may feel that there is nothing more to live for. But there is always something that Life is still asking of us. And who knows what our contribution is yet to be?



The Secret Calm

There is a still place within all of us to which we can retreat, no matter what is going on around us or within us.  Like the ocean, that on the surface can be tossed about violently in a storm, if we go deeper the waters become calm and still.

I believe this is what Viktor Frankl speaks of, in the midst of his experience in a Nazi concentration camp.  This is what Eckhart Tolle speaks of when he describes the place of Being beyond the incessant chatter of the ego mind.

The good news is, we all can go to this still place within.  We need not stay on the surface waters of any storm in our lives, but we have a key, a secret place to which we can retreat!

Last night I was awakened suddenly and my mind immediately began to whirl with various concerns, both personal, national and global.  I lay, tossing and turning for about an hour.  Then I remembered this still place within; and as I visualized myself going deeper, to the place of Being beyond the chatter of the mind, I slowly fell off to sleep again.

We have the key.  We know the secret.  We just need to become conscious of it and use it!

The Benefit of Religious Faith/Spirituality

A while back I said that I was interested in reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, as I was fascinated to find out how this man was able to find meaning in the midst of one of the most degrading, dehumanizing and cruel situations a person could endure in a Nazi concentration camp. I did go and pick up the book and am now just some 40 pages in. Last night as I was reading I was struck by his vivid, inside description of what it was like to live inside those camps day to day, week to week, year to year. It makes anything that I endure pale in comparison!

I was particularly struck by what he said about those who had some religious faith or sense of spirituality. They ultimately were able to endure much better, for they were able to go to a place inside themselves which nothing or no one could take from them. This is what he says about such people:

“In spite of the all enforced physical and mental primitiveness of life in the concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was much less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain the apparent paradox that some prisoners of less hardy make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature.” (Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, Beacon Press, Boston, 1959, 1962, 1984, 2006 p.36).

As I read this last night I was so grateful, despite its many faults, for my religious upbringing. It gave me a sense of hope, a place “of inner riches and spiritual freedom” to retreat to in the midst of difficult times. As a boy growing up in an alcoholic war zone of a home, because of the stories of faith that were instilled in me, that boy had someplace to go in the midst of his hell – and that place saved his life! And it continues to bless me in ways that I am unaware.

Perhaps today we could be grateful for a sense of Spirit that we have which gives us this place of “inner riches and spiritual freedom,” despite painful circumstances in our lives. It provides for us a way of dealing with these circumstances and rising above them and not collapsing under their weight. The seeking of a spiritual path, whatever it may be, indeed does make a concrete difference in our lives and, through us, the lives of those around us! It’s worth the time and effort we put into it.