life strategies from Viktor Frankl

the more nonfiction i read, the more amazed i become at the power of the human mind and spirit and their potential to overcome any obstacle.

Viktor E. Frankl is one such example.   a Viennese psychiatrist, he was arrested in 1942 and spent the rest of World War II in various concentration camps.  almost immediately after liberation, he returned to work and published one of his most famous books, Man's Search for Meaning.   

it describes his experiences during the war and explains logotherapy, which he created.  logos comes from Greek for "meaning," and Frankl believes life always has meaning.  our drive to find this meaning keeps us going.  in fact, our ultimate freedom is how we choose to approach situations.  

here are some of his ideas:

  • "We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life--daily and hourly.  Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.  Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual." 
  • while performing hard labor he imagined conversations with his wife.  doing so lifted his spirits and gave him a goal-to see her again.   this led to the realization that "The salvation of man is through love and in love."
  • humor was another crucial tool.  Frankl and a friend who he "practically trained...to develop a sense of humor" would invent one funny story a day.
  • when he found his thoughts obsessing over the "endless little problems of our miserable life," such as which work detail to join, the wisdom of trading cigarettes for bread, or how to get wire to use as shoelaces, he instead visualized himself at a podium lecturing on the psychology of the concentration camp.  consequently, his problems "became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science.  By this method I succeeded somehow is rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment, and I observed them as if they were already of the past."