Hope, Meaning and the Freedom to Choose

Viktor Frankl was challenged in a way that we can only hope will never happen again to anyone. His story of struggle and survival in Auschwitz and other concentration camps during World War II is told in the extraordinary book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning.’

During this time Frankl discovered a powerful truth within himself –  even under the most extreme suffering and imprisoned against his will, he still retained the freedom to choose his own reactions to circumstances. 

Viktor Frankl found that hope is crucial to life itself. During his imprisonment he saw first hand that false optimism was misleading and ultimately destructive. However keeping hope and a sense of purpose, even under the harshest conditions, became the difference between life and death.

“Those who know how close the connection is between the state of mind of a man – his courage and hope, or lack of them – and the state of the immunity of his body will understand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect…”

” As we said before, any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal. Nietzsche’s words ‘He who as a why to live for can bear with almost any how,’ could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic efforts regarding prisoners. Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why – an aim – for their lives, in order to strengthen them and to bear the terrible how of their existance.”

“What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking 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.”  

Keeping up courage and hope – even in the most difficult of situations is the key to moving forwards with your life. It’s been shown time and time again that the link between your mind and your body’s healing is very powerful. A positive attitude and sense of purpose can often do more for your recovery than any new medication or technology. 

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