At the recommendation of a friend, I recently began reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. All I knew when I started reading was that Frankl had been in multiple Nazi concentration camps during WWII. I expected a story of survival (which it is) but I did not expect Frankl to tell his story to purposely demonstrate how in times of struggle we have a choice.
His message from beginning to end (I’m assuming, I’m only 51% done) is:
“Everything can be taken from a man but 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.” -Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Frankl shares his experiences in the concentration camps of where he and his fellow prisoners had two choices to make: to give up or keep going. Frankl explains that giving up meant certain death whereas if they decided to keep going they would increase their chances of survival. Frankl provides examples of finding strength through humour, nature, art, comparisons and spirituality. One such example is being grateful that the SS guard watching over his work group is not as harsh as some of the others. Frankl knew that although he had no control over his circumstances he did have control over how he was going to deal with those circumstances. Acknowledging that his situation is improved by a “nicer” guard allowed him to keep going.
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” – Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Every line I have read so far just moves me. Frankl had made me realize that I make the choice to view my struggles positively every day. There are some days where they do get to me, but I am going to work on recognizing that I do have control over this decision. This does not mean that I accept what has happened or what could happen, but I cannot control what happens outside of me. I can only control how I react to it. I can already look back and see how what I went through has made me stronger and I learned so much about myself, others and life because of those experiences. That learning is only made possible by choosing to see the meaning in my struggles.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”- Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning