“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.” Victor Frankl
I’ve put off talking about Victor Frankl as long as I could because it’s hard for me to stop once I start. One of my primary reasons for hoping there’s a Heaven is the thought that I might get to meet Kurt Vonnegut, Victor Frankl, and Mark Twain–although Mark might choose Hell out of pure spite.
But it’s time. I’m reading one of his books again and once again I’ve been knocked off my feet.
I do not get to use words like “beautiful” and “profound” and “wonderful” and “lovely” and “inspiring” often enough, at least not with sincerity. And still, to call Frankl merely “inspiring” is like saying the surface of the sun is “a bit warm.” I felt the same way about The Last Lecture, but in a different way, if that makes any sense at all.
Victor Frankl was all of these things in all of their possible definitions. I’ve never been so inspired by anyone in my life. Words cheapen what he means to me, but words are all I’ve got, so here we go.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with Frankl, he was a doctor who survived the Holocaust and a lengthy stint in Auschwitz. His experiences there led to a career in what he named “Logotherapy,” an alternative to Freud’s psychoanalytic approaches.
His book, Man’s Search For Meaning, takes the view that sex is not behind every single behavior, thought, and action of man, but rather that the pursuit of meaning is at the core of each person.
One of the most striking lessons of the book is the theme that when you have nothing–and when others control your body and fate–you can only control your mind. Nobody can take your thoughts and nobody can force you to feel a reaction that you do not agree to feel.
I’ve heard this before and it seldom rings true to me until I read Frankl’s work again each time. It’s certainly easier and more convenient to blame our reactions on others.
But I believe the good doctor when he says that if we are offended, we choose to be offended. I have no choice but to believe it. If he learned to choose his reactions while being hideously mistreated at the hands of his captors, how arrogant must I be to think I can’t help but be irritated when someone cuts me off on the highway?
If I don’t stop now, I really will be here typing all night. Frankl is that good. I believe that each person has the innate ability to recognize truth when they see it. I have yet to meet the person who can hear Frankl’s words and find anything false in them, even if they wish it were otherwise.
If you aren’t familiar with Frankl, please start with Man’s Search For Meaning. If you have already read it, I’m reading it again right now and you should too so we can talk about it.
Who’s familiar with Dr. Frankl? Do you believe we choose how to react to circumstances and other people?
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Psst: Have you gotten a copy of The Knot yet?