Man's Search for Meaning-Viktor Frankl

Frankl, a noted psychiatrist and author raised in the tradition of Freudian psychology, believed character and personality were governed by whatever happened to you while growing up. After surviving a life-changing experience Frankl discovered that identifying one’s meaning in life would empower each person to change direction in life.  This new insight was contrary to Freudian psychology. Frankl postulated that people have the capacity to progress beyond biological, psychological, and sociological restrictions.

All members of his family were victims of the Holocaust.  The only concentration camp survivors of Frankl’s whole family were Frankl and his sister. Not only did he lose all of his personal possessions in the concentration camp, he lost his dignity. The Holocost experience caused Frankl to search for new meaning in his life. He searched for the primary motivator in life and meaning for individuals. Frankl’s dire circumstances in the concentration camp did not change; the prison guards did not change; nothing in his life had changed—except him. But that was everything. 

Regardless of the circumstances of a person’s life and the pain or guilt that he or she experiences, a person can use these situations to change for the better. Frankl believes he has the freedom to choose his response regardless of the stimulus. Frankl teaches about the ability to transform suffering from evil or tragedy into personal growth. The growth you experience during suffering will be evolutionary and the effect revolutionary. That is why this experience is referred to as a transformation and breakthrough. What hurts you is not what happens to you, but your response to what happens. The process of transformation leading to breakthrough is similar to a metamorphosis taking place. Great power resides in the influence of a person who transcends suffering, overcomes circumstance, and exemplifies and expresses a standard that inspires and elevates life.

When others hurt you, do not let the hurt define who you are. You may know people who have been hurt many times over yet maintained dignity. They had the courage to overcome having been a victim without succumbing to victimization. You may know people who cannot let go of the hurt and carry it with them forever to the point of allowing the hurt to define who they are. Victims empower the perpetrator when they label themselves as a victim.  The perpetrator has moved on and may not even be aware of this self-imposed identity.

Others may hurt you, but only you can victimize yourself. Blaming others abdicates and relinquishes your responsibility for control of your own life. If you give someone else credit for how your life turned out, then the power to correct the situation lies with the person of blame.  Thus, you deny yourself the opportunity to partake in your own personal development.

Why do some people choose to continue feeling victimized? A noted author says, “Feeling victimized usually feels comforting at first. It’s a sanctuary of self-involvement. It paves the path to indulgence and creates community with other victims.”  Comfort may be the primary reason for hanging on to victimization.

One trap of victimization is blaming. For example, blaming someone else means you are relinquishing control of your own life and making the statement, “I do not have control of my feelings or life because I give the power to you.”

Another trap of victimization is not necessarily blaming others but blaming yourself. Blaming yourself may be an attempt to “own up” or appear heroic. Blaming self is not a sign of strength, and the result is actually opposite, it is a demonstration of fear. You are reinforcing fear when you blame yourself. The fear that is being reinforced is that you are not good enough.  Now, you are convinced you will never be worthy of happiness. Not only does blaming provide you with an alibi, it provides a lifelong plan of sabotaging your personal power.

Everyone has the self-agency to choose how they will react to pain and suffering. Transform your adversities into opportunities.