Search for Meaning

(6 minute read)

Search no more.

I devoured Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning in one day. I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially if you are finding this dystopian existence disheartening. Therein lies a message of hope that you do not need to be a victim of external circumstances, as Viktor Frankl explained in this brief and objective account of the Holocaust. Indeed it is the “will to meaning” that has helped people survive horrific conditions.

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. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom.”

Viktor Frankl, p. 75

While we cannot always change our external circumstances, we can change our mental and spiritual worlds regardless of our suffering. While pain cannot always be avoided, it is only temporary and while buddhists argue all of life is suffering, Frankl asserts the way we navigate our suffering can lead us to “spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that makes life meaningful and purposeful“.

Making meaning and purpose in our lives keeps us focused and able to endure, although Frankl argued this true meaning must be discovered in the external world rather than in one’s own inner world and this meaning always changes throughout our life journeys, in fact in every moment, and can be found in different ways:

(1) by creating work or doing a deed;

(2) by experiencing something or encountering someone;

(3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualiszes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.”

Viktor Frankl, p. 115

Frankl continued to propose that LOVE is the only way we can truly know another and that it is this LOVE that helps a person fulfil their potential and self-actualise. Thus it seems we don’t directly self-actualise, rather through love we support each other and ourselves to self-actualise. Hence the importance of surrounding ourselves with loving, supportive friends and family and wisely investing our time and energy into loving and compassionate thoughts, words and actions for our growth.

I have mentioned before that I deem my coaching is an act of love. In giving Attention and unconditional positive regard, I LOVE the person in front of me to love themselves into their authentic potential, beyond the illusions of what they think they should be achieving for external gains. Spiritual freedom is priority, wherein all else falls into place.

Ultimately, Frankl argued life’s “main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life…that his suffering has meaning.” Although he stated you shouldn’t suffer needlessly, as to do so is “masochistic rather than heroic”.

Unfortunately, many people still cause their own suffering with their need to control, gain approval or a desire for security, safety or separation, rather than a desire for spiritual freedom and non-attachment to outcomes.

Interestingly, Edith Weisskopf-Joelson criticised the popular idea “unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment” which she argued fuels feeling unhappy and feeling ashamed about being unhappy, which is detrimental to our wellbeing.

But, life happens and yet we can still find meaning regardless of our experience of happiness. Indeed, some of my most meaningful and ‘happiest’ times have co-existed with the most painful and ‘unhappy’ experiences of my life. Yet here I stand committed to a deep sense of meaning and purpose in my life, “with my head up and my eyes ahead, with the grace of a woman not the grief of a child.”*

How can you create more meaning in your life today?

May meaning-making and LOVE grow, within and without, with each new day.

Onwards and funwards (whatever that means to you!) : p xXx

*taken from After a While by Veronica Shoffstall. Fab poem : )

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