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Image by ~Aphrodite via Flickr

There are untold sufferers and suffering among us.  Just three days ago, our nation remembered and mourned those who lost their lives during the September 11 attacks.   All of us, at some time or other, would come face-to-face with pain, illness and death (ours or our loved ones).

Sometimes, in our despair, we may ask, “What is the point of all of this?  What is the point of living?”

While we probably ask these questions at the lowest points of our lives, I believe that they could sow the seeds for the start of a more purposeful and meaningful life.

A strong influence who shaped my thinking was Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.   I first learned of Frankl several years back, when I chanced upon his book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  In it, he recalled his years at the concentration camp, where he witnessed many Jews dying in gas chambers, from starvation, forced labor and executions.   Frankl was surrounded by death and despair.  Even his parents and wife were killed.

However, he managed to find meaning in the midst of dark tragedy.  Because of his training, he was assigned to help newcomers overcome shock and grief in the camps.  He later set up a suicide watch unit to support his fellow prisoners.  To lift his own spirits, he willed himself to imagine his release, to imagine that he would one day be giving lectures about having survived the concentration camp, to hundreds and hundreds of people.  He imagined it so well that he actually practiced his lectures to blank walls even when he was imprisoned.

Photo by Sharon Sim-Krause

In his book, Frankl wrote that no matter how difficult one’s physical realities are, one can find a way to access their mental life and find refuge, hope and meaning in the spiritual domain.  It was from this belief that he developed Logotherapy, the school of therapy that believes that finding meaning in one’s life  is the most powerful driving force for living.

Are you in a difficult situation currently?  Are you surrounded by impossible physical realities?  Do not despair.  There is a redeeming space within you – your mind, your rich imagination, your spirit – that is always available to you.  It is awaiting you to access, to visualize, to fill with uplifting thoughts, hopes, visions, beauty and peace.  Try it, embrace it.  This, is your new meaning of life.

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5 Responses to “Finding Meaning in the Midst of Despair”

  1. Lovely essay, Sharon. So inspirational!

  2. Leslie says:

    How wonderful to learn something new again!!! Logotherapy, I did not know about this. Thanks for continuously sharing something so meaningful!

  3. ;:* I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives great information ..;

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