Today’s post from 11 years ago sounds a little desperate. I read a book recently – Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl, 1946) – sent to me by a very good friend, in which the author describes how, during his time in the concentration camps, he gained the mental strength to carry on because he found meaning in everything he did. He found meaning in his suffering.
He used this in his work as a psychiatrist after the war. He tells the story of a man who had lost his wife and whose life, as a result, had been meaningless and empty ever since. Frankl asked him how things might have been for his wife had he died first. The man explained that it would have been truly unbearable for her. Frankl simply replied that at the very least, his wife has been spared that agony. With that, the man smiled gently, shook hands and left.
No matter how bad things are, if we can find meaning in our suffering then we can find meaning in life. And if we can do that then not only will we survive, we will also grow.