Dr. Viktor Frankl … and Me

Dr. Viktor Frankl … and Me

I never met Dr. Frankl, but I am deeply inspired by his philosophy and his classic work, “Man’s Search For Meaning” (1959). When I need inspiration and a better perspective on my own life’s challenges, remembering, and sometimes rereading that book usually does the trick for me. It has been known to snap me out of quite a few self-pity-parties!

Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997) was born in Vienna. He was a brilliant neurologist and psychologist who was an inmate in several Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau, during World War II. His wife, mother and brother, also imprisoned for being Jewish, did not survive. His father had died earlier when they were all deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in 1942.

After three years in the camps, he was able to return to Austria, where he wrote the book that became “Man’s Search For Meaning” – the original title translated as “Saying Yes to Life in Spite of Everything: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp.”

He taught the importance of finding meaning in life, even when experiencing extreme suffering and adversity, which of course, he most certainly did.

I often quote Dr. Frankl in my workshops and lectures. My favorites are these two from “Man’s Search For Meaning”:

“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.”

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

When I face my own challenges, imagining a conversation with Dr. Frankl helps me gain a more rational, realistic and empowering perspective.

For example: I was having some work done on my car. While I was in the waiting area, a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years walked in.

“How are you Jerry,” she asked.

I was poised to answer that question by complaining about the expense of an unexpected car repair. But before I spoke, Dr. Frankl popped into my awareness and I thought, “what if Viktor Frankl appeared before me and asked the same question?” Would I be kvetching about a $250 bill, or telling him how grateful I am for the privileges and blessings I’m so fortunate to have? If I choose the latter, I’d probably feel a lot better! So, why would I choose the former? I wouldn’t. It’s just a habit. My “habit” would have “chosen” for me.

Conjuring up the mental image of a respected hero, especially someone who navigated horrific circumstances, might make it a little easier to wait in a long line at the ice cream shop … or cope with an unexpected bill … or respond to an event that is more inconvenience than tragedy.

Cognitive psychology calls this type of exaggeration “magnification.” I’ve also heard it called “awfulizing” and “catastrophising.”

So …”Don’t make mountains out of molehills!”
And maybe, your heroes can help with that!

MY CANCER ADVENTURE – Episode Seven – “Countdown”

MY CANCER ADVENTURE
Episode Seven
“Countdown”

One week to go, and I’m feeling fine about it. Not scared. Not worried. Not nervous.

Lynne and I did our research and we are well prepared. We are confident in our choice of treatment (prostatectomy), the hospital (Brigham and Women’s) and the surgeon (Dr. Jerome Richie).

The support from friends and colleagues is heartwarming. That’s an understatement. More like overwhelming. And SO much input from cancer survivors and their families. I have heard MANY stories of favorable outcomes, so I might as well expect a favorable outcome, too! That is certainly my choice, and my attitude.

The odds are clearly in my favor to be cancer-free and for a reasonably speedy recovery. Sure, I know there will be some short-term inconvenience (ha!) and I’m not happy about missing work … but I am SO grateful that we caught it early.

Again, I say to my brothers … get the PSA test!

Practicing a continual “attitude of gratitude” is just so practical. It helps with balance and perspective, and makes EVERYTHING better. Everything. Whether you’re going through some adversity … or business as usual … practice the practical power of gratitude! Feel it and express it.

At this time, I’d like to express my sincere thanks to my prostate for many years of excellent service! That goes for all my other organs as well. Thanks! I do appreciate your contributions! And to my wife (especially) … family … friends … colleagues … clients … our dogs … a great big THANK YOU! I am living in a bubble of appreciation!

And speaking of our canines … Last week Ruby was diagnosed with a malignant tumor near her tail. A strange coincidence to be sure! She had surgery, and thankfully, is doing great! A fine example and role model of resilience.

Life is good. We are fortunate!

Much love.