Viktor Frankl, a psychologist and incredible writer, shared his theories and experiences through his writing. Here are 3 life lessons I learned from him.
Psychologists are some of the most criticized and idealized professionals. But, the truth is, they are like any other person. And many famous psychologists have shown that. Viktor Frankl is a man who shows how vulnerable psychologists can be.
In the world of psychology, Viktor Frankl was the creator of logotherapy and existential psychology. In the world of literature, he is recognized for his 1946 book Man’s Search For Meaning. We also know Viktor Frankl as a holocaust survivor.
Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning is a must-read for many reasons. It is a masterpiece that shows off the psychologist as an amazing writer. Also, this book is almost a historical memoir from the Holocaust. Along with that, the entire book is the base for the psychologist’s logotherapy and existential theory. There are tons of life lessons this book can give you, but here are my top three.
Nobody Is Exempt From Suffering
I read this book when I first started studying psychology. My psychotherapist recommended it to me as part of my therapy because I had concerns about studying psychology as someone with mental health issues. I was a 19-year-old young woman with a generalized anxiety disorder, and more than that, I was one of those people who idolized psychologists as perfect beings.
Thanks to psychologist Viktor Frankl’s book, I got the courage I needed to achieve my dreams. This book opened my eyes and knocked down the unfair idealization I had. Nobody is exempt from suffering, because it is a part of life. Those millions of people who suffered in the Holocaust were people just like us.
So, being some kind of professional, or even having some recognition from society doesn’t shield us or make us an exemption. We are all exposed to suffering because we are all human, and that is the only condition for suffering. Along with that, the book made me realize that we are not our profession, or an investiture, or a label. Our existence is our essence.
Like the other millions of people, Viktor Frankl was detached from everything. Just like those prisoners from the Holocaust, many situations in life can take everything from us. And when we are left alone and naked as Viktor Frankl was, there is one thing that remains: ourselves. We remain because our existence is our true and naked self: a collection of experiences, memories, and feelings.
First Comes Fear, Then Comes Struggling
Viktor Frankl perfectly portrayed in his book how natural and normal fear is in human beings. Fear has no age, gender, or condition. Even if human beings discriminate, fear doesn’t. As this psychologist shares in his book, when we are facing the most horrible and painful situations, we fear. So, in many life situations, fear and panic are a natural and fair reaction. Just like the extreme fear and horror Viktor Frankl felt while he was going to the concentration camp.
That is the second life lesson I learned from Viktor Frankl. As someone with generalized anxiety disorder, I have been living life with fear. For someone like me, any change or difficult situation can evoke the same reaction: fear, panic, horror. I used to see that as something bad, as something like a sin. At some point in my life, I thought being afraid was something wrong, but that entire irrational idea was knocked down by this Viktor Frankl’s book.
Fear is a fair and natural reaction. Viktor Frankl was a man, a medic, and a psychologist, but his destiny terrorized him. In his book, this psychologist details how terrorized and scared he was since the very start of everything. Before being chased and caught, Viktor Frankl was afraid of everything that was going on around him and his first reaction was trying to run away. But he didn’t.
That is how Viktor Frankl explains what is left when we face a horrible situation. He tried to escape from the Holocaust and he had the opportunity. But he decided not to do it because he would be leaving his parents to face that horrible destiny alone. And what was left? Struggle to survive. It is really amazing to read how this psychologist thought about running away from everything many times. But he continued struggling to survive.
Anyone can share with you how they struggle or fight to survive, but only a brave person will tell you how many times he or she tried to give up. We all have been there. So here is the second life lesson I got after reading psychologist Viktor Frankl’s book. No matter how horrible the situation is, you won’t always be able to run away from it. So the only thing that is left in any hard situation is struggling with it; to continue living. And that was how I started living with my generalized anxiety disorder: struggling.
You Can Always Adapt If You Want To
How many times have you been in one of those situations in which, as a witness, you said I could not live that way? I’ve been there many times. Well, here comes a hint, you could live anyway, even when you think you won’t be able to. That is something Viktor Frankl explains perfectly through his book. He shares how every time situations went darker, he thought he wouldn’t be able to continue. But something always happened, and he realized that there was no other way. He had to struggle and continue.
There is something that no one can take from us, which is all the memories and experiences: our true self. That is the reason why, even in the darkest times, we adapt to survive. We mold ourselves to continue, even when we have to give everything up. Not exactly for faith or hope, no, we adapt because there is no other way. We learn there are things we cannot control and struggle to not be erased.
I learned a lot from Viktor Frankl. Not only about the psychologist he was, but also as the human being he was. I also learned from him as a writer that when you write with your heart, no matter the subject, your experience will make others learn. If you haven’t read Man’s Search For Meaning, I would highly recommend it because it is a life-changing book from an amazing psychologist.