Lately, I have been reading more. This year, I have read 14 books and they have all changed my viewpoint / thinking in one way or another. Reading really makes us realize that we aren’t alone and our pain is mostly universal. I recently read a book that changed my thinking profoundly. The book is called “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.
Viktor Frankel was an Australian neurologist / psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. He survived three Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz. The struggles in his life are obviously hard to compare. When he was released from the camp, he found out his entire family including his wife was killed in concentration camps. Being passionate about neurology, he writes honestly about his thought process and mindset surviving one of the most horrific times in history.
The book is a gem and it will take forever to summarize the message it conveys but, I have summarized what I have learned and what resonated with me.
- You cannot control what happens to you but, you can control your response: You cannot control what happens in life and the injustices you will endure. Maybe you will be a victim of a horrific crime such as Mr. Frankl himself or face other tragedies in life like death of a loved one, a broken heart, failure in a job, an accident, and many others. These tragedies can make us extremely bitter and broken or they can be used as transformative tools to make us better human beings. We can use our pain in a way that allows us to be successful and happy. Sometimes the most horrific things we go through sets up us to be who we didn’t think we were capable of being and in turn makes us more understanding, empathetic and overall better human beings.
- Suffering is a necessary part of life: Suffering exists with life. We cannot avoid suffering and happiness cannot be attained without suffering. Suffering here does not mean self-inflicted pain (he strongly encourages you to avoid suffering if possible) but, when you do suffer – it is actually a good thing. A blessing in disguise of some sort. He says that a person isn’t supposed to be “free from suffering” rather, he should suffer for a meaningful or a freely chosen goal. Only then, can he truly be happy. This pursuit of “meaning” leads us to happiness.
- Serving others leads you to find yourself: Transcendence of self is the only way to reach enlightenment. You can meditate and be spiritual as long as you want but, if you do not dedicate your life in pursuit of making it better for someone else – enlightenment is hard to obtain. Be selfless and enlightenment will find you. I agree with this partially but, I think self-love and self-care goes hand in hand. We cannot serve others if we’re not happy in the first place.
These are just small things I learned from the book. The book is profound and I encourage everyone to read it.
If you have read it – what were the lessons you learned from it?