How to endure any suffering? Five tips from Viktor Frankl
The ideas of Viktor Frankl, who not only survived a concentration camp, but was able to professionally comprehend this experience and on its basis help others (he began conducting psychotherapy according to his methods while in a concentration camp, saving prisoners from suicide) are now incredibly relevant.
When you encounter unbearable pain, horror, suffering – how do you survive, not lose the future, feel that life still has meaning and live life to the fullest? Frank wrote about this in his books, the main of which was the work “Man in Search of Meaning. Based on the text of this book, we have compiled an “instruction” on how to survive the unbearable.
“If there is meaning in life at all, there must also be meaning in suffering.” Frankl’s most famous work, Man in Search of Meaning, is based on personal experience: during World War II, Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. His mother, father, brother and pregnant wife were killed in the camps. He could not be deprived of only “the last of the human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude to what happens in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s path.
Every day in the camp, prisoners had to make moral decisions about whether or not to submit (internally) to those in power. According to Frankl, how the prisoner decided these questions for himself was decisive. He recalled that even in Auschwitz some prisoners were able to find meaning in life – if only by helping each other during the day. This gave them the strength to endure suffering.
Viktor Frankl’s experience in a Nazi death camp had a profound influence on his life’s work after the war and led him to develop Logotherapy – a new clinical approach to helping patients who had lost the meaning of life. Basic principles of the theory: – Life has meaning in all circumstances, even the most miserable. – The main motivation to live is the desire to find meaning in life. – One has the freedom to find meaning in what one does and experiences, or in the position one takes when faced with unchanging suffering.
Frankl’s psychotherapeutic school was called the “Third Vienna School”: after Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology. He died in his beloved Vienna at the age of 92 and was considered the last great Viennese psychiatrist.
1. to realize that suffering reveals the most human in us
“In realizing the meaning contained in suffering, we realize the most human thing in man,” Frankl noted. – We mature, we grow, we outgrow ourselves. It is where we are helpless and deprived of hope, unable to change the situation, that we are called, that we feel the need to change ourselves. And no one described this more accurately than Yehuda Bacon, who went to Auschwitz as a child and suffered from intrusive perceptions after his release:
“I saw a funeral with a lavish coffin and music – and I began to laugh: isn’t it crazy to do this because of a single dead person? If I went to a concert or a theater, I had to calculate how long it would take to gas all the people there, and how many clothes, how many gold teeth, how many bags of hair it would produce.
Bacon goes on to ask himself what the meaning of the years he spent at Auschwitz might have been: “As a teenager I thought that I would tell the world what I had seen at Auschwitz, in the hope that the world would one day be different. But the world did not become different, and the world did not want to hear about Auschwitz. It was only much later that I really understood the meaning of suffering. Suffering has meaning if you yourself become different.”
2. Remember that you are more than your suffering
Dutch Jews in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Photo: Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC, USA, https://www.ushmm.org/
“Suffering itself is not without meaning,” the psychologist argues. – Suffering from something, we inwardly move away from what caused our suffering, we as if set a distance between ourselves and this something. All the time while the cause of our suffering is something that should not be, we remain in a state of tension, as if torn between what is in reality, on the one hand, and what should be, on the other. And it is only in such a state that we are able to preserve in our perception our ideal… This also applies to one who is already despairing…
Even the despairing person is also the bearer of some value. He could not judge himself so severely if he did not already possess the value and dignity of a judge–a person who has grasped the difference between what is and what ought to be. Suffering thus induces a fruitful, one might even say radically transformative, spiritual tension, for it helps one, on an emotional level, to recognize what ought not to be.”
“I remember walking home from camp one morning, no longer able to endure the hunger, the cold, and the pain in my foot, swollen with dropsy,” Frankl recalled. My situation seemed hopeless. But then I pictured myself standing behind a pulpit in a large, lecture hall, talking about everything I had been through and the possibilities of helping people. Believe me, at that moment I could not have hoped that the day would come when I would actually have the opportunity to give such a lecture.
3: Don’t be afraid of remorse and grief-they can “fix” even a terrible past
Viktor Frankl with his second wife, Eleona Schwindt. First wife Tilly Grosser died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Photo: https://psychojournal.ru/
Viktor Frankl did not consider grief and remorse to be undesirable feelings. “Grief has the power to perpetuate, to preserve forever the past in our present – that is its significance. Both remorse and sorrow, both of these feelings, serve to ‘fix’ the past, so to speak. And in this way, they solve the problem, the very problem that no amount of distractions or drugs can solve.
He who tries “to distract himself and not to think” about misfortune or to dull his feelings with drugs does not solve the problem; it does not help him to come to terms with misfortune; all he reaches is getting rid of the immediate influence of that misfortune: unpleasant feelings… In fact the relatives of the deceased, for example, most often refuse to take sedative drugs, preferring to weep over the deceased around the clock.
4. A spiritual person suffers more easily than a physically strong person.
Suffering its purpose is to keep people from apathy, from the spiritual rigor. Photo: https://biographe.ru/, wikipedia.org
In a concentration camp Viktor Frankl observed amazing things: people with “Sensitive people, accustomed from childhood to an active spiritual existence, experienced the difficult external situation of camp life, although painful, but despite their relatively mild mental disposition, it did not have such a devastating effect on their spiritual existence. After all, the way was open for them to escape from the terrifying reality into the realm of spiritual freedom and inner richness. This is the only way to understand the paradox that sometimes people of frail bodily organization endured camp life better than physically strong natures.”
“Normally one lives in the realm of life; in the concentration camp, however, people lived in the realm of death. In the realm of life one could leave life by committing suicide; in the concentration camp one could only leave spiritual life.
Only those could leave the realm of death who could lead a spiritual life…
If someone stopped! appreciating the spiritual, there was no salvation, and he was finished. A strong craving for life in the absence of spiritual life led only to suicide.”
5. Always Remain Human
“The years that have passed have perhaps sobered us. At the same time they have shown us that the human element in man cannot be neglected, and have taught us that everything depends on man. The memory of the concentration camp has preserved the human being.
Personal psychology: how to soothe the heartache?
The psychology of man is such that when he is experiencing severe mental pain, all of his emotional and mental processes are aimed at accepting it and experiencing it. In the body, this most often happens unconsciously. However, people do not always understand it.
What does heartache come from? From relationship failures or stress, unpleasantness, misunderstanding, injustice. In any case, experiencing pain is as natural a process as joy and happiness, and it “wants” to be “heard. People tend to avoid painful feelings or emotions–that’s their psychology. Then, instead of being able to live through the heartache, they try to drown it out by pretending that nothing happened – through socializing, hobbies, alcohol, new relationships. More often than not, this behavior leads to new problems and painful emotions. How to help yourself cope with mental pain? Why is it necessary to “hear” it? The answers to these and other questions in this article.
Human psychology and pain
The psychology of physical pain is clear to many and does not need additional analysis or characteristics. When a person has pain in their arm, back, or head, they can describe the nature of these painful sensations, their duration, and their intensity. If people say, “I am in pain,” meaning that they are in pain in the soul, it can be difficult for those around them to know what kind of pain it is.
Emotional pain can have many shades – this is the psychology of feelings. Among them: suffering and anguish, sadness and disappointment, deep sadness, spiritual emptiness, anguish. Some experts believe that mental pain is much harder to endure than physical pain. In addition, there are no means and methods that could instantly relieve it, as in the case of physical ailment. For these reasons, people have an unconscious habit of avoiding pain, repressing it, ignoring it, and not noticing it.
The habit of ignoring feelings
This is the case when painful experiences prevent one from living as usual – sleep is disturbed, appetite is lost, one finds no energy to work or communicate with friends, personal needs in this case are also difficult to meet. Avoidance in many cases leads to increased suffering – without “touching” the pain up close, without knowing and living it, a person loses precious experience that teaches him to be strong, to support himself, to distinguish good from evil, friends from enemies. How do we break the habit of suppressing painful feelings in ourselves?
- Recognize that pain has as much right to exist as elation, joy and happiness.
- Listen to yourself and understand what pain wants to “teach” – to protect and love yourself, to learn from your mistakes, to be responsible and independent, to take life and relationships into your own hands?
- To learn to feel pain, but not to be “destroyed” by it. You can do this by trying to express suffering, sadness, and sadness safely for yourself and others.
- Know and believe that pain is impermanent and that after living it, a difficult period will be followed by a happy and joyful one.
When a person suffers, but “presses” within himself painful emotions, he becomes accustomed to living in tension. This behavior does not allow him to be free, to build new relationships without fear of making mistakes again, to trust people and himself.
The habit of reliving.
The flip side of pain is getting used to it. A person, if he is constantly accompanied by experience and suffering, unconsciously begins to benefit from these painful processes. How and why does this happen?
Human psychology is such that, being in strong painful experiences, he tries to get help and support from others – this experience brings him a temporary relief and the need to be necessary and significant for a time is satisfied. However, a person can become truly happy if he/she needs, first of all, himself/herself.
The dependence of one’s emotional state on other people’s help does not allow one to be in contact with oneself. This is how people live, building relationships over and over again, emotionally dependent on others. When the temporary relief passes, the person is subjected to a new wave of pain that is often unbearable. In addition, the habit of reliving makes a person a constant victim of circumstance. Thus, he gets used to living by complaining and complaining about his fate, takes advice and help from strangers or loved ones, and often spends his life in endless anticipation of happy and joyful days.
The trap of the habit of living in constant worry is that one does not take responsibility for life – which means that nothing changes for the better in life. How do you stop being a victim?
- Identify the problem in life and understand what in it causes painful emotions.
- Make the decision to radically change the way of life. Want to stop suffering and begin to feel spiritual joy and well-being.
- To outline steps for personal and life changes: ask your relatives for advice and help, start with a change of lifestyle, habits of behavior and thinking, ask for support from a psychologist.
Attitude towards yourself
Calm down, stop suffering and come out of a crisis state can be, if we analyze the relationship to his personality and understand what changes you want. A person can be happy if he will be as often as possible to listen to myself and meet their own needs and desires. How to do this?
- Stop waiting for people and circumstances to change for the better, and it will make your soul feel better.
- Even when experiencing and being under stress, a person has the opportunity to engage in self-development: hobbies and hobbies help to express mental anguish, self-care helps to form a good self-esteem and confidence, attention to health helps to form personal boundaries, understanding the psychology of relationships helps to develop communication skills, empathy, friendship and love.
- After a divorce, a breakup, a crisis, a failure in life, a person can feel very unhappy. If at this time he will direct all mental strength to take care of himself and support, he will acquire a better chance not only to get out of the crisis, but also to feel spiritual relief.
- You should not suppress tears if there is a need to cry. When a depressive state comes, you should listen to it and take maximum care of yourself: take a vacation for a while and not overload yourself with work, refuse to communicate, if there is a need to be alone, take a few days to understand your desires, give yourself time to define further plans for life.
Positive aspects of stress
- Any crisis is a new step towards development.
- Situations of experiencing pain allow you to get to know yourself even better and understand your needs and desires.
- If something in life is over, it is a new reason to rejoice that something better and more joyful will soon come into it.
- If you look at a crisis situation that causes pain, you can see in it new chances for self-development and opportunities for better life changes.
Many people are familiar with the situation when the light doesn’t shine, nothing they want to do, and joyful emotions disappear. And it is very difficult to catch the moment when the usual moping turns into a real depression. With real depression is almost impossible to cope without the intervention of specialists. With this test, you can determine how serious your condition is and whether you are prone to depression.