Saturday, January 25, 2014

Your Story of Resilience ...

They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient
proof that 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.

Viktor Frankl

Stories of resilience can act as inspiration and as guides to our paths. They can shine a light on our particular circumstances in a way that allows us to see ourselves and our options more clearly. Here is the resilience story of Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and originator of Logotherapy, as told by author and retreat leader, James Kullander:

Between 1942 and 1945, Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, was imprisoned in four different Nazi concentration camps. During those three years, his family died (Frankl's wife died apart from him in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; his mother was killed by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz; his brother died working in a mining operation that was part of Auschwitz), he worked as a slave labourer, and he watched hundreds around him suffer and perish. Out of this experience came one of his most famous books, Man's Search for Meaning, from which the well-known quote above was taken. 
Here, a man who endured a forced march through one of human history's most horrific episodes, recounts what he learned about life during it all. The "they" in the quote are the few men in the camps who gave away their last piece of bread. The wisdom that Frankl witnessed in this gesture and passed on to us is as simple as it is profound. It is the first step on the journey to a resilient life.
If Frankl can come away from his time in Nazi Germany with such a hopeful prognosis of the human condition, surely we can do no less. And it is up to each one of us, each and every day of our lives, to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances - from the loss of love, to feeling betrayed, to losing our jobs, to illness, and even to dealing with our pending death.

Hearing Frankl's story can help build resilience in our own lives. Whether we are helping professionals "stuck" in untenable jobs or family carepartners facing years of care, we learn that we, too, can choose our attitudes in the midst of difficult circumstances. (Not that it's necessarily an easy thing to do, by any means!)

We all have stories of resilience gained through major traumas like illness, chronic pain, death, divorce, crime, natural disaster or career loss, or through everyday wounds like failing an exam, being let down by a friend or a system, or parenting difficulties. What about you? Can you recall a time when you felt resilient - when you were able to face a crisis with courage and equanimity or to come back from a difficult experience with renewed equilibrium, greater strength and new learning? Why not take a few moments with a hot cuppa to write the story of that resilient time in your journal to remind yourself of the proven strengths and resources that already lie within you? If you would like to help build another's resilience, why not share your story here?


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