Viktor Frankel, psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, is the author of one of the most spiritually significant books of all time – Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, Frankel describes how human beings derive meaning from the events in our lives, particularly through our suffering. His inspirational words comfort those who strive to make sense out of the nonsensical, to find beauty amidst pain.

During the years he spent in the camps, Frankl lost it all – his identity, his job, his clothing, his freedom, his hair, his physique, his health, and his family members. In their attempt to dehumanize him, his captors stripped away everything. But, try as they might, they couldn’t take away the one thing that made him a human being – his purpose for living.

Frankl realized that the inmates who survived weren’t necessarily the strongest, youngest, healthiest, luckiest, or most religious. No…those who withstood the brutality (besides having a little bit of good fortune now and again), possessed a reason to keep living. In this microcosm, this human laboratory, Frankl concluded that, “He who has a WHY can bear almost any HOW.” The prisoners who held fast to their belief that a loved one anticipated their return or who knew there was a task waiting for them to fulfill were better able to endure their suffering.

Once Frankl was released, he used this theory – the idea that man can overcome any adversity as long as he can derive meaning from it – as the foundation for his therapeutic approach: Logotherapy, defined as, meaning-centered psychotherapy.

As a psychiatrist, Frankl was, naturally, concerned with the mental health of his patients. Interestingly, though, this theory has ramifications for our physical health, as well. A blog post I came across recently explained that there are documented health benefits to living a meaningful life. In fact, the blog’s author, Laura Koniver, MD (aka Intuition Physician) specifically references Frankl’s groundbreaking research. Dr. Koniver writes that “having a sense of purpose in life is medically proven to help your body stay younger.”

I would venture to guess that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the people who have a reason to get up each day are happier and less likely to suffer from depression. But, a recent study demonstrated that “the more meaning the participants reported in their life at the onset of the study, the stronger and more mobile they remained over the next 10 years of their life.”

Another study found that music therapy – using songs that are particularly meaningful to the patient – is one of the best ways to reconnect and communicate with patients suffering from all stages of dementia.

In other words, living a life of meaning not only improves your mental health, it increases your body’s resiliency and maintains its functionality over time!

So, how do we do that? How do we live a life of meaning? Dr. Koniver suggests several actions we can take NOW to make our day to day lives more meaningful:

  • Immerse yourself in nature
  • Use music
  • Get enough sleep
  • Practice gratitude and compassion
  • Exercise
  • Draw upon your support system
  • Explore spirituality/meditation/prayer
  • Engage in body work (yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, Reiki, etc.)

For more details on these and other holistic health practices, visit the Intuition Physician’s website. You can even work one-on-one with her if you are local to the Charleston area.

In love and gratitude…until next time!

Written by : drallisonbrown

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8 Comments

  1. Angela Noel January 12, 2018 at 7:55 am - Reply

    I’ve been meaning to read Frankl’s work for a long time. Coincidentally, my work is hosting a talk with a holocaust survivor next week, too. Again, I think this is one of those universe signs. You mentioning it, it being on my reading list already, and work makes this a trifecta.
    I fully subscribe to the importance of meaning. Though I find myself in a strange place with it sometimes. I wholeheartedly believe in the value and purpose of love for others and what empathy can offer the world (and me.) But, I don’t really have to believe there is some underlying governance to it all. It’s enough that I know the world is a mess, it’s always been a mess, and yet it’s beautiful all the same.
    Thank you for the lovey post, Allison. It’s so well written and clear about the benefits of meaning in our lives. What a joy to read.

    • drallisonbrown January 12, 2018 at 2:25 pm - Reply

      I love trifectas! I’m so glad you have the opportunity to hear a Holocaust survivor, as there are not many left, and they really have something of value to say and more importantly, for us to hear.

  2. Masha January 21, 2018 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    I started reading Man’s Search for Meaning but couldn’t continue. My parents were both Holocaust survivors and I could never read any books about it. I heard the horrors from my mother, and I know for a fact that although she had lost all faith, there was still something inside of her that kept her going during those years in concentration camps. Thanks for this post.

    • drallisonbrown January 22, 2018 at 6:28 pm - Reply

      Hi Masha…Wow, I can’t imagine the stories you must have heard. I’m not surprised that you put that book down. I’m glad, though, that as a psychologist, he tried to figure out what it was that kept people going. Because, therein lies the secret to our human spirit, I think. As a counselor myself, I am fascinated by the idea of resilience. The students I work with have serious struggles, and some manage to overcome them much better than others. It’s almost like a genetic predisposition…

  3. Masha January 22, 2018 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Allison, my mother while in concentration camps and she was in the worse one for a long time,in Auschwitz, she was sentenced to die 3 different times and she escaped death and she wanted to live and in reality at that time there was nothing for her to live for, even after she was liberated she had nothing and no one, everyone was killed and everything was taken from her. It is amazing that there is that inner something that is stronger than anyone, that force that makes you want to go on. For me I had a revelation when I was 50 and I have been on an inner journey ever since. I went from living in fear to living in the light and I changed me completely. I do believe that we can overcome any adversity if we allow and keep the right thoughts. Thanks

    • drallisonbrown January 22, 2018 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing that. Reading your words gave me goosebumps! I, too, decided around age 50 to stop living in fear and move forward in love, which drives out fear. Hence, the name of my blog. I think it’s neat that you and I seem to be on a similar journey.

      • Masha January 22, 2018 at 8:19 pm - Reply

        I think you may be right, we may be in a similar frequency, and as you know everything happens for a reason.

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