30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 9: Finding Meaning in Love, Suffering and Death

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Viktor Frankl: Founder of Logotherapy

Lesson for the Day: Even in a concentration camp, a person can, if he or she so chooses, find meaning in love, suffering and even death itself.

“As far as I was concerned, I felt duty-bound to my mother to stay alive. We two loved one another beyond all else. Therefore my life had a meaning – in spite of everything. But I had to count upon death any minute of every day. And therefore my death also should somehow have meaning – as well as all the suffering that I would have to go through before it came. And so I made a pact with Heaven: if I should have to die, then let my death preserve my mother’s life; and whatever I should have to suffer up until the time of my death was to purchase for her a sweet and easy death when her time came. Only by imagining it in terms of such a sacrifice was my tormented existence endurable. I could live my life only if it had a meaning; but I also wanted to suffer my suffering and die my death only if suffering and death also had a meaning.”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books/ Random House, 1986), pp. 137-138.

30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 4: Suicide Prevention

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Lesson for the Day: Caring, especially taking time away from one’s busy schedule to listen to another person, is a form of suicide prevention.

“Recently I received a telephone call at three in the morning from a lady who told me that she was determined to commit suicide but due to her curiosity wished to hear what I should say. I evolved all the arguments speaking against this resolution and for survival, and I talked to her for thirty minutes — until she finally gave her word that she would not take her life but rather would come to see me in the hospital. But when she visited me there it turned out that no one of all the arguments presented by me had impressed her. The only reason why she had decided not to commit suicide was the fact that, rather than growing angry because of having been disturbed in my sleep in the middle of the night, I had patiently listened to her and talked with her for half an hour, and a world, she found, in which this can happen, must be a world worth living in.”

Source:  Viktor E. Frankl, The Feeling of Meaninglessness: A Challenge to Psychotherapy and Philosophy, ed. Alexander Batthyany, in Marquette Studies in Philosophy, No. 60, ed. Andrew Tallon (Malwaukee, WI.: Marquette University Press, 2010), p. 124.

30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 2: The “Why” and “How” of Living

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Viktor Frankl, M.D.

Lesson for the Day: No matter how bad life gets, there is always a reason to live.

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being  …, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life [that is, commit suicide].  He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 87.