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TOPIC: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 21 Aug 2018 10:06 #109743

Thank you Andromeda! I sense a lifetime of caring practice and honest inquiry in your wonderful answers. Lots to work with here. I love it!
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 21 Aug 2018 11:04 #109744

Andromeda wrote:
That sounds to me like a very sensible way to start off college students, Andy. Frankl writes that "he who has a Why to live can bear almost any How." Might as well get them focused on Why right from the get go so they'll stick it out until graduation. What did your daughter think of it?

I'll ask her. I found this out while we were dropping her off for her second year. Her copy of the book is chock-full of sticky notes with writing on them, so I'm pretty sure she got a lot out of it.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 21 Aug 2018 14:00 #109745

This is my first time participating in a forum. It is a fascinating form of communication. So for this thread we have the book as a touchstone, like the breath in meditation, to keep going back to and then there is the wide open potential for all kinds of exploration to take place. There is room to really "listen" to what others are saying because you can take as long as you like reading the posts and then shift into what response, if any, seems appropriate or helpful. We have an opportunity to check in with our intentions as we write our response, before we press submit on our reply. Whether we are writing a response to a post or, like Ranger mentioned, giving up our seat on the train, for these actions to lead to inner transformation, intention seems to be key. Why are we doing what we are doing in any particular situation? And when we are moved to respond due to a mix of unwholesome and wholesome intention is there a way to consciously lean more heavily into the wholesome aspect of what we are about to do or can we remain inactive until our intentions are more clear, more wholesome without that intermingling negative energy that comes with acting out of fear, anger, judgement, need to fix things, etc.
In my thirty plus years as a therapist I have had the privilege, honour and challenge of regularly hearing some of the most horrific stories of trauma and torture imaginable. In many situations there has been nothing I could 'do'. Just listen. And yet transformation occurred in the room. Within the other being, within me and between us. Boundaries dissolving. For that to happen it seems I have to let go of all trying to help, just being open to the process, including the fact no one can go back in time and erase what happened. I have been forced to repeatedly practice dropping a naive assumption I can make it all better (even though that ideal is what likley led me to this career in the first place). The more I get out of the way, with all my therapy theories, PTSD response training, techniques, and just be present, the more room there is for something to open up into a less divisive form of communication, into love.
At this point in my development I am finding this expansiveness happening more and more outside the confines of my therapy office. I am getting increasing clarity on the details of what it feels like to be constricted in on my own agenda versus being present to a situation with less solid preconceived ideas on what a successful outcome would be. I am learning to tune into my physical posture more, to see when I am literally sitting forward too much, indicating I am internally unbalanced as well -- wasted energy on overefforting. Readjusting to a relaxed upright posture helps the mental stance line up accordingly. It is my way of practicing coming back to that middle way Andromeda recently referenced.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 21 Aug 2018 14:25 #109746

Andy I found out my son also read this book and he is thinking of participating in this thread. Wonder if your daughter would be interested joining in as well. Just a thought.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 21 Aug 2018 23:07 #109747

What comes up for me when I read this passage about "pitching in" is compassion. Let's face it there is something about sickness that scares people. When a terminal illness arises in someone, it breaks a lot of illusions about death. It makes it very real and imminent. I can only have compassion for people who want to avoid facing that reality; that death happens. And that death happens to all of us. Avoidance is just a mask for fear. Not a lot of people can be vulnerable and say that, especially when someone is actually facing the reality of their own death. To be vulnerable and say "I am afraid" could be seen as insensitive by the untrained mind. So rather than saying the vulnerable thing, avoidance is the easier option.
When someone is dealing with a terminal illness, people often don't know what to say. To avoid the awkwardness of those moments, people choose to stay away, and do "safe things" like sending cards, or saying "I will send metta to you", or another cliché response.. Again these are all very normal human reactions. Very often what a person with a terminal illness "needs" is just to be treated normally, and loved the same way they were the day before the diagnosis.
In every day life, our minds gravitate to what is wrong - so why would it be any different for a terminal illness? If anything the mind's propensity to get "sticky" about the illness and its implications would be magnified. It would take a highly developed a mind to see the love intertwined in the diagnosis and the illness itself. Everything that happens to any being is for their awakening, if they choose to use it in that manner. Even if they don't choose to see it, really.
Recognizing the reactions of the people involved in the scenarios you described is part of your awakening.
It may be shocking that a teacher would say "students come to me"; another says "I need to cook from my husband"; but I truly believe that these responses are a reflection of awakening in those beings, and unfold for the purpose of awakening in others. Everything unfolds perfectly. You are coming to these realizations now; others will see the same realizations later on in their path. The timing is not ours to orchestrate.Without their comments, you wouldn't be as sharply aware of your response, and your (implied) desire to do differently wouldn't be arising.
I may have veered off the topic but my gut says this is what I need to put a voice to. Please take what resonates and leave the rest.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 22 Aug 2018 14:07 #109752

From dc2018: ‘Everything that happens to any being is for their awakening, if they choose to use it in that manner. Even if they don't choose to see it, really.‘
In reading Frankl and other similar materiel such as Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life www.amazon.ca/Etty-Hillesum-Interrupted-...erbork/dp/0805050876
I find myself asking that difficult question as I am sure others are as well: how would I handle such horrific conditions: With grace, love, compassion, courage? With fear, hatred, denial? Would I be able to choose to use the experience for awakening more deeply or would I succumb to deeply engrained reactivity? Which end of the spectrum would I gravitate towards?

How can we each approach our current practice in a way that would give best odds for being able to recognize all, without exception, that arises in our lives as rich grist for our Dharma mill?
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 22 Aug 2018 17:10 #109756

It is a pleasure to become part of the discourse on Frankl's book.

Selfhood, selflessness, giving of self - we're all born with a surrounding narrative that takes the new being and puts 'self' at the centre of our living. It seems to me - because of the long-term socialization process for little humans - we come by our selfishness, uncertainties and struggles-to-understand honestly: they were given to us by other narrative-trained beings, in a world that became for us whatever they called it. The rest of our lives, at least in my experience, is trying to find a way of understanding and dealing with the impact those narratives, and attempting to connect with what life was before stories messed the whole thing up.

One of my narratives: My father was an allied pilot in the second world war. He was at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on the day it was liberated, and spoke in halting, whispered tones of the horrors he experienced there, one Christmas season when I was visiting and we were alone in a darkened living room, snow quietly falling outside the big picture window. He spoke to the window near his chair; to the window and the pure, quietly tumbling snow falling in the night sky. I remember wondering whether he was speaking to warn me, to teach me, or to let out the horror so quietly he could pretend it didn't happen. But that experience transformed my understanding of him and the trauma of the war that affected him, and ultimately affected us all in the family he returned to.

The Self of my father formed a large part of my confusion growing up, because we all need people to tell us who we are (until we don't). To drop the ego, we need a fairly strong one to get rid of - so much of my adolescence and adulthood was spent trying to straighten the wobbly parts created by his moods, expectations, chilly distance and infrequent but intense declarations of affection and admiration. In those teen and young adult years, my inner process threatened to overcome me with repeated inner conversations about 'not-good-enough' or 'something to prove'.

Then in my early 20's I read an account of Maximillian Kolbe. In 1941, while imprisoned at Auschwitz, there had been an escape of a prisoner. As punishment and a warning to further attempts to escape, the SS randomly chose 10 prisoners who were sentenced to death by starvation: they were to be locked up and left without food or water until they died. When one prisoner was chosen he broke into tears sobbing: "my family! my poor wife and children!" Father Kolbe, a Franciscan friar was so moved, he asked the guards that he be allowed to replace the prisoner in confinement as he had no family. They agreed. Maximilian tended to the terrified and distraught prisoners throughout their imprisonment and dying, and was the last to die. The prisoner he offered his life for resolved to live at any cost so he could speak of this man's selflessness if he were freed.

But the narrative of Father Kolbe goes a long way back, into his childhood. He apparently had religious experiences that he called visitations. He made early commitments to purity, and if necessary, to martyrdom for the sake of goodness, of godliness. He agreed to relinquish - to let go - to the cost of his life if necessary. On that fateful day, Maximilian Kolbe stepped into the next expression of his relinquishment; but here is what I have realized: he only gave up what he had grown to be able to give up. With no prior purification, no prior heart-work, no prior expansive realizations, he would not have been a saintly being. He would have been one of us - until, maybe some day, we become one of him.

It becomes confusing to me to attempt to label too closely what I am achieving in dharma, where I am, or even where I am headed. I do find as has been spoken of many times here, that more relinquishment, and consequently more freedom, is always on the other side of 'leaning into' the pain of what is being asked of me. It used to be: "well, this seems ok, I can deal with this" so I'd go ahead and investigate. Now it is: "if this still hurts, shit - I have to go into this". It's not a party, I'm not thrilled, but I have discipline. I tighten my belt, own the choice, and lean in. Always, without exception, there are treasures for me on the other side.

I think we all do what we can, based on the work we've done. You don't make trees grow by pulling on the branches, but we can water the good tree, and let wither the unwholesome. Sainthood I cannot yet achieve; this subtle, step-by-step courage, I can.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 23 Aug 2018 06:37 #109761

I think the answer to Neso's "how would I handle such horrific conditions: With grace, love, compassion, courage? With fear, hatred, denial? Would I be able to choose to use the experience for awakening more deeply or would I succumb to deeply engrained reactivity? Which end of the spectrum would I gravitate towards?" lies in how you live your life now.
Are you one to avoid issues in your life, or take them on, to grow and change. It isn't so much about the nature of the problem that confronts us, it is the nature of the being that is already inherent within. For me, dharma is about refining what already exists, but has been clouded over by false conditioning. We cultivate and feed/water/prune universal wholesome human qualities... it is in everyone - no exceptions.
Yes, we can use tools to cultivate wholesome mind-states and transcend the conditioning, but the basic character traits are already within - we are each born equipped to handle life and all that unfolds. A brief examination of one's past would answer this question easily. The mind loves to focus on our "less than proud" moments, but there should be an overall sense that yes, I can handle the curve balls life throws. Do I handle them perfectly? Nope. Not at all. But I do the best I can in every moment and every situation.
I believe that becoming awake is a natural bi-product of living. We all awaken to a degree, whether nurtured by the Dharma or not. Suffering transforms all beings, regardless of their life path. Sometimes the transformation may appear unwholesome, but even that transformation is used for the awakening of other beings who are connected to it, in whatever way, shape or form. To define any part of the process with any label is kind of cocky on my part - I honestly don't ever know another being's life situation and experience. What I can do is honour where they are at, and be grateful for their impact, big or small, on my journey. We are all in this together.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 23 Aug 2018 07:49 #109763

For the past couple of years, every morning I have begun my morning sits with a Trappist practice where one contemplates a new and different thing to be grateful for. This morning, my object of gratitude was this thread as Frankl's book has clearly resonated with people and already I have learned so much from what people have to say about it. Keep it coming! :)
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 23 Aug 2018 07:53 #109764

Which end of the spectrum would I gravitate towards?" lies in how you live your life now.

Yes, I find there are moments during every day that present opportunities to hone and refine the reaction engine that is the mind. It's about recognizing the situation first, then being patient enough to observe without reaction. With any luck, I won't find myself in the extreme circumstances that Frankl experienced, but that doesn't mean I can't work with the circumstances that present themselves in my current situation.
Last Edit: 23 Aug 2018 07:55 by Chris Marti.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 23 Aug 2018 17:59 #109767

The terror of having our lives so out of control makes the book by Frankl resonant for all of us, regardless what situation we find ourselves in. Trauma knows no strangers; just most of us don't talk about it. Seems so bizarre we are all so afraid of our naked humanity because there has been so much hurt and misunderstanding in the past, and yet I find the most shelter in sharing what is frightening or disturbing, not in keeping it to myself.

Farley Mowat, a Canadian wilderness author and "subjective non-fiction" personality up until his death a few years ago, wrote a book about his experiences in the second world war called "and no birds sang". He grew up a short and quiet, odd, out-of-place boy whose best friend was his dog and nature, both of which he talks as having been as capricious as people but much more predictable (read: safe). His story was written in the context of talking about trying to survive the second world war as a soldier; victimized by random ricochets and shrapnel. In one particularly poignant scene he discusses hiding from a tank in a hole, and in his descriptions he said "and no birds sang..." -- no life in him, around him....no life, no value. He called the crawling, creeping sensation of madness, of terror "the worm". Frankl talks about the genesis and discovery of meaning facing the almost certainty of random death or torture, day after day. Random... random. Why? Where is the humanity and value in random death, destruction, vulnerability?

The most chilling scene in Schindler's List for me was where the SS soldiers haul a worker out of a factory for an execution because they assumed he had done little work that morning (he had just emptied his box so little work was showing, but they wouldn't listen to him...) They made him kneel, aimed a pistol at his head and fired....but nothing happened. The man winced, the SS guard looked puzzlingly at the end of his pistol and tried again...the pistol misfired. Then the SS soldier just walked away, discussing with another soldier how odd it was the gun didn't work - 'has never done that before'....just leaving the kneeling man there on the ground shaking. He was of so little consequence to them, they seemed utterly unconcerned the broken gun meant life instead of death for the worker, and were talking about the gun like a little child's puzzle....it was harrowing to see the insanity of the power they wielded over a man whose entire existence hinged on a random misfire of an otherwise functioning piece of machinery.

Perhaps this is the focus Frankl is trying to bring us into, the concentration camp of our own disposable, temporary nature. We puff ourselves up with pseudo importance, the trappings of security and surety, health and popularity. But we are 4 minutes of oxygen deprivation from death, every moment of our lives. Religions are built on promises of a life after death, the systematized delusion of "no worries, there's always heaven after this shit". I used to be part of that cheer-leading squad. The truth of my experience is, I have no idea what happens after death; but, in the meantime, I want to lean into the "little nothings", the places where my existence, my personality, my needs, my opinions, mean nothing - and find a way to let go...not because I have no choice, but because I'm beginning to see the hopelessness of using control in a battle against out-of-control. Letting go, surrender - and watching what happens when I relax, oddly gives back more to me in freedom than I achieve by being over-controlling.

Life is wonderful at times - who wants to let go of that? But random events, human caprice and political psychos aren't concerned with my heartbeats. In a random world, letting go seems something I can rely on - and this world gives us all lots of practice.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 23 Aug 2018 18:20 #109768

Speaking of war experiences and such...

I have the luck, the very good luck, to work periodically at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I get to help with leadership education that has been developed by former faculty and alumni, all of whom have battlefield experience. Some watched close friends die, even held them in their arms as it happened. All of these men and women carry a different air, a dignity and strength that I can only assume comes from the extremity of their life experience. I don't have that experience and I suspect it shows in ways I can't fathom but that they quickly recognize. They're always nice and very professional but I never, ever feel like I belong. They're fluent in human behavior and can speak to and about emotional experience in a way that surprised me at first. I'm sure the capability is hard won.

They are not at all what I expected them to be before I went the first time but reading Frankl's book and now your comment, Terrance, reminds me of them. They have become my teachers and their demeanor and behavior is a reference point for me. I think of them almost every time a dilemma arises in my life.
Last Edit: 23 Aug 2018 18:22 by Chris Marti.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 23 Aug 2018 19:11 #109769

‘They have become my teachers and their demeanor and behavior is a reference point for me. I think of them almost every time a dilemma arises in my life.’
Chris, it would be wonderful to get more details on this, specific examples of how your thoughts about these people’s strengths have helped you navigate through some of the dilemmas you have faced. Or anything else you care to share about the learning you have gained from your involvement with the Academy. Sounds very productive and high impact.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 24 Aug 2018 16:46 #109772

Well, for one thing, these are very spiritual people. They've been in the real shit and they're now preparing a few thousand young people to go into the real shit. They know, and those young people know, that their purpose is big. Bigger than any one person. Way bigger than "me."

Second, they're comfortable with failure. At West Point, failure is expected. It's how human beings progress. They actually practice failing, and learn how to make the best of it. They know that if a person hasn't failed they're carrying around a pretty serious flaw.

Third, they're brutally honest with themselves and each other. They don't expect perfection. They expect ownership. Ownership is, essentially, responsibility.

A brief story: one of my co-workers, a retired general, was commanding the NATO ground forces in southern Europe just after the war in Kosovo. He reported to a Navy admiral and was invited to attend his first command dinner on the Admiral's flagship, a Navy cruiser. He flew in, landed and was taken to the dinner location. He saw that the Navy had set up a really fancy feast in the Admiral's quarters - fine china, gourmet food, expensive wine. After seeing that, my friend turned around and went downstairs, found the crew's mess and ate dinner with the enlisted folks. The admiral confronted him about it and my friend said, "Leaders eat last."
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 25 Aug 2018 06:39 #109774

That's a great story, Chris. How fortunate you have been to learn from such people. To embrace failure in particular is such an important spiritual lesson.

This conversation has reminded of my grandfather who was a tail gunner during WWII, when the average life expectancy for the position was something ridiculously short like 2 weeks. He and his pilot were the only original members of his squadron to survive deployment. Last year, I spent some hours getting well concentrated and then contemplating what it might have been like for him to pray alone in his turret prior to take off, to make his final peace with God as if it were to be the last time. Mission after mission, as his comrades died one after another. It was painful, frightening, sobering for me just to imagine this. Which prayer did he say? He is long dead now and I'll never know.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 27 Aug 2018 11:31 #109789

What came up for me when I read Andromeda's comments about her grandfather is gratitude. Why? Because being that aware of death and that close to it is what the Buddha instructed all of us to do. Be aware of death with every moment and every breath. I am not a text scholar by any means but the Buddha did say something along those lines.
I also have a lot of compassion for the grandfather because the majority of us are not thrust into that sort of contemplation - and clearly his life was at stake - he saw others die and he had no choice but to follow through on the duties of his position and risk the same outcome.
I wonder if meditating on his character and his approach to life might give you insight into how he handled those situations? He is physically no longer here but your memories of him are very much alive. Surely his character would be influenced by this constant contemplation of his own death - I would imagine that he transformed it into something positive. If your memories are limited there might be others that you can talk to about this, to give yourself a sense of completion and further honour your grandfather's path.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 27 Aug 2018 17:24 #109792

Unfortunately, my grandfather was discharged with a Purple Heart and "shell shock," as they called it back then. My mother told me that he became a lifelong alcoholic and domestic abuser until one day my grandmother decided she'd had enough and beat him badly with a baseball bat. She told him if he ever laid a hand on her again, she'd kill him. To his credit, he never touched her in a violent way after that and years later nursed her tenderly at home as she was dying of cancer.

When I was about 10 years old, his mobility had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer care for himself and so he came to stay with us while a small cottage in the back at my aunt and uncle's place was being prepared. He got my bedroom and I slept with my younger sister. He died there in my bed after just a few days. Come to find out, he was supposed to be on medications for a heart condition but he'd left them behind and told no one. I asked my mother if ghosts existed, if he would come back to haunt me in my bedroom where he had died. She said she didn't know, but that he'd loved me and so if he was a ghost he would protect me. That made sense, and I watched for him but wasn't afraid.

My mother said the last few days of his life were the only times she'd ever seen him sober. Clearly, he was a complex man and one for whom I feel a great deal of compassion.

To tie this back to Frankl, a passage discussing the liberation of prisoners from the camps at the end of the war:

"The way that led from the acute mental tension of the last days in camp (from that war of nerves to mental peace) was certainly not free of obstacles. It would be an error to think that a liberated prisoner was not in need of spiritual care any more. We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure has released quite suddenly. The danger (in the sense of psychological hygiene) is the psychological counterpart of the bends. Just as the physical health of the caisson worker would be endangered if he left his diver's chamber suddenly (where he is under enormous atmospheric pressure), so the man who has suddenly been liberated from mental pressure can suffer damage to his moral and spiritual health."
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 28 Aug 2018 00:50 #109796

I found your account very moving Andromeda. Thank you for sharing it. With John McCain having died, there’s a huge debate between those who demonize him and those who revere him. I had to look up the word (hagiography.) What a relief to know that heroes and humans are the same species. Nobody can be that perfect, which makes the nobler qualities as well as the foibles and flaws all the more endearing and promising for the rest of us I feel.

I’ve wrestled with talking about trauma a lot lately. The other day I saw this post on Facebook that helped me see the value in sharing (with caring and mindful discretion). Though the context is writing, the point of the poem applies perfectly I think.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 28 Aug 2018 07:19 #109797

Oh! That poem, Ranger. Thank you for sharing.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 28 Aug 2018 07:43 #109798

Thank you, Andromeda! One more, and then it's back to our scheduled programming. :-) Not unrelated I hope.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 28 Aug 2018 11:31 #109799

Hello everybody!

I am new on this forum and I will join the discussion gradually. But first, as a starting point, I wanted to just share some thoughts I have about the book.

What bugs me more than anything is that famous quote saying that ‘You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you‘. I find it very attractive ideal to aspire to but at the same time a pretty unrealistic one. dc2018 and Andromeda already spoke about how feelings arise by themselves outside of our control and I very much agree with this view.

One of my friends, who is also a jew, a psychologist and a proponent of this position of control once told me that he despised jews in the concentration camps because they didn’t rebel against their captors. His arguments were, they were greater in numbers and could have set themselves free have they chosen the position of wrongfully incarcerated free people instead one of fearful victims. Honestly, I don’t think it is possible to demand that from men in such a dire situation. Yes, we can chose our responses, but the fact is, we are not always able to.

I remember Shinzen Young in one of his interviews talking about the perception of pain and that he would like to be able to feel very intense pain without any aversion to it. Then he said that, unfortunately, his training hasn’t progressed far enough yet for him to be able to do so. And we are talking about a skilled meditator with many hours of training!

HOWEVER

Frankl’s promise of control somehow rings true because I guess somewhere deep inside we all know that change is possible and, being much bigger than our feelings, we can be the guiding force to our own change.

What we feel is, just like everything else in this life, is a product of conditions which means we can create a different conditioning in our world of feelings. It takes time, dedication and practice, and we can’t really know (or maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, at my level of practice) that our efforts will work in every situation, but there is still a huge possibility here.

There was one moment that particularly touched me in Frankl’s story of his camp life. That was one truly ‘feel good’ moment that I found — not a moment of relief or absence of pain, but of a real positive emotion. He describes how memories of his wife transported him in some kind of heavenly world of love in the middle of the camp horrors. It somehow reminded me of so many accounts of Tibetan monks and nuns imprisoned and tortured by Chinese military. Many of them report not feeling hostility towards their captors and instead praying for them with compassion. It makes me feel that love and compassion (especially well-cultivated) can really be very powerful antidotes to even extreme forms of suffering, that ultimate spoonful of sugar that makes the bitter medicine go down. For a long time I used to confuse compassion with empathy and think that feeling the suffering of others is actually it, and it only made me feel helpless and suffer more, to the point of despair. It is only recently that I drew the line between these things and realized that compassion is more wise and complex than empathy. It is seeing the other’s (or one’s own) suffering and always wishing well and holding the intention to help to the best of one’s ability, but at the same time keeping the big picture in mind (for me it is coming back to the spacious ‘feeling’ of non-self or everything as it is) and not being swallowed whole by pain or personal agendas/issues involved in positive aspirations and helping. This way it really gives a lot of energy and that very familiar warm feeling of love, keeps away hopelessness and can actually sometimes help relief the suffering instead of getting infected with it. I don’t think it is possible without genuine compassion to not get numb or depressed when witnessing so much suffering as happens in a war or in a concentration camp. So I guess what I was trying to say with this whole long monolog is that right now compassion (and not meaning) seems to me like the best candidate to cultivate as a positive ‘flavor’ to any experience.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 28 Aug 2018 13:29 #109800

One of my friends, who is also a jew, a psychologist and a proponent of this position of control once told me that he despised jews in the concentration camps because they didn’t rebel against their captors. His arguments were, they were greater in numbers and could have set themselves free have they chosen the position of wrongfully incarcerated free people instead one of fearful victims. Honestly, I don’t think it is possible to demand that from men in such a dire situation. Yes, we can chose our responses, but the fact is, we are not always able to.

I find this opinion very troubling, especially coming from a psychologist. It ignores so much that is relevant to the situation in favor of a simplistic formulation, which is essentially just blaming the victim.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 28 Aug 2018 14:17 #109801

Chris Marti wrote:
One of my friends, who is also a jew, a psychologist and a proponent of this position of control once told me that he despised jews in the concentration camps because they didn’t rebel against their captors. His arguments were, they were greater in numbers and could have set themselves free have they chosen the position of wrongfully incarcerated free people instead one of fearful victims. Honestly, I don’t think it is possible to demand that from men in such a dire situation. Yes, we can chose our responses, but the fact is, we are not always able to.

I find this opinion very troubling, especially coming from a psychologist. It ignores so much that is relevant to the situation in favor of a simplistic formulation, which is essentially just blaming the victim.

Agreed, but I wonder if it wasn't an angry response born out of actual empathy for/identification with his fellow Jews. He may have sensed their helplessness, refused to accept that feeling, and concocted a simplistic narrative about choice instead of letting himself feel their suffering. I find different versions of this everywhere in mainstream political discourse. It's not fun to feel the pain of others. It's way easier to use personal choice as a justification for your unwillingness to make even an emotional sacrifice by acknowledging suffering.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 28 Aug 2018 15:02 #109802

I find different versions of this everywhere in mainstream political discourse. It's not fun to feel the pain of others. It's way easier to use personal choice as a justification for your unwillingness to make even an emotional sacrifice by acknowledging suffering.

Yes, it's ubiquitous. I suspect, however, there is often more to the behavior than just an unwillingness to feel what the other person might feel. And, rather than turn this into a political discussion, I'll stop there.
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Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 28 Aug 2018 16:47 #109803

'Bodies in a Grave', a harrowing oil painting done by war artist Alex Colville from a pencil sketch he created on site the day Bergen-Belsen was liberated, speaks to the weakened state many prisoners were forced into prior to death. Not much rebellion power in that state of emaciation. And while Colville sat that day tracing his artist's eye around the bony contours of the dead limbs heaped in the grave, survivors staggered around him, naked, emaciated and deficating/urinating like animals in the open space. Some of these survivors would go on to die in the upcoming days of liberation because their weakened bodies no longer were capable of digesting the food given to them.

www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/artwar/...ies-in-grave_e.shtml

While the camps were in operation, how quickly new prisoners must have been forced into this state of depletion, sublimation.

Another sick aspect of the Holocaust was that Jews were hired by the Nazis to work outside of the camps on what was known as the Jewish Council to coordinate their fellow Jews being sent to the camps. Young Etty Hellisum (who wrote the diaries that compose An Interrupted Life) was in such a position. Eventually, she requested to be sent to the Westerbork camp where she was sending her own friends and family (after which they were all sent to their final destination to the gas house of Auschwitz). She has been criticized by some for not having used her position of 'privilege' to plan an escape and join rebellious forces as opposed to knowingly volunteering for confinement. Her statement in her diary was that she did not want to continue living freely in a world where this hellish treatment of humans was happening. From her diary: 'I really see no other solution than to turn inwards and to root out all the rottenness there. I no longer believe that we can change anything in the world until we first change ourselves. And that seems to me the only lesson to be learned.' She is said to have been a pillar of kindness, love and support to those both older and younger than herself, who were with her amidst the terrors at Westerbork concentration camp.
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