I was unsure what exactly this book would be when it was recommended to me. I often say that I am lost, so I imagined it would be something about finding oneself. It was nothing like that, it was worse. It was everything I have been thinking about, told by not only a professional psychiatrist, but a concentration camp survivor.
I used to read a lot about the war periods when I was younger. War and particularly conflict, is something I have always been interested in. I used to focus a lot of my reading of stories from holocaust survivors, because as a humanitarian, it continually fired my passion. I would have many nightmares from these stories and I never knew what to do with the words and hurt I felt. This book gives a brand new perspective and I feel with the knowledge that I have gained over the years, I was fully able to understand all that is expressed in it. I barely stopped until had finished reading and was touched by the words.
I think that I am regaining the ability to dream, I remember a time when all I would have was nightmares. Dreams are explained beautifully in this book as the time when reality falls away from you. In the concentration camp, you are left to hold onto the images you hold closest to your heart and your hopes for the future. I am not suffering at the moment and I wish not to have to experience suffering on any scale, however I think it is important to have dreams and that time out of the day with which to escape and relax.
He speaks a lot of the apathy that developed amongst prisoners. I wonder often about those who suffer from severe depression and consider suicide. Where did it all go wrong for them or even me? Where did I fall into a trap of thinking I had no value or purpose? I was never in a concentration camp and many in Western societies, who do not suffer, can experience depression. Surroundings are so important and as I have become older, I choose what I do, how I spend my time and who I value very wisely. This is not always possible for everyone and I see now from this book, that suffering from outside our control is not our fault but should be something that we can use. There is so much to gain from the lessons of suffering, though an immediate reaction may be a numbness and inability to feel or do very much, feeling does come back. It is in you to be human and no one can take that away.
I think about human behaviour. It makes me sad. The holocaust always makes me sad. I cannot comprehend how people allow others to suffer. My compassion is too great. I am human and I have flaws. People are judgemental. I, too, can judge before understanding. The truth is that you never really know until you put yourself in that situation. We are all unique though, so the circumstances are rarely exactly the same. I used to worry about my own behaviour or reactions. I sometimes judge myself or worry about how it will be perceived by others. I was pleased to read that normal can actually be an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation. Maybe I am not so outrageous after all?
I have contemplated love so many times in my life. I go back and forth on it. I did not know if it was something that could even exist. Now, I am unsure where I stand. I proceed with caution when it comes to love. I do not wish to be hurt, but I do not wish to miss out. Frankl says that “Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.” I hope one day to find this, a love so pure and more important than anything else. It can overcome the pain, the past, the suffering and exist on another level. I am learning more about myself all the time and love, it is not about who at all. It is the actions, feelings and existence, all of which is out of our control, but may be a major component to our purpose. I have opened myself up now to love and I hope these emotions are strong enough to stay.
Suffering leads me to ask a lot of questions. it led me to lose my faith. I could not comprehend it. I wanted answers and reasons. Now I do not need them. I choose to wear my suffering and wear it well. Bismarck said “Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already.” I like this. I often live in too much fear. I am haunted and it can be painful. However, it is over. It happened. I cannot change it, but I can choose what to do with it, how I deal with it. I can realise that I have probably suffered enough for one lifetime and unless the world descends into chaos in my lifetime, I may be spared to enjoy the rest of it.
Meaning. It was what the book was all about after it. Meaning is personal. It is conditional. For me, at least, it is always there. I ask why far too often to not have at least some idea of my purpose and my goals. I have given up in the past. I have tried to end my life. I have resorted to crazy extremes in order to feel and not feel. However, I came out of it on a more positive side. Unfortunately, I was a chid then. You fall into a trap of listening to adults and thinking that adults are always right. You cannot depend on yourself much and your thoughts are not as comprehensive as you need them to be in order to find a meaning. I will never allow myself to thing that there is no purpose to my life. I know that I am important. I have a lot to do and more people to meet, more lives to touch.
I wish everyone contemplating suicide would take a few hours to take in this book and all that it has to say. If he did not give up, why should you. Everyone has their own meaning. All that is required is a change in attitude. It does not really matter what you expect from life, but rather what life expects from you. You do not need to spend so long puzzling over the meaning of life, but rather just let it happen. Life hands you situations and requires you to handle them. That is the remarkable thing about it. It is just a learning curve for all of us. We choose to do and fail and reflect over and over. That is all anyone can expect from us. The trick is to never stop doing, because there is a lot to get through.
“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how” – Nietzche