Viktor Frankl: How to master hard times

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. He was an inmate in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. This fact alone qualifies him to tell us how to get through difficult times. With the help of one of his quotes we will look at how to do this.

At times when we don't know where we are going, at times when we don't know what or where our goals are, life can seem hard. However, when we know why we act the way we do, the circumstances almost don't matter.

"He who has a why to live, endures almost any how".

-Viktor E. Frankl

Viktor E. Frankl studied medicine with a focus on suicide and depression. Between 1933 and 1937, as a senior physician at the Psychiatric Hospital in Vienna, he cared for up to 3,000 women who were suicidal each year. During his medical career, obstacles were often placed in his path because of his Jewish background. Because of these obstacles he had to change jobs frequently and from March 1938 he worked in the only hospital in Vienna where Jews were still allowed to be treated.

Frankl was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1942 because of his Jewish heritage. Although Frankl could have escaped to the United States of America, he decided to stay with his parents and help them. Both of his parents, as well as his wife, perished under the horrors of the Nazis.

It is not difficult to see that Dr. Frankl's life was hard. Compared to today's living conditions, it seems to me that hard is even an understatement. Nevertheless, Frankl did not let it get him down. He did not give up despite all the setbacks. On April 27, 1945, he was finally liberated by the Allies from a subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp. He published his observations of the other inmates' will to survive, as well as his observations of his own will to survive, in the book: ... still say yes to life".

Frankl observed that while the circumstances under which people lived were hell on earth, fellow inmates who still had family or friends 'on the outside' or in other concentration camps whom they did not know were still alive had a reason to survive. To have to survive to see if their loved ones were still okay. This reason, this 'why' to live ensured that they still persevered under the cruelest of circumstances.

So it is extremely important for us humans to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It is important to have a goal. Because as already explained in the article "Seneca explains: Navigating through life the right way", for a sailor who does not know which shore to head for, no wind is the right one. Without a reason for our actions, we can quickly fall into lethargy or consider our existence trivial or inconsequential.

However, if we know why we are doing something, for what purpose or for which person. Then the circumstances, whether unpleasant or difficult, won't matter. We will know why we have to push through. For he who has a 'why' to live, endures almost any 'how'.

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