I have run several miles almost every day for 36 years. I find that it rebalances my brain chemistry and keeps me from sliding into depression when things aren’t going well. Meditation and random acts of kindness also help, which brings me to Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning (1946).
Frankl’s self-transcendence concept (1965) emphasizes the value of helping others and taking responsibility for your own attitudes. It builds on the work of Abraham Maslow (1954). Maslow’s model is always a reminder to take care of people’s basic needs and intermediate needs if you want them to appreciate esthetic values or achieve self-actualization.
Viktor Frankl was a psychologist working with those suffering from depression and attempted suicides before World War II. As a Jewish psychologist in Austria, he was forced into a ghetto and lived through the horrors of the Holocaust by providing psychological counseling to others within the ghetto. Frankl’s school of existential psychology led to the observation by Irvin Yalom that Frankl, “who has devoted his career to a study of an existential approach to therapy, has apparently concluded that the lack of meaning is the paramount existential stress. To him, existential neurosis is synonymous with a crisis of meaninglessness.” It makes me think about how much of being a teacher, an interpreter, and a coach is really an exchange – a true win-win situation. If we can help others get better at whatever they’re doing, we grow stronger and healthier as well. Our lives have greater meaning for our investment in others.
Frankl wrote, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
I like Frankl’s idea that there should be another statue on the west coast, like the Statue of Liberty. He believed that liberty is a freedom that mandates responsibility, so a Statue of Responsibility would be a dramatic reminder of the need to take responsibility for those freedoms we enjoy. In this society that so often focuses on “less taxes, me first, I got mine, you get yours,” we could definitely use more societal responsibility.
On a personal level we can surely take responsibility for our own attitudes and make the choice to do things that help someone else. The fact that it may also help us feel better about ourself and life in general is a bonus.
– Tim Merriman
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.