Its All About A Choice
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of ones freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” ― Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl has become a huge inspiration to me. He survived the Holocaust and endured numerous concentration camps (including Auschwitz) in the 1930s. But he didn’t just survive the horrific, inhumane treatments of the camps; he chose to flourish.
In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, he recounts seeing the absolute worst side of humanity. He writes with such profound depth and gripping narrative that the reader is fully encaptured underneath Frankl’s spell. Frankl describes the horrific scene of the camp as he watched humanity unfold. He watched fellow prisoners, who had been promoted to guards, brutally beating the people they had been living among only a few weeks prior.
On the other hand, he saw prisoners rising above the pain, in a superhuman way, and comforting and helping others. He came to the realization that humans are not subject to their circumstances. They choose how they are affected by their circumstances.
Frankl’s thoughts resound the central theme of existentialism: the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is a purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering and in death. But no man can tell another what this purpose is. Each must find out for himself and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes.
“He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” -Nietzsche
The prisoners allowed the situation to affect them in different ways. But, even in the worst situation imaginable, even imprisoned in a holocaust camp, Frankl was able to be free.
How? There is a gap between stimulus and our response to that stimulus. For example, say someone yells at you (stimulus) before you react to that stimulus there is a gap called your decision. Whatever you decide becomes your response to that stimulus.
Frankl decided to take the stimulus (how he was being treated in the camps) and decide to learn more from this situation instead of choosing to let it turn him into someone he didn’t want to be.
The key to your freedom and happiness is how you use that space. You will never be in control of how certain people treat you, but because of that space between stimulus and response, you are in control of how their treatment affects you.
No one will ever be able to completely have control over you unless you let them.
You decide within yourself how difficult situations affect you. It's actually not what happens to you, but your response to what happens to you that hurts you. Your worth, your identity, does not have to be hurt by the judgments others give you.
You are in control. You have freedom — internal power — over your circumstances.
Are you going to choose to use that freedom?