Frankl argues that if life has meaning, suffering and death must also have meaning. It can be difficult to believe this at times. Dostoevsky said, “I am afraid of only one thing: not being worthy of my suffering.” You might think he’s crazy, but that’s exactly what Frankl describes in his book, through his personal experiences as an expert like no one else can. The way some people carried their suffering in the camps was a reflection of their inner victory – freedom of spirit. That is something that no one can ever take away from a person. However, every individual must come to their own understanding of the meaning of their suffering or difficult situation and accept the responsibility that their answer requires. If successful, their personality will continue to grow. Have you heard of a man named Nick Vujicic, who was born without limbs but still inspires young people and others with optimism and hope? What about other people who, despite difficult circumstances, say “YES” to life? A beautiful example in Slovakia is the non-profit organization Plamienok, which cares for terminally ill children. On their social media page, they often share testimonials from people and families who are the focus of their work. We ask ourselves, how do parents and relatives of such children find the strength and hope they need?
What Frankl describes as the most fundamental need we have, and what he experienced as a prisoner in a concentration camp, is a complete change in attitude towards life. He says, “We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life and instead think of ourselves as being questioned by life – at each and every moment. Tears were a sign that a man had been defeated only if he allowed himself to be defeated.” The hopelessness of the struggle never diminishes one’s dignity and sense of purpose. According to Frankl, those, including himself, who lived in concentration camps remember people who comforted others and shared their last piece of bread. They were few, but they provided enough evidence that one thing cannot be taken away from a person – their human freedom, the ability to choose one’s attitude in any circumstance, to choose one’s own path. The path of meaning in life. If people could do it in such hopeless situations, what more or less can we do? Because if a person suddenly loses hope and courage, it can have deadly consequences.
In the theoretical realm of logotherapy, we can discover the meaning of life in three ways: