Acceptance and meaning is my topic today. I was reading this week about a Woman’s Concentration Camp named Ravensbruck, in The Missing History of Ravensbrück, The Nazi Concentration Camp for Women. As I read, I remembered of one of my favorite books. Man’s Search for Meaning, written by psychiatrist, Victor Frankl. In his book, Frankl wrote about his experiences at Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps during World War II.
As I thought about the book’s premise, I realized how much this book changed my life. The book is about Victor Frankl’s experiences of being stripped of all of his worldly possessions and relationships in the Nazi concentration camps and his observations about who survived the camps the best under such atrocious circumstances. His observations were that the prisoners did best if they found meaning in their existence in the surroundings of suffering. If you haven’t read Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, I recommend that you do that or reread it if it has been a while. If you can’t afford to buy the book, I am sure you can find it at the public library since it is a classic.
My Search for Meaning
That leads us to why my life was changed in my own circumstances of childhood sexual abuse. Initially, my childhood memories were buried and I could not remember before the age of 12. As a young child, I learned to cover my absent memories through a “made-up fantasy” of what life was from age 5-12. As an adult, all of my former coping skills collapsed as I became severely depressed and anxious and then is when my quest began for finding meaning in my life. Through revisiting Frankl’s book, Al-anon teachings (that very closely aligned with Frankl’s premise that suffering does exist and everything can be taken away but as long as you keep your human spirit or humanity, you will not only survive but thrive.
Frankl believed that three things were necessary to find meaning. According to Frankl, meaning can be found through:
Creativity or giving something to the world through self- expression,
Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change. [coloring mine]
Creativity is how I learned to give back to the world what I have that is the essence of me, my inner soul and inner voice. I share through helping others through education and inspiration from my writing and poetry. It is my self-expression.
Authenticity in interactions is how I experience the world, my environment, and others. If I am authentic or real in my interactions and experience, then I put forth the view of “What you see is what you get.” and don’t need to behave differently in different circumstances. This is true, genuine honesty with myself and with others.
Changing Your Attitude with Acceptance
The last part of searching for meaning in my life was in changing my attitude in situations that I could not control or change. Acceptance of what you control and what you don’t control relieves you of the burden of “being in charge.” I learned through therapy, Al-anon, and meditation about who I was and what I could change and what I couldn’t. I no longer needed to solve the world’s problems. I wasn’t big enough, intelligent enough or strong enough to do that. Only a “God of my understanding” (Al-anon’s words, not mine) could take care of the problems of the world. It wasn’t my responsibility. Instead, my responsibility was to accept and surrender to His will, not mine.
What a relief to my soul. I could accept, surrender, and through being authentically “me”, I could grow into the person who I am today. An authentic person with some good days, some not so good. A real person who can be honest with myself and with others. No more lies, creating cover stories to cover up my memory gaps (which I still have). I had no further need to live in my fantasy world and could be who I am today.
What About You?
What about you? Are you on a journey to end your suffering. Suffering is all about us and can’t be escaped. We will all have some suffering in our life. But it is what you do with that suffering that counts. Being creative, being authentic or real, and accepting yourself as you are flaws, character defects and all are very freeing to your inner self, your inner soul. What have you got to lose? You’ve been trying to do it your way for so long. Aren’t you weary?
Until next blog,
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