Given the demanding times we live in, I thought resilience would be a good topic. What makes for resilience? Why are some people more resilient than others to life’s pains and stresses? One person can go through a stressful experience and feel devastated by it with emotional, psychological and perhaps physical effects, while another person will suffer much less. Some get through a tough experience, others crumple under it.
A key ingredient for survivability seems to be the foundation stone of ‘meaning’. If we have a sustaining faith in something then it gives us something to survive for, an inner ‘rock’ to hold onto, rather than being swept away by whatever life throws at us.
Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist, came to this conclusion during his three years as a prisoner in Auschwitz and other concentration camps in World War II. His wife and most of his family died in the camps as, of course, did very many others. But Viktor Frankl survived and after the War wrote ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’. Published in 1946 he described his own horrific experiences and his observations of how he and others coped. It seemed to him that those who had a faith – not necessarily a religious faith – but a faith in something profoundly important to them, survived the terrible experience in the camps much better. Their life had meaning. Those who had no faith had little to live for, suffered more and would often just ‘give up’. There was no inner passion for life, no drive, to keep that person going.
In Paulo Coelho’s 1999 novel ‘Veronika Decides To Die’, a young girl (Veronika) has friends, a social life, a loving family even. She displays no signs of depression, but life lacks that same essential ingredient: meaning. Life is empty for her. As she says herself, one day seems much like another. There is nothing to drive her forward in her life. She too gives up and in her case attempts suicide.
Frankl believed that whatever gave meaning to our lives had to be invested with love, that the two were inseparable What has real meaning for us we love, what we love holds meaning. He saw our salvation as “through love and in love” which he described as “the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart”.
So what do you really love? What gives fundamental meaning to your life?
I think if we are able to discover that then life is truly worthwhile.