More People Need to Read Viktor Frankl

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

That is a quote from Viktor Frankl‘s classic book, “Man’s Search for Meaning“. Frankl was a psychiatrist and a neurologist, as well as a Holocaust survivor.

Frankl believed that people are primarily driven by a “striving to find meaning in one’s life,” and that it is this sense of meaning that enables people to overcome painful experiences. This conclusion served as a strong basis for his logotherapy and existential analysis, which Frankl had described before World War II

In his book, Frankl described the life of an ordinary concentration camp inmate from the objective perspective of a psychiatrist. After enduring the suffering in these camps, Frankl validated his hallmark conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that, therefore, even suffering is meaningful.

I was thinking about the book today while watching a news story about the reaction of some outraged passengers at the Fort Lauderdale airport, after learning that Spirit Airlines had canceled several flights.

Here is a video that captured the reactions of some of the passengers:

Police arrested three people from New York in the airport, charging them with inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing.

This is a just the latest in a series of videos that have shown airlines in a less than favorable light.

Regardless of whether the airline is at fault though, it seems like people need to learn how to react properly when things don’t go their way.

I understand the frustration that results when things don’t go according to plan. Missing a flight can be quite disruptive to one’s life, but it doesn’t give you permission to behave poorly.

A popular twist on Frankl’s ideas is the following quote:

You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you CAN control the way you respond.”

We all have a choice in how we respond to difficult events or outcomes, and it is those choices that define who we are.

Frankl’s book is a great example of how he was able to control his responses to some of the most terrible circumstances imaginable.

It’s a powerful book, and if I ran the world, would be required reading in high school. Or at least for anyone that’s about to fly…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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