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My Conversation with Viktor Frankl

Picture a small room filled with Holocaust survivors with varying degrees of accents and anger listening to the famous Austrian author, psychiatrist, and fellow Holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl. I was there. It was 1987 and I was a guest of my mom. She survived the Holocaust – having escaped Frankfurt, Germany just as World War II began.

Dr. Frankl wrote Man’s Search For Meaning – a book on how you can overcome obstacles by finding purpose in your life. He wrote this well known book just 7 days after being liberated from a German concentration camp. His theory is that you need a reason to keep living – and that in the midst of great suffering you still have control of your reaction to your circumstances.

In that small room on that day I asked, “Dr. Frankl – When did you overcome your anger? You were incarcerated during World War II, you lost your wife and many other members of your family, you lost your dignity.  How long did it take you to move on?”

He replied, “I never was angry. I felt detachment.”

Detachment is defined as: lack of involvement, indifference disconnection. Frankl got through this nightmare by mindful separation from the reality. This brilliant man did exactly what he espouses for you – you may not be able to control your situation, but you can control how you react to your reality. Your body can be incarcerated but not your mind.

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