Monday, April 8, 2013

Finding Meaning in Suffering

“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation - just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer - we are challenged to change ourselves.”-Victor Frankl

Sometimes things happen in our lives that leave us crying on the floor for hours. We aren’t only sad; we are devastated and full of despair- the worst of all feelings. We can’t see any good of a situation. Maybe we just feel like our lives have no purpose or we just lost a loved one. Though I can’t give you a magic pill that makes everything better, I can offer you some information I have learned about logotherapy.

Logotherapy was created by Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. He is a Holocaust survivor who lost his wife and most of his family in the camps. He is also a neurologist, psychiatrist, and an amazing human being.

The basic principles of logotherapy:

·       -  Despite even the most miserable circumstances, life has meaning.
·         -The main motivation to live is to find meaning in life
·       -  It us up to us to use our mind’s freedom to find meaning in what we do and what we experience, or at least how we deal with suffering that is unchangeable.

If you have experienced despair or a tragedy, it might be hard to take in any of the above principles right away. However, if you are open to them, I do believe that after some time you can find meaning to life again. There are many examples of how people have found meaning in tragedy’s that at first seem meaningless. For instance, the beautiful (inside and out) Rachel Scott was killed in the mass shooting at Columbine High School. Her dad and step-mom were both devastated (there’s not much worse than losing a child), but they created a student empowerment program called Rachel’s Challenge. “Rachel's Challenge is a series of student empowering programs and strategies that equip students and adults to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion

A less tragic example would be me. No, I didn't suffer a huge tragedy, but at one point in my life I was filled with complete despair. Despair means to lose all hope. For moments, I did. I won’t go into why or what I did, but I will tell you I now appreciate and love who I am because of those past moments. I’m a more caring, compassionate, and kind human being because of it. It helps me to understand where other people are coming from, and sometimes even allows me to help them. I now find meaning in my life for those reasons.

Additionally, I’d like to dedicate this post to my Aunt Barb and Uncle Ronnie who both passed away from cancer. Even when dealing with the worst of cancer, they were two of the most loving, caring, and seriously funny people I knew. They made me believe that the people subjected to tragedies or unfortunate events are the people strong enough to find meaning in the situation. Now, every time I face some misfortune, I remind myself that “God”/ the universe won’t give me a situation that I can’t handle.

Hopefully, I have not upset anyone by my words. My only intentions are to help. As I was writing this I kept thinking about the women being tortured in other countries and almost stopped writing. Then I remembered women like Mukhtar Mai who get raped and then start things like this: .

 Even in your darkest of days, your life has meaning.


  1. One thing that running can and has done for me is become what you could call a postitive distraction. By saying that I don't necessarily mean run away from issues cause I don't want to deal with them. I mean they should be dealt with accordingly. What I'm saying is a lot of times focusing on negative things only makes it worse. I'm learning that just the training for an ultra can fill up one's time with lots of positive feelings while pushing aside the negative. Like I said its not a matter of not wanting to face and come to terms with issues. But once you have come to terms with them don't dwell on them and find something that can help you move on. Its about turning ones back on the negative and turning one's face to the positive.

  2. WoW!!! I lost a very dear friend this morning and I feel that haze of walking around with no real destination. I dont even know why I am surfing the net. I have KAFM on the radio, the Masters on TV (muted), the Boy Dog at my feet, & started rolling through some blogs that I choose to follow. Then.... I found myself here.... On Your Blog.... Just what I needed..... Really

    Zachariah Walker walked tall, told his truth, & was a mentor to so many. I met him years ago and became quite close when he was teaching a 1/2 yoga & 1/2 spin class. He was a leader for sure. The yoga part of the class was specific to cycling body mechanics. The half hour of spin would become so damn intense . Zachariah would paint a scenic visual of hills or tropical islands to race around or some of our local trails and we would all burn for 25 minutes of pure joy. He knew when to gear us up for that push or just spin to rehydrate or simply shout out encouraging words when we didnt even know we needed it.

    Zachariah Walker was taller than me so I walked taller when we were together. Zachariah Walker was smarter than me & I found myself learning more each time we crossed paths. Zachariah Walker helped everyone become a better person around him and never asked for anything in return. I called him Zach one time in class and he quickly and politely reminded me that his name is ZACHARIAH.

    Zachariah Walker, I Love You Brother!! Love And Light

  3. Thank you for sharing. It sounds like Zachariah was a great example for everyone who knew and loved him. Looks like he left a very positive mark in the world. I'm sorry for your loss and am sending positive vibes your way.

  4. Amazing to come across Viktor Frankl on a running(?) blog...but then again sage Canaday is a grad from Cornell so there is that. Frankl described his dilemma about waking a bunkmate from an awful dream that he had nightly. He finally decided that letting him sleep and have his dream was far better than awakening him to the realities of Auschwitz/Dachau/Theriesenstadt. An act of compassion and kindness as if he was thinking with his heart. Frankl has meant the world to me in my own recovery from the life I led. Thank you for the thoughts and the writing.

    1. I remember reading that part! Frankl is quite the inspiration!


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