Currently, Hurricane Dorian is extending its path of destruction from the Bahamas where 110 mph winds have decimated islands, and is heading towards Florida. Despite having more technological advances than any time in history and even with all of the scientific resources, there is still no controlling the weather. Storms are a part of life. While not everyone in this life will experience a hurricane, everyone as part of life is going to experience internal storms of life–each as unique as the individual experiencing them. Every storm is different and the reactions to the storms are as unique as the storms themselves but there is one key that will help no matter what the storm you are facing in this life. What is the key to facing storms? The key to making it through the storms of life is to find meaning in the storms.
Legendary Psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor, Viktor Frankl, details his experiences and his findings of being a psychiatrist in concentration camps in his book, “A Man’s Search For Meaning.” Frankl gave up a chance to immigrate to the United States and instead opted to stay in Vienna with his parents. In 1941, he met and married the love of his life, Tilly, and shortly after they were forced to abort their unborn child as Jews were forbidden to have children. Frankl, his parents and his wife were arrested in September 1942 and sent to Theresienstadt where his Dad passed away a few months later. Soon after, Frankl was separated from his mother and wife, and was forced to dig barefoot in the snow injured and starving. Frankl describes how simply imagining the face of his wife became a radiant sun that kept him warm. Although during this time Frankl battled his own depression, he offered therapy to his fellow inmates. He urged them to to sing and replay cherished memories to remind them of a life worth living and found that those who survived had a deeper purpose in life. Frankl was determined to be reunited with his wife and endured over 3 years of malnutrition, cruel beatings, and living in unimaginable conditions. He was liberated from the concentration camp by Allied Troops in 1945 only to find that his brother, mother were murdered in Auschwitz and his beloved 24 year old wife passed away at Bergen-Belsen a few months earlier in 1944. While in this state of despair, Frankl wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” When asked why he chose to share his story in his book, Frankl responded, “…to convey that life holds potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones.” For Frankl, finding meaning was the only way out of suffering. Having a meaning or a purpose was the key to weathering the storms.
This life was never meant to be smooth sailing. In fact, there is an african proverb that says, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” Developing character and virtues like patience, diligence, humility and faith often are the pearls that come from adversity. Facing difficult challenges teaches us that we can do hard things. There are a few things that are helpful to remember while we are in the midst of a storm and can help us find meaning and purpose in them.
Everything can– and will– change. Storms do end.
You’ve overcome challenges before. Remember past storms that you have experienced and reflect on the what you learned about yourself having gone through them.
Being kind to yourself is the best medicine. You spend a lot of time in your head, so make it a pleasant place to be. Allow yourself to learn and grow from mistakes.
Although trials and storms are difficult it is important to remember that we are never left alone to face them. Surround yourself with people who truly care. Even if you feel that no one understands, it is important to know that God does and that He is omniscient–or all knowing. He knows, he hears and answers prayers.
Storms will come and go and we cannot control the weather but we can become master sailors and find meaning in them. As Victor Frankl said, “Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.”