1. Never Stop to do Acts of Kindness

    April 25, 2014

    Never Stop to do Acts of Kindness

    by Sue Chehrenegar

    This past week, I gained a greater insight into the meaning of life by helping a writer with a limited command of the English language. He had contacted me through my husband. Like that struggling writer, my husband had grown up speaking Persian, long before he had begun to converse in English.

    The man who sought my help with writing a short essay first asked for a better way of referring to the act that he called “making good.” I suggested that he use “doing a favor.” Then my husband indicated that the essay writer wanted to say something like this: Never stop to do a favor. At that point, I recommended that he re-phrase the sentence, changing it to this: Never stop to do an act of kindness.

    The essay writer liked that suggested sentence, but he wanted to learn if the same thought could be expressed in a few other ways. I was asked to send him an e-mail, and to include in that e-mail two or three ways for urging someone to be kind/make good. While I was writing that e-mail, my husband offered some suggestions, and that was when I gained a greater insight into the meaning of life.

    First my husband explained to me that the essay writer wanted to make sure that someone who had chosen to perform an act of kindness did not get discouraged easily. He realized that someone who has been rebuffed after trying to be kind might get discouraged. With that thought in mind, I added to the sentence I had suggested earlier.

    This was my first entry in the e-mail that I had been asked to write: Never stop to do acts of kindness, even if you should get hurt. If that happens, pray or meditate about what happened, and they try a different way of showing your kindness. That was helpful, but my husband indicated that it was a bit too long. He asked me to try condensing my suggested words of guidance.

    At that point, I added a second sentence to my e-mail. I wrote this: Never stop to behave in a way that shows how much you want to be kind to another person, even if you get hurt. As I sought to come-up with yet a third means for conveying the same thought, I heard my husband say something like this: Never stop to enjoy the beauty of life.

    That was when I realized that a readiness to be kind to others adds meaning to life and makes it more beautiful. That realization helped me to add two more sentences to the group that I was planning to send to the struggling writer. The first sentence that I added was this one: Never stop to behave in a way that shows how much you want to be kind to another person, even if you get hurt. Then I added this sentence to my e-mail: Keep meaning in your life, and never hold-back from performing an act of kindness.

    By helping that one gentleman, I had gained a keener sense of the significance of a quest for meaning. It represents an attempt to enhance the beauty of existence on this earth. For some people efforts that are aimed at protection of the earth’s natural beauty have made their lives more meaningful. I will write more about protection of the environment in another article.

    For others, the beauty enjoyed by the humans who live on this earth is only possible when men agree to cooperate with one another. Those are the people who seek to contribute to the development of a great civilization/society. Their ability to make such a contribution has made their life more meaningful.

    Of course, there are many ways to contribute to the development of a society. That can be accomplished by creating works of art, by voicing an opinion on an important issue, by teaching young people, by healing those who are sick, by aiding the sharing of information or by helping to build various structures, just to name a few.

    Perhaps you have a skill or ability that you can use to make the earth even more beautiful. Maybe you are ready to start working on learning a new skill. Take whatever skill or knowledge you have learned and use it in a kindly fashion, but recall this one last sentence that I sent to the essay-writer: Do not be disturbed by what has resulted from an act of kindness that you have shown to another. If you do that, you are sure to feel that you have a meaningful life.

     

     Image Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/7824209576

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  2. Jung and Frankl on the Meaning of Life

    March 17, 2014

    Carl Jung and Viktor Frankl on the Meaning of Life

    by Karen Fernandes

    It is widely agreed among psychologists that a sense of meaning and ‘purpose’ is critical to a healthy psyche. Without a framework to give our lives purpose, we can find ourselves falling into an existential depression (often itself the catalyst for a mid-life crisis) or drifting aimlessly with no sense of direction and no interest anything life has to offer.

    Unfortunately, applying meaning to a seemingly random and chaotic universe is not easy for us, and many of the big concepts are really beyond any chance of human comprehension. We don’t know where we came from (even though we might have beliefs on the matter), we don’t know why we were put here – we don’t even know if there will be any lasting consequences of our actions on Earth. As far as we’re aware we came from nothing and will return there when it’s over.

    So where then does this crucial sense of purpose come from? How does it form in a healthy mind? How does someone decide what they believe and how they should spend their time in light of so little information and so much mystery? These are questions that many thinkers have attempted to answer with mixed results. Here we are going to examine the views of two key contributors: Carl Jung and Viktor Frankl, which demonstrate how this process of finding meaning fits into the complex puzzle of the human mind.

    Jung’s Theories of Individuation

    Individuation is a widely used term that essentially describes the psychological process of becoming ‘an individual’. Often this transformation is said to occur during the adolescent years and early-adulthood; when a young person will ‘try out’ different personalities and ways of life to see which fit them best. Most of us can remember a ‘gothic’ or ‘preppy’ phase in adolescence (probably while cringing) and will likely have moved between friendship groups and ideals as we gradually started to learn about ourselves and develop a concrete identity (parents of teenagers will likely be all-too familiar with this period of development). If all goes well though, the individual should come out of the process with a stable personality (even if their beliefs and interests change) and a sense of ‘who they are’ and what their role is in society.

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  3. Discover Your Dharma or How I Quit My Job

    May 26, 2013

    discover your dharma

    by Luba Kholov

    “O Indra, lead us on the path of Rta, on the right path over all evils”

    10th mandala of the Rigveda

     

    Dharma is an ancient Sanskrit term. It’s literal meaning is “that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe” It sounds a bit New Agey, but in essence it means the purpose of one’s life. It doesn’t mean the final destination, but the path one takes. The Law of Dharma means awakening oneself and using person’s unique talents to serve the humanity.

    How do you discover your Dharma? You don’t have to ask anyone about it, because you already have the answer. All answers are within you. If you are unable to hear your inner voice, that is the problem you have to solve.

    People started thinking about Dharma concept thousands of years ago and still think about it to this day – of course, if they have time. Most of us just don’t have the luxury of free time and thinking of Dharma isn’t our top priority… We don’t think about the meaning of life. We need to pay bills, finish assignments on time, satisfy a lover, build our career or take care of the kids.  By society’s definition, you need to be on top of all of these aspects of life and perform well in every regard in order to be successful, worthy and respected. Yet, as a result, people get sick, depressed and exhausted. Why? If you have ever spent a day commuting via the New York City subway system, you definitely understand what I’m talking about.

     

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  4. On Meaning In Life and Logotherapy – based on “Man’s Search for Meaning”

    May 18, 2013

    meaning in life and logotherapy

    “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for”. —Viktor Frankl

    by Amanda Greene

     

    An analysis of Viktor Frankl’s book on meaning of life and Logotherapy style of psychoanalysis.

     

    Psychiatrist, neurologist and social visionary Viktor Frankl developed Logotherapy/Existential Analysis (LTEA). In this school of thought in psychology, the search for a meaning in life is identified as the primary motivational force in human beings.

    Frankl’s approach is based on three philosophical and psychological concepts:

    • Freedom of Will
    • Will to Meaning
    • Meaning in Life

    The motivation for Frankl’s path in life as a psychiatrist was born of his own struggle and grief. He was imprisoned in four different Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, between 1942 and 1945. He beat some amazing odds and survived the ordeal although his parents, brother, and pregnant wife all fell victim to the horrors. Over three years’ time, with all that he witnessed in the death camps, he was able to turn his awful experience and the observations he made during it into a positive lesson for spiritual survival; he dedicated his life to helping and others through their psychological troubles and inspiring millions through his books.

    His most popular book, a recounting of his experiences during World War II is “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  It is also considered an influential self-help book that illustrates his school of thought, which is prevalent in psychotherapy practices still today.  The book has been translated into twenty four different languages and, at the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, his book had sold over 10 million copies. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is listed among the ten most influential books in America according to a reader survey that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life”.

    A recent Psychology Today  article explains Frankl’s message is “ultimately one of hope: even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanizing situation, life can be given a meaning, and so too can suffering.” His experiences in the horrendous conditions of a concentration camp were the catalyst of forming his school of thought in psychology that still applies today. What was no doubt some of the worst conditions imposed upon humans brought him to the deduction that human motivation in life is meaning. This was very different than the previous schools of thought from Freud and Adler who were also Viennese psychotherapists. Freud maintained that human motivation was based on pleasure.  Adler’s way of thinking was that power was the basis of human motivation. After his release Frankl founded the school of Logotherapy, which is often referred to as the ‘Third Viennese School of psychotherapy’ because it came after those of Freud and Adler. Logotherapy’s name comes from the Ancient Greek word logos meaning ‘reason’ or ‘principle’. The goal of Logotherapy is to carry out an existential analysis of the person and, in so doing, to help him discover meaning for his life. Frankl, believed that meaning can be found in the following three ways:

    • Creativity or giving something to the world through self- expression,
    • Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
    • Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

    Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues, “we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.” LTEA circles around the idea of the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. He did not question why all of those innocent people died in the concentration camps, but pondered why any lived. It was not a question of wanting to live for many; it was finding meaning and purpose. According to Frankl, “The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in life.” He listed the three ways he believed individuals could achieve this: work (doing something significant), in love (caring for someone), and finding courage in difficult times. He maintained the idea that suffering in itself is meaningless; it is the way in which we respond to suffering that gives it meaning.

    Perhaps the most powerful message from Frankl that we can all learn from and can be applied to all events past, present and future is that forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except for one thing and that is the freedom to choose how you respond to a situation.

    His theories apply today, especially with the many unfortunate incidents that occur in our daily lives, personal tragedies and national incidents that make most question how and why. Senseless shootings, environmental accidents, threats of war, and depletion of Earth’s resources all contribute to negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Yet people still find meaning in the world and meaning in everyday life. When someone sets up a charity to honor loved ones lost so that others can be helped and when the father of a fallen US Soldier hands out American flags to promote pride of our country, they are doing something significant and not letting the circumstances out of their control interfere with responding in a way that has meaning.

    Born in Vienna in 1905 Viktor E. Frankl earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. He published more than thirty books on theoretical and clinical psychology and served as a visiting professor and lecturer at Harvard, Stanford, and elsewhere. In 1977 a fellow survivor, Joseph Fabry, founded the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Frankl died in 1997.

    His therapeutic techniques are still used by many psychologists and psychiatrists today in an effort to help people help themselves. This is achieved through self-analysis with the help of a psychotherapist and guided self-observation. The therapist revisits the improper behaviors in an exaggerated fashion so that it can be evident to the patient. The goal is to get to the point where patients can distance themselves from situations enough it can help them see the wrong thought patterns and inappropriate behaviors. Patients are then guided to making conscious decisions to find meaning in all situations and restore productive living.

     

    Author Bio: Amanda Greene is author and Brand Manager for RHL, online dorm essentials supplier. She enjoys writing about college life, psychology and education topics.

    Image Credit: Sheldon Wood