Many psychological similarities mark a prisoner’s time in a concentration camp and a patient’s time on a rehab floor. But, as one might guess, the greater the time since their liberation and their release, the fewer of these similarities exist. Dr. Frankl says that although the prisoners had longed for and dreamed of freedom, when the white flag of surrender raised above the camp’s gates, there were no joyous and jubilant celebrations; the most noted feeling was one of profound relaxation and relief.
The prisoners wearily walked to the camp gate. Looking timidly around them, and at each other, they stepped outside the camp a few steps. For the first time in their memory, there were no shouts of warning to get back in, they didn’t have to duck or dodge blows or kicks. “Not at all!” In fact the former guards, who were now hardly recognizable, having hurriedly changed to civilian clothes, even offered cigarettes to the former prisoners.
The momentum of one’s Attitude and the ease with which an Attitude continues to roll along in the same vein which it currently occupies is seen in Dr. Frankl’s description of the former prisoners conversation as they gathered in their hut the evening of the day the war ended.
One said to the others, “Tell me, were you pleased today?”
With a touch of shame as he didn’t know the rest felt similarly, the other responded “Truthfully, no!”
Dr. Frankl says, “We had literally lost the ability to feel pleased and had to relearn it slowly.”
Because the rehab patient is forced to carry their impairments, reminders of their rehab floor experiences with them. In many ways, their release marks the beginning of a different life than they’d lived before. But still, immediately following their release, similarities exist between them and the freed prisoners. As I describe in post 3 of this blog, the doctor’s prognosis of my injuries had been anything but encouraging. I had to either tad to flush those ideas from my mind or use them to energize my rehab efforts.
Released rehab patients often have to relearn to feel optimistic, to see possibilities and to have positive Attitudes.
Both the former patient and the former prisoner are lucky because the resilience of the human spirit is such that, given enough time, almost anybody can bounce back from almost anything.
“Psychologically,” Dr. Frankl says of the newly liberated prisoners, “what was happening could be called `depersonalization.’ Everything appeared unreal, unlikely, as in a dream.”
Often they had dreamed of regaining their freedom, of being let back into the real world of freedom and society, only to be jarred out of their revelry by a shrill whistle and a harsh command. Was this another dream? What could they count on? What was trustworthy?
To a greater or lesser degree, a similar phenomenon happens to some rehab patients. Before my crash, I had enjoyed the kind of life most any teenagers with a love for cars, motorcycles, girls, friends, money and some of the things that go with them, would have loved. My days on the rehab floor were filled with dreams of the day I could get back to living.
The type of living that nurtures positive Attitudes was not the type of living I could do upon being released from the hospital. Compared to my former life, my post crash life couldn’t accurately be called living.
During my former life, I based what I’ve now come to understand as my Attitude on how I then defined the term “living.” After my crash, in order to continue living, I had to reorient my thinking. Like the prisoners had to relearn how to feel pleased, I had to relearn how to feel optimistic about life. I had to rebuild my positive Attitude. Until I reoriented my values away from the instant gratification type of mindset, having a positive Attitude was impossible. The ABC strategy for living enabled me to rebuild a positive Attitude by giving me specific tools to rebuild my positive and optimistic view of life.
Accept the book you’ve been given, (Live unit you die.)
Believe you can write a happy ending. (Lighten up.)
Care about others. (Care about others.)
Don’t Quit ABCing. (No matter what!)
Of course everybody is going to define a life worth living a little different. Unless you’re one of those people whose definition of the term “living” includes laughing and loving, my keynotes and seminars are probably nothing you’d be interested in.