The similarities of Dr. Frankl’s concentration camp experience and my rehab floor experience seem to be unlimited. The similar ways we began our journeys to again having a positive Attitude and being an integral part of society are especially astonishing.
To get this aspect of my comparison of our experiences started, I’ll first paraphrase from and then quote from Dr. Frankl’s description of the way his journey back began. .
A few days after his freedom is restored, he is walking in miles of flowering meadows. He pauses and looks around him. No one is in sight. Except for the joyous singing of larks, there was nothing but the wide green earth, the sky and open space. Looking up at the sky, Dr Frankl drops to his knees.
“At that moment, there was very little I knew of myself or the world—I had but one sentence in mind—always the same: `I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and he answered me in the freedom of space.’”
“How long I knelt there and repeated this sentence memory can no longer recall. But I know that on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step by step I progressed until I again became a human being.”
I never thought of myself as something other than human, but I did feel that I didn’t belong among “normal” people. Like Dr. Frankle started his new life on his knees, I couldn’t begin to heal my wounded outlook i.e. my Attitude, until I accepted things the way they were.
I had to accept the world on the world’s terms, not mine. When I turned from my anger and accepted God’s plan for my life, my journey of healing began.
Dr. Frankl says there were a lot of obstacles in going from the mental tension of a prison camp to a place of mental freedom. He also says it would be a mistake to think that a former prisoner who needed to make this journey was not in need of spiritual care.
Just like an underwater worker cannot leave the pressurized chamber he works in suddenly without suffering, so the prisoner under acute mental pressure needs to be acclimated to being free.
As discussed in my previous post 22f, one wonderful part of Attitudes is that once we establish our positive Attitude, its momentum keeps it rolling along the same track fairly easily. Unfortunately, the same can also be said of Attitudes formed by hate and fear, shock and apathy.
While out walking, he and another former prisoner came to a newly planted field. Dr. Frankl started to alter his course so as not to trample on the young crop, but the man who he was with hooked his arm in his and pulled him over the young plants.
Dr. Frankl objected, but the other man shouted, “You don’t say!” And hasn’t enough been taken from us? My wife and child have been gassed—not to mention everything else—and you would forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats!”
Although I didn’t cause much actual physical damage, but my negative Attitude was so full of self pity when I left the rehab floor that I felt justified inflicting emotional damage. My own pain seemed to justify my saying hurtful things.
How did my Attitude eventually become positive?
Finding my way out of the Attitudinal jungle of resentment, self pity, fear and anger took longer than it would have if I’d sooner been able to accept the book of life I’d been given, but time takes time. The path I finally took to Attitudinal freedom is quite clear, once you’ve been down it.
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 who believes in the power of Attitudes and whose definition of the term “living” includes laughing and loving, my comedy shows, my keynotes, my seminars and my life wouldn’t be of any interest to you.