by Connie Mason Michaelis, author of Daily Cures, Wisdom for Healthy Aging
I was reminded recently of one of my favorite books and authors, Viktor Frankl. In his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” This type of advice is heard from many sources today, including trendy slogans and quips from pop-phycologists. But Viktor Frankl earned the right to speak that message to anyone who feels they have to endure extraordinary suffering that no one else can comprehend. He spent four years in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau. The Nazis murdered all of his family. As Frankl described in his memoir, they not only took his family and all of his physical belongings but even the fat off of his body. He had nothing.
The amazing thing about his survival is that not only did he maintain his sanity, but came out of that experience an enlightened being, one that would live to encourage others to create their own destiny by choosing their response to suffering. He became an esteemed psychiatrist who developed a treatment protocol called Logo Therapy. His insight may be especially meaningful to those who feel the aging process is a progressive failure. It remains that each individual has the ability to choose their response. Whether it is as small as seeing some wrinkles on your face or a significant loss of mobility and strength, you choose your response. Frankl says, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” As we age, we have more and more opportunities to choose the way we will embrace our changing lives.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space."