Viktor Frankl’s wife, father, mother and brother died in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Enduring extreme hunger, cold, and brutality, Frankl lived under a constant cloud of death.
He lost every physical belonging on his first day in the camps, and was forced to surrender a scientific manuscript he considered his life’s work.
Frankl’s is, if there ever was one, a story that could excuse a person’s belief that life is meaningless and cruel. Yet, even after having experienced the darkest depths of human depravity, Frankl emerged an optimist.
His reasoning was: even in the most terrible conditions, a person still has the freedom to choose how they see their circumstances and create meaning out of them.
This is what the ancient Stoics called the ‘last freedom’.
The Stoics saw a distinction between things in our control (our own judgments, desires, opinions, actions) & things outside our control (which include what you were born into, others’ thoughts and actions, etc).
Thus, a person’s “last freedom” – the truest one, one that can never be taken away – is the attitude they adopt.
So, as the old adage goes: You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.
Viktor Frankl knew it.
The Stoics knew it. [Read about them over on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.]
You and I know it.
It’s the difference between being a victim of your circumstances & being the master of them.