Dr Julie Carter

 

Writer, educator and mind coach

Friday, 20 March 2020 10:12

Freedom - No Matter What

“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.”   Viktor Frankl

Dr Frankl’s words written in his wonderful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, were a reflection on his remarkable story of holocaust survival in four different concentration camps during WW2. He went on to live a rich and productive life and his reflections, particularly this book, are amongst the most astonishing, joyous and hopeful writing I have ever come across. At the moment, we are all worried and feeling insecure about the coronavirus threat and its consequences, and here I am recommending a book about the holocaust – you might think I really want to make you miserable! But bear with me, because truly, it is about how to live hopefully and purposefully, no matter what. I’m not talking about the ‘there’s always somebody worse off’ perspective here – it is about how to make ourselves better off, while facing the unique and genuine challenges we each struggle with.

PA270290 2 Frankl did not survive the camps by taking other prisoner’s food or stockpiling toilet roll! When a  prisoner stole some potatoes from the commandant’s store, the camp was given a choice to give up the  thief to be hanged or to receive no food at all for 24 hours. All 1,500 already starving prisoners chose  the fast. Each man would have suffered more to see his colleague hanged than to increase his own risk  of death from malnutrition. The power to inhabit the space to choose their response was their very  source of hope in the face of unavoidable threat. Frankl shows us that we are never powerless because there is always a range of responses, even if these are simply internal emotional responses. He shows us how we can inhabit the space that gives us the freedom to choose what it is we make of life in any moment, in the best and worst of times. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. And I will dare even to add something for clarity: unless we consciously inhabit this space of choosing, then we will find no growth and no freedom, anywhere else at all, regardless of our physical circumstances, virus or no virus, money or no money. And when we inhabit this space, we have freedom, no matter what. We may find at least one thing we can be grateful for or take comfort in and that gratitude or comfort is our choice. We may choose instead to be fearful, to panic, to take our hand off the tiller and abandon ourselves. Frankl is good to read at any time, but a time like this he is medicine and he is my prescription this month!

Here is a poem on the subject of choosing our responses:

In The Know

Definitely not, no

Absolutely no-go

Non-starter, blind alley,

Couldn’t

Shouldn’t

Wouldn’t

It’s no, it’s no

It’s always – no.

Waste of money

Waste of time

Waste of ink

Waste of rhyme,

Waste what’s yours

but don’t touch mine.

It’s firm, it’s clear

No, I won’t,

and since you’re asking

No, I don’t.

And on NO goes

As nothing’s lost

Except a word

A secret yes

Can just be heard.

Will I, can I?

Yes - I must

Another big word’s coming -

Trust.

Do I love you?

Will we cry?

Will we live

Until we die?

Yes, I’ll come

Yes, I’ll go

Yes – I know.

It’s you

It’s me

It’s yes

And yes

Oh yes.

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