No uncommonly, what comes out as I sit down to write is different from what I expected. This was one of those times. I sat down expecting to write about uniqueness and my fingers took a different turn on the keys. The topic of uniqueness was actually about how we relate to life.
In life a person encounters many barriers, difficulties and challenges.
How is he supposed to relate to his world?
He can relate in one of two ways: rejection and disregard.
Rejection means: “The world is against me. I will kick and scream, refuse to accept, complain, and act dejected. If only I had a magic wand to simply melt away all the pain and hardship…” The “Who needs this?!” attitude is understandable. The trouble is, wishing it away doesn’t make it go away in any case.
Disregard is the second sort of reaction. It manifests as acting as if everything is well and good and painting everything rosy. Everything is okay because I say it is. It’s fantasy in the guise of optimism and “positive thinking.”
Logotherapy suggests a third alternative: neither rejection or disregard but accepting and embracing life as it is, and responding to its requirements.
The way you relate to life has a direct impact on your ability to be yourself in all your uniqueness.
The “me against the world” position causes the person to feel isolated and miserable. The “I” might be smug and self-satisfied, brooding or openly antagonistic and angry. It may even seem empowered yet there is a sense of iron barriers surrounding the person. It’s not a very friendly sort of self. The soul in its uniqueness cannot shine in the absence of vulnerability.
The fantastical position towards life similarly closes the person off from a genuine expression of self. The “I” seems to be very cheery but in an unreal sort of way.
What way of relating to life would make us real and present, and cause our inner soul to shine forth in all its uniqueness? Uniqueness is realness and potential shining through.
When we relate to life in all of its realness and at the same time in all of its potential, then we are real and at the same time we realize our potential.
Relate to life in all of its realness and potential means seeing every event that happens as purposeful and meaningful, not an accident. It’s part of the flow of life; it’s your unique life story. You have skills, strengths and insights that no one else has. Is it any wonder that you are going to have events, challenges and tests unique to yourself?
What is a human being? Every person is unique and singular. There was never anyone just like you and there never will be again. The story of your life is different from the story of any other life because your destiny is different from his.
Life challenges you. Every single thing that happens hints to a relationship with your Creator communicated through the events of your life. Everything that comes your way is an opportunity for connection to life and your unique beauty fully coming into being.
With this attitude you see events realistically, even accepting the pain and not fighting it, and you do this out of a belief that we live in a friendly universe where challenges, once embraced and overcome will lead us to your destined space in the world. They reinforce your ability to be the person you want, can and must become.
Logotherapy asks: How are we to relate to life? To ourselves? Are we fighting it, thinking the power is all in our hands? Are we hiding our heads in the sand? Or are we hearing God’s voice speaking to us through reality? Are we listening?
Viktor Frankl once heard a fellow concentration camp inmate say “There is nothing more that I can expect from life” At that moment Frankl knew that this person did not have much longer to live. He no longer has what to live for.
To encourage him and in fact save his life Frankl replied: “Do not ask what you expect from life. Ask rather what life expects from you!” Life is waiting for you! You’re not the helpless object but a subject.
This is the answer of response-ability. Frankl was saying to him: “Be a human being!” To be a human being means being a creature who is aware of the meaning of what is happening to him. It means accessing his capacity to think, take a moral stand against what is happening and choose life in spite of it all!
Responding to life’s challenges with our attitudes and actions is life-transforming.
This is what makes logotherapy both realistic and optimistic. The perception of life’s problems as invitations to responsibility means that I am meant to make changes, improve things, distinguish right from wrong and take meaningful action.
I relate to life as meaningful; therefore my life’s meaning shines forth.