3 Simple Practices for Resilience

Offered to us by a Holocaust survivor

Farid Alsabeh

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Photo by Pedro Sanz on Unsplash

The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, known for his commentaries and insights on the human experience, once wrote:

“Man is the creature that can get accustomed to anything — and I think that is the best definition of him”

If we agree with Dostoevsky’s definition, then the psychiatrist Victor Frankl has lived through one of the most human experiences possible: he was forced to endure and adapt to the unimaginably harsh conditions of a Nazi concentration camp, eventually living to tell the tale.

How did Frankl survive — not just physically, but spiritually — going on to continue a productive career after such an adverse experience? In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he shares with us the strategies and techniques he used to keep his inner strength under such catastrophic circumstances.

In this article, we’ll explore some of these lessons given to us by Frankl, this ultimate ‘Dostoeyevskian human’, and see how they may help us to better deal with our own circumstances and build up our resilience in life.

Anticipating recollection

The daily realities of the concentration camp confronted its prisoners with the worst conditions of their lives. They starved on meager rations of bread and watered soup, they carried off the corpses of their friends, and they were beaten by sadistic guards.

Under the pressure of these conditions, Frankl sometimes practiced what might be called an ‘anticipated recollection’. This consisted of imagining his life after being released from the concentration camp, and specifically, how he would speak about his experience to others. He writes:

Suddenly I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! … By this method I succeeded somehow in rising…

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