Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Why To Live For

There have been few more inspiring stories recently than that of Tina Nash, the young woman whose eyes were gouged out by her violent partner three years ago. She was physically and emotionally abused by him for months before he subjected her to a prolonged attack which resulted in the loss of her eyesight. He was subsequently jailed enabling Tina to concentrate on re-building her life with the support of her two boys. She has amazed so many people with her positive attitude to her situation and has found a purpose in her life through her suffering. She is now raising awareness of domestic violence and helping other victims through her Twitter account, her autobiography and public appearances. Additionally, she is determined to re-build her life for her children. In a BBC interview, she said, 
“I'm doing it for my kids. I want them to be proud of me”. 
Life is still not easy for Tina but one can only wonder how we would face such terrible adversity. Would we be able to face the future in the same way?

The philosopher Nietzche said, 
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”. 
Tina seems to have found a why in her boys and in her desire to help other victims of domestic violence. The same experience was revealed in the story of Anka Bergman who survived the concentration camps and the death march across Europe at the end of the Second World War while having hidden her pregnancy from the camp guards. She gave birth to her daughter on the last day of the war and then fought to survive after liberation as food, warmth and shelter were difficult to find. Speaking of raising her daughter in such difficult conditions, she said in a BBC television programme, 
“It's unbelievable how much it gives you and how much you can take for someone else. It's the most potent thing in life I find. You get over everything”.
Is the finding of a purpose enough to conquer adversity? For some people, perhaps. Others may need other tools to supplement it. However, one thing is for certain, to find meaning in life and especially in those things which happen beyond our control is extremely powerful. We have already heard about Viktor Frankl in my first post. He found meaning in his existence in the concentration camps by treating it as a huge learning experience. He imagined holding lectures after his release where he could teach his students about the psychology of life in the camp. After the war, he eventually founded a new school of psychotherapy called logotherapy based on the concept that the search for meaning in life is the primary motivation of an individual. He went on to suggest that one of the three ways of finding meaning is through the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering. In short, sometimes there is nothing we can do about what happens to us. The only thing we can change is our attitude towards our suffering.

Sometimes, this can be the most difficult thing to do. We feel so stressed through events beyond our control that it's difficult to think straight and we lack the energy to be positive. I was reminded of this recently when my younger daughter had a spell of illness. She was in mysterious pain which the doctors could not get to the bottom of. She was in and out of hospital and at times the symptoms seemed possibly neurological which was very worrying. It wore our whole family down for weeks and I was struggling to get through it as it caused me to feel ill. However, I had a great fillip when I realised that I, too, could choose my attitude to what was happening. I realised that I wasn't being as positive and upbeat as I could be. I especially realised that I wasn't being much of a role model for my daughter who needed to be positive through what was happening. I decided I could choose to be the role model that she needed and in that moment I found meaning in what was happening to my daughter and my family. It continued to be tough but I felt such release after that moment. I had made a choice and decided my attitude to this tough time was what I could change. I believe it helped me, my daughter and all our family.

We have probably all known people who have really suffered, especially those facing a terminal diagnosis. How many of them inspire us with their dignity, their positivity, their desire to make the most of every day they have left? From whom can you take inspiration to face your own adversity? And where can you find meaning in your misfortune? It's a huge challenge for all of us but one from which we can benefit and, perhaps, more importantly, use to inspire others. 

 photo credit: <a href="">tochis</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

1 comment:

  1. I thought these comments were interesting from a runner in the Boston Marathon, talking about the impact of running in this year's race after the bombing last year. "I think the life lesson is our ability to overcome adversity. The people that are running this year—especially those that were there last year—really feel like they are doing it for a bigger reason than themselves." - See more at: