There is a lot of anxiety and bluster around all media channels at the moment, social, print, web and broadcast. The government message yesterday has polarised and entrenched the positions of the UK population between those that think the Government should intervene less and are making good of a bad situation, and those that think they have made a complete mess of things and made matters worse. The satirists and conspiracy theorists are in their elements, and their memes and videos are doing the rounds, strengthening the views on each side.

I am resisting my natural urge to join in the debate. After all it’s only my opinion and like arseholes, everybody has one. The only truth right now is that this UK government has a strong majority and can do what it likes for the next five years. We are not able to change that situation until the next General Election. Unless there is a major revolt within the ranks of the Conservative Party we are stuck with a Marmite PM.

So what is the point of this post? Well it brings me to the inspiration of Viktor Frankl, the founder of Logotherapy or Franklian Psychology. A man who studied under Freud, had a career and practice in Vienna before he, and his family found themselves in a Nazi Concentration Camp. He could have got out of Austria before internment but he chose to stay with his parents and sister, as they were not able to travel with him. He survived; his parents and sister did not. I recommend reading his book, Mans Search For Meaning. The gist of it being that in the camps the optimists and the pessimists died, the survivors were those that could adapt to the conditions and find meaning and purpose from a dire situation. It sounds impossible but it’s worth reading. It inspired me to take up studies

Back in 2011, I started a distance-learning course on Frankl’s existential approach to the fundamental motivating factor in human existence, the search for meaning.

The introductory course (that I passed with flying colours) covered the following topics:

  • Learn and understand the basic concepts of the Meaning-centered approach to life.
  • Apply the concepts of Franklian Psychology toward the improvement of life.
  • Demonstrate understanding of these concepts through discussion, application, and written assignments.

I chose not to continue with the studies due mainly to the cost, I chose to divert the required funds into my business that was thriving at the time. Hindsight makes me wish I had continued the studies, but more importantly I wish I had kept going over the coursework, as it would most certainly have helped me personally with my own internal battles. As they say in AA circles, it works if you work it.

I am happy to share links if you want to know more about the studies. But I recommend starting with the book. It’s available from all the usual outlets.

So the purpose of this post, is we need to search for the meaning in our current situation to find ways to survive it. Finding scapegoats and snake oil solutions doesn’t help anyone. It serves no purpose to the memory of those that don’t survive and provides no solution for the majority that do.

To use the message of Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

It just about sums up what I was trying to say.

Stay safe.

Ronnie xx

As a footnote, this is the copy of my final assignment on the course. It’s about the inspirational Katie Piper….

My Beautiful Face – An example of meaning from unavoidable suffering

My Beautiful Face is a TV documentary that broadcast the pain, trauma and rehabilitation of Katie Piper. Katie was a TV presenter and model, her looks were her life and all that changed three years ago when a man she had once dated organised for acid to be thrown in her face by a stranger he’d recruited.  Katie is now facially scarred, has lost the sight in one eye, has difficulty eating and drinking and has had to have her face reconstructed through countless operations.

The documentary follows Katie through the operations and rehabilitation programmes, which included her mother becoming her full time carer and a stint in a specialist burns rehabilitation centre in France. The amazing surgeon who reconstructed her face recounts how brave Katie was throughout this ordeal and how by documenting her rehabilitation she is giving hope to other sufferers with facial disfigurement. The parental love shines through the programme and this most certainly helped Katie come to terms with the fact that she now had to change her life completely and all that she had so far achieved and done was now in the past.

The programme finished with the conviction of the perpetrators of the attack, they both got life sentences. At this point she was visibly lifted; she felt able to go out of the house without assistance and was ready to break free from the shell of the mask and the scars to start living again.

Three years later a new series documentary My Beautiful Friends sees a transformed Katie and shows her launching a charity and support network for people with facial disfigurement with the ultimate goal of opening a Burns & Scars Rehabilitation Centre, similar to the one she attended in France, in the UK.

The programme shows her meeting other people with facial disfigurement and how through sharing experiences they draw strength and inspire each other which empowers them to overcome prejudice and not give in. The programme showed that whilst all circumstances of how they were disfigured were different they all shared similar experiences. She recruits these people to become ambassadors and mentors for her charity.

Katie’s father is worried that by focussing too much on other people she is putting her own health at risk, but from the outside looking in, I believe the opposite applies. It is her life’s meaning and gives her purpose and has restored her faith in humanity. The French rehabilitation experience had given her hope by awakening her spirit to make a difference and to help others with similar problems to her own. She wants to offer the same hope to many more people by opening a similar unit in the UK.

Katie’s TV programme and charity work shows how, through dereflection, she is transcending her own issues to help others with similar problems. Quite clearly her spirit whilst diminished during the early months after the attack has refused to be beaten by the attack that completely changed her appearance and her. The attack had given her life new meaning.

The final words of the series were from Katie and shows how meaning has come to her from unavoidable suffering:

“Disfigurement has defined me, instead of breaking me it’s made me into everything I am and made me really happy.”

Ronnie Rees

April 15 2011

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