Despair = Suffering without Meaning

At the risk of jinxing myself I’ve been puzzling over why I do not suffer as much from fibromyalgia than the women (and men) I know who are in more pain, have more co-morbid conditions and debilitating symptoms than I do.

And because they are, for the most part, held hostage by their medical conditions they are unable to continue to work in their professions and live a “relatively normal” life.   I’m not sure my life is “normal”.  I’m often stopped in my tracks by exhaustion, distracted by pain but I’ve been blessed by being able to continue to work in a profession that gives my life purpose and meaning.

What’s prompted all my questioning and thinking?  

I’ve been reading books written by Viktor Frankl an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who was a Holocaust survivor. In his book Mans Search for Meaning he writes about his incarceration in nazi death camps where he observed that those who did not believe their existence had meaning succumbed in greater numbers from starvation and disease than those who held the belief that their life had meaning.

Their purpose didn’t involve grand schemes of saving the world, curing people or groundbreaking discoveries. Purpose ranged from finishing a manuscript of a book begun before incarceration, staying alive for a family member or simply believing God had an unknown reason for them to live.

So?  What part does purpose and meaning play in our lives? in your life?  Does having purpose and meaning help reduce emotional or physical suffering?  I don’t pretend to have the answer, just the question.

Here’s Dr Frankl in an interview about finding meaning in difficult times.  (He talks about his experience in the concentration camps toward the end of the interview.)

“. . .the man on the street knows that meaning may not only be found in creating a work and doing a deed, not only in encountering someone and experiencing something, but also, if need be, in the way in which he stands up to suffering.” Viktor Frankl