Thursday, 30 June 2011

Some of my favorite Viktor Frankl quotes

I share some of my collections of Viktor Frankl quotes. Below each is a short commentary that I have made.
"An incurably psychotic individual may lose his usefulness but yet retain the dignity of a human being. This is my psychiatric credo. Without it I should not think it worthwhile to be a psychiatrist. For whose sake? Just for the sake of the damaged brain machine which cannot be repaired?"

All patients retain the dignity of the human person no matter how ill or ‘useless’ they may seem to be. The first duty of health workers is ‘primum non nocere’ meaning ‘first, do no harm’; we try to repair what has been damaged by disease. When we can no longer reverse the devastation by disease, our duty is to improve quality of life. The primary reason to improve quality of life is because we still perceive the dignity of the PERSON we are dealing with, not because their family can afford the cost or because it is the easier thing to do. Clearly it is not the easier option since taking care of special patients like the terminally ill can be very challenging.
The genetically or physically challenged also fall into this category.  Apart from the medical care we render these special people, it would be helpful to boost their self confidence and also to encourage their care-givers who go through a lot of troubles to take care of them.

"What [man] becomes - within the limits of endowment and environment - he had made out of himself. In the concentration Camps ... some behaved like swine while others behaved like saints... which one is actualised depends on the decisions but not on conditions."
The work load for a health worker can be very demanding at times. Sometimes one can be strained to the point that work is done with a sense of automation, without feelings.  Be that as it may, we still retain the capacity to make the best of every situation no matter how stretched we are. The chances of making mistakes will increase for sure and this is one of the reasons we have to continue asking for better work arrangements but we shouldn’t entirely blame the condition. There are instances of unwarranted mistakes even in the mildest of working conditions.

"Man is that being who has invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who has entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips."
At this point my thoughts and prayers go to the many people who were exterminated in the gas chambers during WWII, because they were from another race, held another belief  or because  they were regarded to be of little use to society (the mentally and physically challenged). Every right thinking person condemned and still condemns these crimes as one of the worst in the history of humanity.
But what worries me is that presently, about 90% of babies diagnosed with down syndrome in certain European countries are terminated. Prof. Jerome Lejeune described it as ‘chromosomal racism’ and I wonder how it is different from what Adolf Hitler did. In one, it was a state decision, in the other it is a private decision; but in both, the aim is the same - to deprive our fellow humans the life they already have lest they be a source of inconvenience to us. 
I guess one day we would hear of a mother who kills her youngling because he cries too much in the night. If we can justify chromosomal racism, then with a little stretch of the same reasoning, we can as well justify infanticide or at least the killing of genetically challenged children. There is actually a case of a man in an Eastern European country who killed his brain-damaged baby after he was told that the baby would grow up more or less like a vegetable. Guess what, he was acquitted by the court.

"Suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice."
"[Man] changing his attitude towards his unalterable fate ... he could see a meaning in his suffering."
For those who stammer (stutter): "Before you start reading, tell yourself, 'I don't care if I stutter. Let them see how bad I stutter.'                                                                     You actually stutter if you have the intention of reading or talking well."

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), Austrian psychiatrist who developed a form of existential psychotherapy known as logotherapy. Logotherapy is based on Frankl’s theory that the underlying need of human existence is to find meaning in life (logos is a Greek word for “meaning”).

Viktor Emil Frankl was born in Vienna, Austria, and educated at the University of Vienna, where he earned a medical degree in 1930. In 1942 Frankl and his family, who were Jewish, were arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in concentration camps. Frankl’s mother, father, brother, and pregnant wife were all killed in the camps. Frankl spent the next three years at Auschwitz, Dachau, and other concentration camps. During his imprisonment, Frankl helped despairing prisoners maintain their psychological health. He also recorded, on stolen bits of paper, his theories and experiences, which he later made use of in his books. After his release, Frankl returned to Vienna and became professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School, a position he retained for the rest of his career.

In his best-known book, Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy (1962; translated into English, 1970), Frankl described how he and other prisoners in the concentration camps found meaning in their lives and summoned the will to survive. The remainder of the book outlines the theory and practice of logotherapy. In addition to its influence on the field of psychotherapy, Man’s Search for Meaning found an enormous readership among the general public. By the time of Frankl’s death, it had sold more than 10 million copies in 24 languages. Frankl published 31 other books on his psychological theories.

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