“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Welcome to another week of the Rambling Review. This week is about Stoicism, Logotherapy, and The Alexander Technique. (NOTE WE HAVE CHANGED WEBADDRESS TO http://www.theramblingreview.com FROM NOW ON POSTS WILL BE THERE)
Last week the quote was “know thyself” and this week is a follow up to the idea of self analysis.
The quote comes from Viktor E. Frankl, the author of the critically acclaimed best seller Man’s Search for Meaning. This book chronicles Viktor’s survival in a Nazi Concentration Camp and his search for meaning in life during and after his experience. The book is split up into two sections: The first portion of the book follows Viktor through his time as a prisoner in a concentration camp and the cruel acts against him and his other inmates. Further to this personal history Viktor explains his emotions and how using his own techniques he was able to master his mind. Viktor’s approach led him to create a form of therapy known as Logotherapy, Logotherapy is based on the existential analysis of one’s meaning to live. Viktor explains this theory primarily in the second portion of his book explaining how his life came to have some meaning by helping those around him during and after World War Two. To best capture the beauty and triumph of Viktor I will use a quote from the book.
“… We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory….”
The crux of Viktor’s experience is that despite what may happen to man, he still has his freedom to choose how to accept the events that have befallen him. Logotherapy’s mission is to expand one’s mind to fill the void of emptiness with purpose. To learn more about Logotherapy refer to http://logotherapy.univie.ac.at/e/logotherapy.html
However, Viktor’s ideas were not original, as with many things ideas are borrowed and transformed over the years. Victor was a Neurologist and a Psychiatrist, so he created Logotherapy around the paradigm of Freud and Alder, although the philosophy behind this originates as far back as Socrates, perhaps even further.
Socratic teachings are based around virtue rather than materialistic, fortune, or reputational gain. This teaching is similar to Viktor’s sense of purpose while in the Concentration camp, like Viktor’s statement that a man can achieve fulfillment by enduring sufferings in the right way. Socrates would most likely agree with as his own death was escapable but Socrates decided to take his death in a graceful virtuous manner. And after Socrates’ death philosophy began to bloom, ideas changed and schools of different thoughts were founded. In the 3rd century BC the school of Stoicism was founded. Similar to Socrates’ ideas Stoics believe that “virtue is sufficient for happiness.” Since Ancient Roman times Stoicism nearly died out, but in the past few years Stoicism has been gaining more and more popularity. The basis of Stoicism is a series of principles of how to perceive the world, and control your own emotions. To get a good review of not only what Stoicism is and it’s roots but also the principals I highly recommend this book Stoicism the Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine.
The basis of Stoicism is being self aware, that through our self awareness and the application of our intellect we reason above our emotions. Through reasoning one can overcome negative emotions. We should also use our reasoning ability to master our desires, to the extent that it is possible to do so. In particular we should use reason to convince ourselves that things such as fame and fortune aren’t worth having- not at any rate, if what we seek is tranquility– and therefore aren’t worth pursuing. Likewise we should use our reasoning ability to convince ourselves that even though certain activities are pleasurable, engaging in those activities will disrupt our tranquility, and the tranquility will outweigh the pleasure gained. By questioning our actions after the fact, we become more aware of how we responded to a situation and can observe why we acted in a way we did. Stoics observe our thinking process: our fixations on worry and instability.Thus Stoics would reason that we should not worry on things outside of our control because it’s illogical and unproductive. Rather we should deal with things that are under our control or partially under our control. Whether we said the wrong thing or not is incidental because it has already happened, we can only observe how we reacted to after that.
Further to observation I would like to present you with the Alexander Technique, the art of posturing. The Alexander technique is a series of lessons on posture and spine positioning to alleviate pains in muscles, and mental tension in everyday activities. As like Stoicism this is a whole school of thought and one blog post cannot hope to divulge the full scope of this philosophy, having said that I would like to refer you to this website article on sitting at a desk using the Alexander technique.
It may sound very simple to sit at a desk but many of us are doing it very wrong. When we sit back and observe our habits we realize how we are overusing or underusing our body. For me working at a desk typing for hours at time caused me a lot of pain, when using the Alexander technique I noticed how often I would slouch and let my feet only touch the ground by my toes. By placing my feet on the ground I redistributed my weight and have been able to improve my back pains just from applying one small portion of this principal. For more information on the Alexander technique check out
So that’s this week in review, feel free to investigate these techniques yourself. Whole books have been written about these subjects so this blog just intends to wet your appetite, if you like some more suggestions feel free to ask or suggest some yourself! Also as a throwback to the post two weeks ago I mentioned Louie was returning to FX, it has returned and hasn’t disappointed check out this link to see a portion of season 4’s hillariousiness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0g3q_4kZnU
Thanks for reading, happy Friday, see you next week!