Co-written by: Yvonne Rheinschmidt Ph D LPC & Scott Rheinschmidt MA LPC-S
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl
Recently, someone mentioned that social isolation feels like being in prison. For some of us, social isolation and the inability to live our normal routines may seem like we lost our freedom. I recalled a memory of what Viktor Frankl said about being imprisoned. Viktor Frankl was a Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who wrote about his experience of being detained in a concentration camp. Frankl stated that “A human being is never fully free from conditions, either psychological or social, but the ultimate freedom is always reserved within ourselves. In other words, if we can’t change a situation, we have a last freedom to change one’s attitude to that unchangeable situation. Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation”.
The question now is: How can we respond to the current situation of being ‘geographically isolated’ as well as experiencing many losses and possible future losses such as jobs, weddings, graduations etc. in a positive manner?
In psychology there is a technique called Dereflection: Dereflection is aimed at helping someone focus away from themselves and toward other people so that they can become whole and spend less time being self-absorbed about a problem or how to reach a goal. Viktor Frankl turned his attention towards helping other prisoners to endure their imprisonment by giving away his food, doing their work for them, and encouraging them to survive and find meaning in their experience.
Pope Frances said “during these difficult days we can find small, concrete gestures expressing closeness and concreteness towards the people closest to us, a caress for our grandparents, a kiss for our children, for the people we love. These are important, decisive gestures. If we live these days like this, they won’t be wasted.” Freedom of choice, what will you choose?