Making Sense out of the Senseless
In a world that often seems out of control, how do we find our own sense of inner peace? Whether reading a newspaper, receiving news updates on an electronic device or tuning in to local and national news, the messaging has a common theme of violence and despair. Amidst terrorist attacks, at home and across the globe, gun violence, unrest between citizens and law enforcement, and one of the most divisive political climates of recent history, waking up in the morning can leave one with feelings of uncertainty at best and downright fear and anxiety at worst. How does one find hope in the middle of chaos?
During my time studying to become a Pastoral Counselor, one of my professors assigned Victor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, as one of our required readings for the semester. The book had a profound effect on me and the lessons from it have stayed with me, whispering truths even in times of darkness. Frankl recounts his time spent as a prisoner in the Nazi controlled German concentration camp, Auschwitz, during World War II. Frankl takes the reader through several psychological states prisoners experience and he claims that one’s hope and ability to imagine a future beyond one’s current suffering marks the difference between death and survival as a prisoner. Frankl suggests that all moments of life have meaning – that there is meaning even in severe suffering. He shares that even in the most dire of situations, one is always in a position of choice. Choosing hope, choosing to focus on spiritual truths beyond current suffering, sustains life through the darkness.
I am also reminded of a concept many religions utilize in which biblical truths and verses are faithfully recited and prayed over others. The idea is that these truths will rest on the person’s heart, with the knowledge that one day the heart will break and the truths will fall inside to fill it and repair it. It is often easy to succumb to the chaos and despair surrounding us or to choose apathy over sustained hope and optimism. It requires courage to look for the meaning amidst the senseless, to find one’s inner truth and move forward confidently, knowing there is an infinite future beyond the immediate. William James, one of the great American philosophers of the late nineteenth century, conveys a similar notion: “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.”
In preparing your mind for a change in perspective, begin with small moments of quiet deep breathing and meditation. As you become more comfortable with the process of bringing peace into your body you may find you are naturally engaging in meditative activities more frequently and for longer stretches of time. Connecting with nature, imagining a peace-filled or joy-filled space within your mind, or simply breathing deeply and focusing on each breadth as the air fills, tightens and releases from your lungs are all simple ways of beginning the practice of meditation. As your body becomes more at peace, your mind will follow (and vice versa). You will begin to gain more and more control over your mind and body, realizing that you alone decide which thoughts and feelings will take root. In a quiet moment of reflection ask yourself what truths you are placing on your heart and on the hearts of those you love? The words we speak and the actions we take toward ourselves and others matter. Choose your truths wisely and have patience as you lovingly place them on hearts. These truths may not have an obvious impact today, but be assured that you are weaving the fabric of hearts and preparing for an unforeseen season of heartache. And as our hearts break from the devastation around us, these truths will fill us with resilience, with hope and with new ideas of repair and connection.
-Article written and submitted by Jennifer Dudderar, MS, LCPC