Monday, October 25, 2010


Friedrich Nietzsche said: "He who has why to live can bear with any how". Indeed, living with conscious intention can make the difference between life and death.

The power of conscious intention was put to the most stringent test in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was living in Austria when the Second World War broke out. Frankl and his family were taken away to a concentration camp, along with millions of other Jews. The Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, had a plan to eliminate all Jews living in territories under Nazi control.

As a psychiatrist, Frankl became interested in how different camp inmates coped with the terrible situation that they were in. All were in the same hell, but there were two distinct groups of inmates – those who survived and those who didn’t.

One group fell sick, went to sleep and never woke up, or committed suicide. Another group went about showing concern for others and caring for others despite their own sufferings.

Frankl found that those who survived were those who intended to live - they consciously chose to stay positive despite their dire situation and the ill treatment at the hands of the guards. They intended to reunite with their loved ones once they leave camp, or they intended to complete some unfinished business.

Frankl found that those who did not survive the concentration camp were those who did not have any conscious intent. Those who succumbed were those who were resigned to their fate and lost hope.

Life without conscious intention is half of death. Surviving on autopilot with no conscious direction - they merely reacted to the abuse of the guards.

When they were treated badly by the guards, they automatically felt bad. Their sense of self worth took a hit, their morale went downhill, disease and mental anguish followed, and relieve came only when death overtook them.

Our own situations may not be so extreme but can some of us identify with the Jewish inmates' predicament? Are some of us similarly caught in situations where others mistreat us? Do we have the mental resilience and resources to triumph over our adversities? Are we living our lives to the fullest or is our life half of death - without conscious intention.

Living intentionally can save lives.

1 comment:

  1. nice motivational piece done.
    But what does it mean to us who did not go through the horror?
    Living intentionally benefits us in what ways?