In looking back over my life, it’s been interesting to see that the concept of Logotherapy played an important part in my life, even though I knew nothing about Viktor Frankl when I was a little girl living in the Heartland of the USA.
I grew up in difficult circumstances, but it was never as hard as experiencing the horrors of a Concentration Camp. Still, I lived the first ten years of my life with parents who were addicted to Vodka, had severe mental health problems, abused their children on a regular basis, and neglected them. Both parents were absent from home most of the time and food was scarce. Five children were left to fend for themselves.
My father was sadistic and treated every one he met with disdain, verbal abuse, and threats. He was characterized by others in the neighborhood as dangerous. He was self-centered, lied on a continual basis, created drama, was unpredictable, and people feared him. He physically abused his family when he felt society was victimizing him.
My mother was an alcoholic, and spent a lot of time in a mental hospital. When she was home, she overdosed on her medications while drinking Vodka. She was abusive and neglected her children by sleeping in bed, oblivious to her environment.
Four of the children dealt with the abuse and neglect by fighting and attacking others, shoplifting, setting fires, disrupting school classrooms, and staying close to home. One of the children dealt with the chaos in a different way.
As a toddler, I learned that Nature could take me places in my mind like nothing else could. Beauty could touch my soul and transform me. I found I could create words in my mind and dance to their rhythm as I traveled the alleys in my neighborhood. I made friends in my travels and we built club houses, played sandlot baseball, told stories, and made rules that later became part of a value system that was different from my family.
At school, I loved books and the excitement of learning new things. I protected other children, and had compassion for those in need. I wanted my life to be different from my parents and siblings. I was young, but I wanted to be much more than I was. Most of all, I wanted my life to have meaning and my existence to matter. I became a problem-solver, set goals for myself, and worked hard to meet them.
When the State removed me at the age of ten, and two of my siblings, they placed us in a Children’s Home. I played outside as much as possible, created space for solitude, set goals for reading books that were available, and wrote poetry on an ongoing basis. By the age of fourteen, I had read hundreds of books on psychiatry. I knew I wanted to help others who had been abused and neglected.
When my siblings ran away, I stayed at the Children’s Home. I bought seeds and planted gardens filled with flowers and tended them. I studied hard, and earned scholarships to go to college. Later, I became a teacher and worked with children who had been abused and neglected.
In the years that followed, I went to graduate school, got a professional degree, and worked as a therapist for thirty years. I retired, and started writing more poetry.
I continue to help others in ways that I can. My value system is still in tact. I have found meaning in my existence over the years. I can see, in looking back, that negative experiences can bring forth good, and that whatever circumstances you find yourself in, you can choose your response to it and become more than you are now. We all want to find meaning in our existence. We all want to matter. But to accomplish that, we have to take the initiative, and do the hard work it takes to complete the tasks we are meant to do. 1
1 Frankl, Viktor E. 2006. Man’s Search For Meaning. 25 Beacon Street. Boston, Massachusetts, 02108-2892. Beacon Press.