We can go through moments of pain and suffering without losing joy and happiness. Human beings live in a continuous search for happiness, however, how to find it is what everyone asks. Victor Frankl is a Jewish, Viennese psychiatrist and founder of Logotherapy, a psychological approach that focuses on the meaning of human existence, as well as the person’s search for that meaning. He states that: happiness is not something that should be sought or pursued, because it is a consequence of realizing the meaning of life. For Frankl, happiness is not aimed at, as happiness, by itself, does not happen.
He believes that the concrete path to human fulfillment and, consequently, happiness lies in self-transcendence. What should be aimed at is a task, a cause or a person, and the more someone forgets about wanting to be happy by dedicating themselves to a cause or other people, the more that person can be happy. Our existence always refers to something or someone and not to itself. This means that we need to have a goal to achieve in our life and a cause for which we can step outside of ourselves and go beyond ourselves.
Going beyond yourself is the path to happiness
For the founder of Logotherapy, man only becomes a man and is completely himself when he becomes absorbed by dedication to a cause or when he forgets himself in service to a cause or in love for another person. In other words, only when the human being transcends himself, going beyond himself, does he truly become a man and find the meaning of his life. This way, it becomes possible to finally find the happiness you’ve been dreaming of.
You might be thinking like this: what about when we find ourselves involved in situations that we didn’t choose, be it an illness, or so many others that hold us back? How can we get out of situations like this and go beyond ourselves? How can we not seek happiness if what we face is pain, suffering and difficulty? Frankl also teaches us that we are not free from our limitations, but we have the freedom to position ourselves in front of them.
We are free” to” something and not “from” something. We are free regardless of the situation we live and face; free to give a different answer and not be trapped in our own limitations, going beyond ourselves, dedicating ourselves to a cause or someone. This does not mean that we should run away from situations, but rather face them and not get stuck in them.
The secret of the saints
We can see the example of the saints; In fact, isn’t that their secret? Let’s look at Mother Teresa of Calcutta: she was born into an Albanian Catholic family in which she lacked nothing. Her father passed away when she was 9 years old; and, from then on, the family’s financial situation changed drastically. When she turned 18, she left her home for the convent and was never able to see her family again for political reasons.
But she didn’t stop there, the family problems, the ban on returning to her homeland and seeing her mother and brothers. After 17 years of religious life, she felt God’s call to give herself to the service of the poor, living with them. She faced countless difficulties and persecutions. However, she did not stop at them. And can anyone say she wasn’t happy or fulfilled?
Another example is José Antonio Meléndez Rodríguez, known as Tony Meléndez. He was born in Nicaragua with a physical deformity: missing both arms. However, his limitations did not stop him. Today, he is an established musician in the United States, plays guitar with his feet, is a singer and songwriter. In 1987, he had the opportunity to play and sing for thousands of young people in the presence of the late Pope John Paul II, in Los Angeles. He is married and father of two adopted children, a renowned musician, and accomplished in his personal and professional life.
We can go through moments of pain and suffering without losing joy and happiness. Because true joy, true happiness happens when we are there for others, when we spend ourselves for a cause, for someone we love and, above all, when we spend ourselves for God, serving Him.