There is an amazing book written by Viktor E. Frankl an Austrian psychologist who survived the concentration camps during Nazi control in WWII. The book is titled “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Reading this book puts life into perspective very quickly. Especially for those of us in first world countries that have known relative freedom and peace for most of our lives. Frankl described a psychological phenomenon that his fellow prisoners experienced while in the camps called “provisional existence of unknown limit.” This basically translates to the warped concept of time that the prisoners experienced because there was no end in sight to their detainment. One of the greatest struggles almost all former prisoners of the WWII Nazi concentration camps agreed upon was living with the uncertainty of how long their imprisonment would last. This existence would lead to loss of courage and hope in the prisoners. By nature humans thrive and survive by having a clear concept of time. Without a clear concept of time, goals and future experiences with which to work towards or look forward to, evaporate quickly. Frankl observed that a person quickly perishes when they lose their sense of time in relation to having something to live for, even if that something is immensely small or trivial.
Comparing the COVID pandemic to the horrors and brutality experienced by those detained in WWII concentration camps would be an insult and a false comparison. However this story of survival allows for a deeper understanding of human nature and how we are wired to survive during challenging times. There is much we can learn from the words of Frankl. The pandemic we have been battling through as a world has created a very strange sense of time for all of us. There are exceptional challenges many of us are up against right now. Every human has had to adapt to a new way of life and much of what we had to look forward to is nonexistent or indefinitely suspended. We have also witnessed an immense increase in mood imbalances and mental health decline, even for those without a predisposition to depression/anxiety etc. Much of this is because the usual coping mechanisms used prior in our life during challenging times either no longer work, are no longer available or are no longer relevant for the crises that have ensued from this pandemic. However one of the greatest challenges that applies to us all is that we don’t know when this time of uncertainty and hardship will end.
This too shall pass. As a world we will know a time when we are free to move in space, free to hug, to sit close to a stranger, free to show our bare faces in public, free to live as we came here to live. Believing is seeing right now. Faith in the knowing that an end is in sight is so important. Create a goal no matter how small, as something to look forward to. It is especially important to have goals for when life opens back up and resumes some sense of normalcy. For anyone struggling with their mental health, know that there is always help, you just have to ask. It is your birthright to live and to exist and to thrive. Remember you belong here. YOU. BELONG. HERE.