Tracy Lee Karner
The Way I Was

Pain: Victor Frankl Calls it an Opportunity

Tracy Lee Karner
“A very trifling thing can cause the greatest of joys.” (Victor Frankl)

Victor Frankl is an Austrian neurologist, psychologist and Nazi death camp survivor. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, explains how he found the will to live despite witnessing the Holocaust. The following ideas paraphrase portions of that book:

When we find pleasure in beauty, art or nature, it offers us the opportunity for fulfillment. This is easy to understand. This next possibility, however, is harder to fathom: everything we experience, even suffering offers us an opportunity.

Pain gives us a chance to achieve something within ourselves, to create a generous and loving perspective, and to realize the true value of life, apart from the trappings of materialism. The supreme value of pain is that while we are suffering, we have opportunity to make use of that circumstance to acquire the moral qualities that are learned only through adversity.

Patience, perseverance, and the generosity to see that other people’s needs are as important as one’s own–these are some of the traits that form an admirable character. We want to be good people. But, heroic virtues are impossible to learn when everything is going our way.

Chronic pain might be teaching us wisdom.

I’m not saying that having fibromyalgia is as horrible as being in a Nazi death camp–but, Viktor Frankl explains, suffering is suffering. It “completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.”

Chronic pain is no trifling matter–it can monstrously fill the consciousness.

At times, we simply have to cry for five minutes or an hour, in whichever manner our personalities and our situations allow us to cry–into our pillows, into our diaries, on the shoulder of a loved one, 0r out to God.

After that, we might be grateful for the opportunity to become wiser and more virtuous. Why should we be grateful for our troubles? Because there’s a reward for learning to rejoice in all things.

When we choose to see life’s painful moments as opportunities for growth, we begin to see small joys as the big deals that they really are.  “A very trifling thing [a warm bath, my favorite salsa, a red bud tree in blossom] can cause the greatest of joys.”

Life is an event and we’ve all been invited. Maybe you feel excluded because of the limitations your pain imposes, because you don’t fit in with the boisterous crowd.

It’s true–we chronic pain sufferers can’t keep up with “normal” people. But they aren’t the ones hosting this event.

Barge in and enjoy your own corner!

Here’s to all the opportunities–let’s live, and learn! Cheers!   

“Your name is written in the book of life; therefore, rejoice in all things!” (Philippians 4:3-4)

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