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Survival Through Purpose

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Survival Through Purpose:

In his book, "Man's Search for Meaning", Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl describes his captivity in Nazi death camps. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. It was through this horrific experience that Frankl learned a profound truth: we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. During captivity, Frankl noticed that fellow prisoners tended to lose their sense of purpose first, then get sick, and then die. He proposed that people live longer when they have a greater will to live, and set out to help others find healing through purpose. In 1991, his book was found to be among the ten most influential books in America.

Though most escaping a religious could never compare their mental captivity to the example of Nazi death camps, many similarities can be identified between the psychological effects of religious cults and that of Nazi Germany. Former members often describe feelings of brokenness and devalued self-worth. They were robbed of individual freedom through oppression by a single man or woman and their appointed "officials". Yet many former cult members are unaware that they were also robbed of their purpose in life.

Frankl approached healing in three stages: "Freedom of Will", "Will to Meaning", and "Meaning in Life", and for former cult members, these stages can significantly contribute to health and well-being. Former members must learn to understand their ability to shape their own lives within the limits of given possibilities. They must learn to apply meaning to their freedom, through goals and purposes. With this freedom, and through these objectives, former members can find their greatest potential. They can find their meaning and purpose in life, and how it applies to the world around them.

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