By Dr Karen Spurrier, PhD
In the past couple of months in my practice I have sensed a restlessness in some of those seeking out help. A spate of suicides and suspicious deaths have added to the general feeling of restlessness in the community. Reports from medical professionals around the country are similar in nature.
Where has this come from and how does this impact our youth?
The after-effects of Covid, from a loss of life, general wellbeing and finance aspect, amongst others, has contributed to this feeling. This is not merely a storm in a teacup, but a wave that needs to be turned before the disillusioned youth inculcate this sense, along with hopelessness and helplessness, into their generation. It is not only Covid. Covid is a convenient catch-all for all the societal wrongs that have been building up over years.
In addition to the year-on-year increase in violent crime, mass shootings, the declining economy and the sense of imminent disaster around the world, the youth are disillusioned, disheartened, in many cases highly opinionated, entitled and lacking a sense of purpose. Many adults feel the same way.
So, what can be done?
Finding our purpose in life energises us as humans and brings enjoyment, love and passion to the levels at which we operate in all tasks focused on that purpose.
In the profound words of Nietzsche, as often quoted by Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl (1984), in his books The Will to Meaning and Man’s Search for Meaning, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”. What does this mean? If an individual is going through a really rough time, whether that be in relationships, in business, in love or in loss, they may feel hopeless or helpless, unless they can see the bigger picture and draw meaning from the situation. How is this possible when the world seems dark? There are always spots of light and the light from a single candle is enough to dispel the dark. To find that single light is of great importance for us all. Finding joy and purpose in the small things in life go a long way to challenging our negative beliefs about ourselves and our circumstances.
In a book I particularly love, called, The Hiding Place (1971), written by another Holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom, she tells the story of the abundance of fleas in the barracks in Ravensbruck concentration camp where she and her sister were held. The overcrowded barracks were used to secretly hold prayer meetings, which Corrie led. In a Bible, which had been smuggled into the camp, they read that they should give thanks in everything. Corrie could not understand how they could give thanks for the pesky fleas that plagued their already miserable existence and so her sister, Betsy, being unwaveringly faithful, gave thanks for the fleas.
Why on earth did she do this? Her passion for Christ and her faith. They found out later that the fleas kept the visits of the brutal guards in that compound to an absolute minimum, shielding the prisoners from their scrutiny, assaults and violent attacks. So, instead of complaining, she and others, became grateful. This observation changed her mind and the minds of other people she came into contact with about an issue they had been complaining about and, in so doing, lifted their spirits.
Viktor Frankl said that “Everyone has their own specific vocation or mission in life. Everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. This everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”
Since this is not a dress rehearsal for a later, more successful life, it is imperative that we find our passion, our meaning and our purpose in this time we have available.
Very often people say, “Why is this happening to me?” but perhaps we need to ask, “Why not me?”. “Who is better positioned to deal with this situation?” In this situation, whatever it might be, who else should rather carry this? Who is better than you, stronger than you, better able than you, or more well positioned, to carry this burden.
You will find that, in fact, as difficult as it may be, you are uniquely positioned to be able to deal with it in a way that helps others get through. If you know that, and you know that part of your life’s journey is to carry that burden instead of someone else, then how much easier is it to carry?
Finding your purpose is a life’s journey and every part of the journey is a step that takes you to the next. Look back at your life to see the golden thread that runs through your life, the providence, the joy in even the difficulties and see the opportunities that life presents you, then weave that thread as you go forward.