Life’s third act
I came upon a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl was a German psychiatrist who’d spent five years in a Nazi concentration camp. And he wrote that, while he was in the camp, he could tell, should they ever be released, which of the people would be okay and which would not. And he wrote this: “Everything you have in life can be taken from you except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. This is what determines the quality of the life we’ve lived — not whether we’ve been rich or poor, famous or unknown,healthy or suffering. What determines our quality of life is how we relate to these realities, what kind of meaning we assign them, what kind of attitude we cling to about them, what state of mind we allow them to trigger.”
Perhaps the central purpose of the third act is to go back and to try, if appropriate, to change our relationship to the past. It turns out that cognitive research shows when we are able to do this, it manifests neurologically — neural pathways are created in the brain. You see, if you have, over time,reacted negatively to past events and people, neural pathways are laid down by chemical and electrical signals that are sent through the brain. And over time, these neural pathways become hardwired, they become the norm — even if it’s bad for us because it causes us stress and anxiety.
If however, we can go back and alter our relationship, re-vision our relationship to past people and events, neural pathways can change. And if we can maintain the more positive feelings about the past,that becomes the new norm. It’s like resetting a thermostat. It’s not having experiences that make us wise, it’s reflecting on the experiences that we’ve had that makes us wise — and that helps us become whole, brings wisdom and authenticity. It helps us become what we might have been.
Posted on September 9, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged aging, authenticity, kindness, life, living your authentic life, psychology of aging, science of aging, wisdom. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.