The last freedom Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Friday, 22 January 2021 13:32
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Girlfriend, before I say anything about this brand new year, or what’s left of it in any case, can we just take a collective breath and pay tribute to all we’ve been through the past year? If you’re reading this, you survived 2020.

You learned how to tap into resources you couldn’t even imagine you had; you had to teach your children online, order your groceries and medicine online, do your job online and stay connected to your loved ones online.

What we wanted most of all when the clock struck midnight was to kick the year of the pandemic to the curb. But, now we’re sitting with a second Covid-19 wave and we’re finding it challenging to see the new year as a chance of new beginnings.

Ironically enough, just before this thing started last year, I was thinking that my generation had been spared. We’ve never had to face the horror of war in our own back yard. Yes, sure, the guys I went to school with had the terror of the Angolan bush war. But they could come back to their family homes – not rubble or ruins.

I was thinking of my grandfather’s generation – as a small boy he was in a concentration camp during the Anglo Boer War. His brother died there. His family lost everything. They had nowhere to go when they came out. When the clock struck midnight between 1901 and 1902, did they want to smile “happy new year!” to each other in their little tents in the mud?

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian survivor of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, gave me the answer in his 1946 book, ‘Man’s search for meaning’. Viktor became known as the founder of logotherapy – healing through meaning.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances,” he writes. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” 

We discover freedom when we change how we relate to circumstances. And maybe that was the gift of 2020 – to take us off the hamster wheel so that we can find out what is really important to us.

You can only find out what you want when you stop comparing yourself to others. Dr John Demartini, who has been studying human behaviour since 1972, says that there are many people who think they know what’s truly important to them, but their lives indicate that they don’t. This means that they’re setting goals that aren’t really theirs, and then wondering why they’re not fulfilled or making perceptible progress.

“I have worked with thousands of individuals who say they have goals that they intend to accomplish, but somehow they don’t ever get around to begin or to follow through on the very crucial actions steps to achieve them,” dr Demartini says.

These people will easily give up, and they are then left with the perception that there is something wrong with them or that they lack self-discipline. Actually, many psychological conditions emerge out of the internal conflict between what you think you should be, ought to be, must be, have to be, need to be or are supposed to be doing, based on other people’s expectations and values, instead of your own.

So, how do you connect with your true self, with your own values? How do you stop focusing on what you don’t have and what you don’t want? How can you take charge of the way in which you experience things; learn how to feel afraid without feeling powerless?

You do it by being here now – in this millisecond, this present minute – instead of thinking back to the past or forward to the future. This is where everything happens. Right this red-hot moment. It’s where you pivot.

How do you get here? By placing your attention on what you are grateful for in your life. When so much is taken from you, remorselessly stripped away, you have to learn how to focus on all the goodness around you and within you, precious being that you are.

Nobody can take that away from you. Not in a concentration camp. Not during a pandemic. It truly is the last of the human freedoms.

Besoek die Suid-Afrikaanse Departement van Gesondheid se webwerf vir alle amptelike inligting en opdaterings rakende COVID-19 by

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