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Prisoners of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl's Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life and Work Paperback – July 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“This landmark book underscores how the search for meaning is intimately related to and positively influences health improvement at all levels. Reading Prisoners of Our Thoughts is an insightful prescription for promoting health and wellness!”
—Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD, MD, Professor, University of Arizona and University of California, San Francisco Schools of Medicine; Chairman, American Health Association; and author of The Best Alternative Medicine.
Top Customer Reviews
About 29 years ago, as a teenager, while roaming the Birminham Public Library, I picked up a worn copy of Victor Frankl's book about man's search for meaning. I vividly remember where I was standing, think I could almost go to the spot on the shelf where I found the book; I think the memory lives clearly because as I scanned through the book, I became haunted with the images that came from its pages and moved by the strength of which it testified. I sat down, read more, took the book home, and never forgot the lesson.
When I worked as a janitor in high school at a local gym, I tried to find meaning by framing my work as helping provide a wholesome environment for children. When I worked as a cook at Hardee's, I was helping keep families together by providing a convenient and affordable place to escape and relax. When I worked alone as a chemist on army contracts, I was helping preserve freedom. When I worked as an ER physician, the value of saving lives was plain but then the challenge was to find meaning in the suffering around me.
These examples (from my work life) show what I strove for; but the practical, every-day accomplishment of finding meaning in the pain, drudgery, and short-term injustice that swirls around me and everyone I know has not always been a task at which I've been successful. Sometimes, I left the gym nasty and tired and just angry at how inconsiderate people can be. Sometimes I left the ER angry and confused that innocent people came to me in pain and disease at no fault of their own: how do you hold responsible a child molested, a young mother killed by a drunk driver, the crying child with sickle cell disease, the gasping child with cystic fibrosis?
You don't hold them responsible. And as you wade through the pain of the ER working with nurses and technicians with their own problems, sometimes it feels as if the world is thick with pain and thin with meaning.
In looking for meaning in suffering, I've found some help in Boethius' book "Consolation of Philosophy," in William James' "Pragmatism," in Oswald Chambers' "The Christian Disciplines," in the scriptures of the Holy Bible and the Bagavad Gita as well as in Frankl's writings. This book by Dr. Pattakos belongs on the shelf with those books as a classic about how to find meaning instead of power or pleasure and then uncover joy in meaning.
I write this reverently with the awareness that I'm immature in these matters--I've looked into the face of a quadraplegic man, bed bound for over 20 years, and heard him talk eloquently about how his accident was good fortune because it brought him closer to GOD; I don't know if I could do that. I've had to tell the mother that her child didn't live and watched her accept the news with strength and peace. I've seen this and more and so know that some do find meaning in situations heavy with pain. This is the skill that this book teaches: the skill of finding peace and meaning and the resultant deep joy.
The model used by Dr. Pattakos is the working life: how to find meaning at work. Like swinging two bats before walking to the plate to swing one, Dr. Pattakos draws from Dr. Frankl's writings about severe pain and unbelievable injustice to develop a pattern for finding meaning in the often painful pathways at work. The exercises make practical the every-day application of finding meaning and so uncovering joy and effectiveness. Simple exercises that take only a few minutes help plant each chapter in the fiber of thought and peel back the dirty details to the core meaning of work. Practical, easy exercises to help develop a valuable skill of mind and soul.
--Charles Runels, MD
Author of "Anytime...for as Long as You Want: Strength, Genius, Libido, & Erection by Integrative Sex Transmutation"
This is a great book - probably one of the best books on work life yet written. I read the book in one sitting (something I've never done before), marking the book and making numerous notes. I intend to give it to my friends as gifts.
Pattakos writes in his preface, " This book deals with the human quest for meaning and, therefore, was written with you in mind. It is grounded firmly in the philosophy and approach of the world-renowned psy-chiatrist, Viktor Frankl, author of the classic bestseller, Man's Search far Meaning (named one of the ten most influential books in America by the Library of Congress). Frankl, a sur-vivor of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, is the founder of Logotherapy, a meaning-centered and humanistic approach to psychotherapy. His ideas and experi-ences related to the search for meaning have significantly influenced people around the world. In this book, you will find a conceptual foundation, as well as practical guidance, for examining your own questions about meaning in your work and everyday life.
The goal of this book, moreover, is to bring meaning to work-that is, to do for the domain of work what Frankl, as a psychiatrist, was able to do for psychotherapy. Because I am defining the notion of "work" very broadly, the message in this book applies to a very broad audience as well. In fact, it applies to volunteers as well as to paid workers; to people working in all sectors and industries; to retirees; to individuals beginning a job search or career; and to those in "transition." And, because this book demonstrates how Frankl's principles actually work in a generic context, its message can be applied to everyday living too. In this regard, besides introducing you to Frankl's core ideas about life, the book is filled with examples, stories, exercises, and practical tools that can help guide you on your path to finding meaning at work and in your personal life.
It was in a meeting with Frankl at his home in Vienna, Austria, in August 1996, when I first proposed the idea of writing a book that would apply his core principles and approach explicitly to work and the workplace, to the world of business. Frankl was more than encouraging when, in his typically direct and passionate style, he leaned across his desk, grabbed my arm, and said: "Alex, yours is the book that needs to be written!" As you can imagine, I felt that Frankl's words had been branded into the core of my being, and I was determined, from that moment forward, to make this book idea a reality. And so it is."
We are by nature, creatures of habit. We seek to identify and stay within comfort zones. These comfort zones are patterns of thoughts. As we repeat these patterns of thought over and over again. We begin to believe that life happens to us and limit our own potential. We become prisoners of our own thoughts.
"Viewing life as inherently meaningful and literally unlimited in potential requires a shift in consciousness," writes Pattakos. "It also requires responsible actions on our part for, as Frankl points out, the potential meaning that exists in each moment of life can only be searched for and detected by each of us individually. This responsibility he says is 'to be actualized by each of us at any time, even in the most miserable situations and literally up to the last breath of ourselves.'"
We choose how we respond to life. "...life doesn't happen to us. We happen to life; and we make it meaningful."
Pattakos discusses not only personal transformation, but also the transformation of work itself. "The transformation of work in the twenty-first century is, in many respects, a call for humanity - a new consciousness that suggests more than simply trying to strike a balance between our work and our personal life. It is a call to honor our own individuality and fully engage our human spirit at work - wherever that may be."
"The goal of this book is to bring meaning to work...," writes Pattakos. I believe he does an excellent job in this 187-page book full of wisdom and insights. It is a must read.
The book is divided into eleven chapters - Life Doesn't Just Happen to Us, Viktor Frankl's Lifework and Legacy, Labyrinths of Meaning, Exercise the Freedom to Choose Your Attitude, Realize Your Will to Meaning, Detect the Meaning of Life's Moments, Don't Work Against Yourself, Look at Yourself form a Distance, Shift Your Focus of Attention, Extend Beyond Yourself and Living and Working with Meaning.
Pattakos has synthesized more than just Frankl's Search for Meaning. He has read and studied most of Frankl's work and interviewed Frankl himself. He occupies a unique position to write this book.
"All human beings, Frankl would say, ultimately have both the freedom and responsibility to position themselves along two key dimensions of life," writes Pattakos. These two key dimensions are success-failure and despair-meaning. Where are you right now in this continuum? Are you where you want to be?
"There is something in us that can rise above and beyond everything we think possible. Our instinct for meaning, at work and in our daily life, is ours right now, at this very moment. As long as we are not a prisoner of our thoughts," concludes Pattakos.
I am convinced that the author had the best intentions, but his book simply depends too much on Frankl's work: first the author takes some quotes from Frankl's book, then proceeds to explain this using a contemporary 'business situation' (just a story) and adds some of his own thoughts. If you have read Frankl's book you constantly realise you already know what you are reading. The author's own thoughts make up perhaps 10% of the book. For any book I think the reason to buy it should be that the author makes an original contribution to the subject, and not because the author is capable of explaining other people's ideas who have already done so extensively.
Bottom line: if you are unfamiliar with the work of Frankl, then this book contains a lot of valuable insight. But in that case I would recommend reading Frankl's books first. And if you have already read Frankl's books, then this book has little added value.